NSW reforms a sensible step for safety – time to act nationally

The Australian Institute of Architects has welcomed more detail on the NSW Government response to building safety issues, labelling it a belated but sensible step to maintain safety and public confidence.

The Institute’s Immediate Past President, Clare Cousins, today said the Berejiklian Government’s Building Stronger Foundations discussion paper requirement for registration of builders, designers, engineers – in addition to the existing requirements for architects – was long-awaited and important.

‘The Institute has been calling for full registration of people across the building industry for many years,’ Ms Cousins said.

‘We are pleased the NSW Government is finally making steps to action this measure. Now it is time for all other Australian states and territories to implement these protocols, and the full set of recommendations of last year’s Shergold Weir report into building safety.

‘These reforms are vital to protect public safety and maintain public confidence in Australia’s building protocols.’

The discussion paper of the NSW Government response proposes an industry-wide common law duty of care to owners and bodies corporate, and would also create a regulatory system where builders and others could face deregistration if found to be negligent.

It also includes builder declarations of compliance with the Building Code of Australia, and a new building commissioner to oversee regulations.

‘These vital safety measures must be implemented as soon as possible,’ Ms Cousins said. ‘After the recent issues we have seen with Mascot Towers and other incidents, the public needs to know there is a robust and nationally consistent system in place to ensure safety for people and their investments.’

NSW President of the Institute, Kathlyn Loseby added: ‘The Institute has been a leading voice in calling for increased building safety measures in recent years and will be responding to the Government’s paper’.

‘We welcome the impending appointment of a building commissioner and the opportunity to work closely with the NSW Government to ensure these measures go far enough to protect our communities,’ she said.

‘The issues of self-certification, inappropriate risk allocation in contracts, and product substitution as a cost-saving mechanism also need to be addressed.’

All architects are insured and are required to have ongoing registration with state and territory bodies, following five years of tertiary education and two years’ industry practice before taking a registration exam. The Institute has called for a robust registration system like this applied to all building practitioners including project managers, building designers and draughters.

At the time of the last Building Ministers’ Forum in March, only Tasmania had implemented the recommendation to require registration of all practitioners in building design, construction and maintenance.

The Institute is heartened there has been greater implementation of the Building Ministers’ Forum priority for jurisdictions to create minimum controls to reduce conflicts of interest and increase transparency between builders and surveyors, with complete implementation in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

Ms Cousins said more action is needed across jurisdictions for approved documentation to be prepared by registered practitioners, in accordance with the National Construction Code, which needs to be implemented in all states except Tasmania.

‘Australia’s vital building-safety system needs to be consistent across the entire country. All practitioners, be they architects, builders, certifiers, surveyors, developers or engineers, must be held accountable for the work they complete. Without surety on this our communities will pay the price,’ she said.

‘While we applaud the work done to date, work is still lagging on a national level. All Australians deserve to have confidence in their buildings regardless of where they live, work and play around the country.’