Building and construction industry reforms update

Posted on Sep 21, 2019 by Jason Dunn   |   Categories: Building & Construction

I previously wrote an article about the duty of care owed by a principal certifying authority to prospective purchasers in the wake of media attention surrounding private certifiers (view article) and the likelihood of reform.

Given the recent tragic events with the Mascot Towers it might be an opportune time to revisit this issue, and the reforms in the building and construction industry.

On 27 June 2019 the NSW Government released a discussion paper, “Building Stronger Foundations” as a first step in the implementation of the Government’s response to the report of Professor Peter Shergold AC and Ms Bronwyn Weir’s, titled “Building Confidence: effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia”.

The Government is also seeking Industry feedback and input into the scope of the reforms and how they can be integrated into the current BSW planning system.

The discussion paper outlines the NSW Government’s proposals to implement four key reforms to the building and construction industry:

1. Introducing a new registration scheme for ‘building designers’ (building designers, architects and engineers);

2. Requiring building designers to declare plans and performance solutions are compliant with the Building Code of Australia, and that builders declare that they are built according to these declared plans;

3. Ensuring an industry-wide duty of care is owed to subsequent home owners; and

4. Appointing a Building Commissioner to act as the consolidated regulator for building in NSW.

The Government proposes to introduce legislation to implement the reforms described in the discussion paper by the end of 2019.

It has also recently been announced that there will be a NSW parliamentary enquiry into building standards, chaired by Greens MP David Shoebridge. It is interesting to note that several Hunter buildings will feature in the enquiry, including the Landmark building at Charlestown which has received significant media attention in recent years.

The scope of the enquiry will include examining the Government’s response to the Shergold-Weir report, the role of private certification, the adequacy of consumer protections, the limitations on building insurance and compensation schemes and the role of strata committees in responding to building defects.

The resulting reforms have the potential to significantly broaden the classes of building practitioners who will have direct liability to current and subsequent building owners, and could result in the biggest shakeup of the industry in decades.