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Mediation service for owners of leaking homes

Hon George Hawkins
2 October 2002 Media Statement

Mediation service to be established for owners of leaking homes

The government will establish a mediation service as part of a three-pronged approach to the leaking buildings problem.

A responsible and measured approach to finding solutions that work long-term for all concerned is important, rather than kneejerk reactions, Minister of Internal Affairs George Hawkins said.

The Government has identified three key areas for Government action, he said.

The first task is to ensure that homeowners have somewhere to go to find a remedy. The Government agreed this morning to establish a mediation service to achieve this.

“Secondly, is the need is to ensure that any change to insurance cover for building certifiers does not result in disruption of the building industry.

“Talks this morning with the Insurance Council and others in the sector indicated that the reaction so far is limited to specific independent building certifiers and future cover for this particular issue.

‘We do not believe the industry will grind to a halt as a result of insurance issues raised so far.

“Thirdly, looking forward, we need to make sure the regulatory system under the Building Act is strong enough to ensure these problems are not repeated,” Mr Hawkins said.

Ministers have asked officials to report urgently on ways to ensure the building certification process works in future.

Mr Hawkins said today’s step is the decision to setup a mediation service

“In this we have the support of Local Government New Zealand, Master Builders’ Federation and the Insurance Council.”

Mediation is a sound, inexpensive first port of call for people with leaking homes, Mr Hawkins said.

“Its value lies in its underlying principle that parties, in the presence of an independent person, sit down and themselves agree to try and find a solution.

“At the end of the process, parties either reach a binding settlement or agree to disagree. At that point, litigation through the courts becomes the main option.

“Obviously, while the hope is mediation will keep as many people out of court as possible, some will want their day in court as is their right,” he said.

‘We see mediation as a way of enabling Government, local Government and the industry to work co-operatively to find solutions.

“If people responsible for these problems are reluctant to become involved, the Government will look at ways to facilitate a more effective uptake of the procedure.”

Mediation will be preceded by initial screening to identify leaking buildings, followed by assessment to establish the exact cause of leaks found.

Local Government New Zealand and the Master Builders Federation have offered to assist with the service.

A framework and terms of reference for the mediation service is being developed with the assistance of an expert group convened by the Department of Internal Affairs.

The group is made up of people skilled in financial, construction and dispute resolution areas.

While initially funded by the Government, ongoing running costs would depend on numbers of people choosing to use the service. A range of industry bodies would be approached to discuss appropriate ways they can also contribute, Mr Hawkins said.

ENDS

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