THE VICTORIAN BUILDING, PLANNING AND ENVIRONMENT LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2022
MEMBER ACTIVATED CAMPAIGN
The Victorian Building Planning and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 will make a number of changes to the Architects Act 1991 which regulates the Architects Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV). Clause 88 of the bill overhauls Section 47 of the Architects Act which sets out the current 10-member board’s composition and appointment process.
The Institute supports the move to a skills-based board but the Board needs to retain registered architects and consumer and construction industry representatives. The bill’s proposed changes will weaken consumer protection by removing any requirement to have registered architects on the Board and therefore the important insights into the conduct and competency standards of registered architects as well as removing the insights through representation of consumers and construction sector professions.
We need your help to support a campaign by emailing or speaking with your lower house (Legislative Assembly) or upper house (Legislative Council) member. Both houses are important as the bill’s debate will resume in the lower house at the beginning of next month but the amendments would be made in the upper house.
- Below you can download a document to use as an email or letter
- We have also provided a link to the Victorian Parliament website to look up your relevant lower and upper house members.
On Thursday 23 June the Building, Planning and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill was introduced into the Victorian legislative assembly, by the then Planning Minister, The Hon Richard Wynne MLA (Richmond). There had been no prior announcement nor exposure draft or regulatory impact statement released for prior public consultation.
The bill does introduce positive changes – essentially building reforms including the legislative establishment of the State Building Surveyor and the creation of a Building Monitor for residential buildings as per the announcements in this year’s state budget. A further positive move is the establishment of legislated requirement for electronic building manuals.
Draftspersons/designers will continue to be regulated by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) but they will now be registered in a new class of practitioner called ‘Building Designer”. The legislation also introduces a Project Manager as a registration category into building practitioner registration. Ninety-four pages of the 200-pages bill introduce changes to the Heritage Act 2017. These are currently being appraised by our National Policy and Advocacy Unit working with the Victorian Chapter’s Heritage Committee.
The most immediate concerns for the Institute (with a range of potential impacts on the architecture profession and consumer) are the introduction of changes to the Architects Act 1991.
In summary, these are:
- reducing the size of the Board from 10 to nine
- removing the power of the Board to appoint its own Chair and Deputy Chair who will, instead, be appointed by the Minister
- setting a regulated requirement for a four-year strategic plan
- extending Board and Panel appoints from three to five years
- replacing Section 47 and repealing Section 48 – which gives effect to no longer having the various industry bodies including the Institute nor the universities having nominated representatives on the Board.
- Inclusion on the register, for five years, information pertaining to disciplinary or criminal sanctions of an architect. This period commences from the time following any timeframes for VCAT or court appeals.
The most concerning issue is that the changes to the Architects Act to be introduced by the Amendment Bill would only require three board members to have an architectural qualification, although none would be required to be a registered Architect, out of the board’s total of nine members.
The current ten-member board composition includes five registered architects with various practice, government and academic backgrounds alongside important consumer and construction industry representatives.
The Institute’s serious concerns are:
- Consumer protection would be weakened as the board will lose the insights of well-credentialed members of the profession who uphold high standards of conduct and competency – including board members who are also APE examiners.
- The government needs to understand that just like other professions, a profession’s regulatory body’s governance arrangement (e.g. board or council) benefits by being comprised of registered members of the profession with current or extensive previous experience in practice, teaching or research (fully immersed in the profession).
- Only a registered professional understands fully the code of conduct and competency requirements that Boards are there to develop (as part of a national scheme), undertake surveillance, for the whole of Victoria, and, when required, hold an individual practitioner to account.
- The ARBV contributes to the National Standard of Competency for Architects (NSCA) which means we have strong foundations for Automatic Mutual Recognition. The legislation now places that at risk as there is a possibility of no or too few members on the ARBV who are available as architects to support the work done by the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia. The AACA also have a constitutional requirement for each state’s or territory’s board chair who is an architect to sit on the AACA Board.
- The Institute supports the move to a skills-based board. The bill will amend the Act to require that each member has the skills, knowledge or experience in relation to at least one of the following:
(i) administration of regulatory arrangements for the building industry;
(ii) public engagement and communications;
(iii) risk management;
(iv) public administration or governance;
(v) financial, accounting or program management;
(vi) strategic planning;
However, this should not be taken to be mutually exclusive to ensuring that there is an important mix of representatives from the architect profession, construction industry, other consultant professions and consumer advocacy sector. The current composition needs to be added to, not pulled apart.
The matter expertise that the current legislated composition brings should also be part of the skills-based profile. Our media release and letter to the new planning minister point out the composition of other professions’ boards.