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Leaky Building Website and toll free line

Website, free toll line, disputes procedures for homeowners affected by ‘leaky building syndrome’

The government today released the outline of a disputes resolution process and launched a website and a toll free phone line for homeowners affected by ‘leaky building syndrome.’

The toll free line will operate from 8.30am to 7.00pm Monday to Friday on 0800-116-926. The website, which will be regularly updated, can be accessed at http:// http://www.weathertightness.govt.nz.

Acting Prime Minister and Finance Minister Michael Cullen said people could use these services, both of which were being run by the Department of Internal Affairs, to access information and to register problems.

“The data collected through these sources will assist the government in determining the extent of the leaky building problem. However people registering with the department have my assurance that their identities and the identity of affected properties will be treated with utmost confidentiality,” he said.

“After registration and acceptance of an application, applicants will be able to obtain an independent assessment of their case and encouraged to come before an expert mediator.

“Not all applications will be accepted. It is important that the parameters of this exercise are understood. To qualify, the defect must relate to leaky building syndrome.” Dr Cullen leads the special ministerial committee to co-ordinate the response to the matters raised in the Hunn report to the Building Industry Authority on the weathertightness of buildings.

“Some details of the design of the disputes system have yet to be finalised as the final report from the expert panel and officials will not be completed until next week. But we have decided that it should incorporate an adjudication procedure in the event that one party refuses to enter mediation or that mediation breaks down,” Dr Cullen said.

“Legislation to establish the disputes process will be introduced by way of a Supplementary Order Paper to the Construction Contracts Bill now before the House and passed expeditiously with the aim of having the first mediations underway by Christmas.

“It is our intention at this stage to restrict the disputes service to homeowners because that is where the demand has come from. But if there is a strong view that the facility should be extended to other affected parties, we will give that fair consideration.

“Crown Law advice is that the Crown is not liable for any losses sustained as a result of leaky building syndrome. But clearly there is an important leadership role for the government in sorting through the concerns raised.

“We are pursuing four separate streams of work: assisting homeowners to obtain redress; working with the Building Industry Authority on its responses to the Hunn Report; monitoring and assessing the immediate market impacts and reactions in the insurance, building certification, banking and construction industries; examining future regulatory changes, including changes to the Building Act and possible registration of builders.

“None of these issues is capable of a single or simple solution and it is important that we take the time to ensure that our response is as well-considered, robust and effective as possible. Other announcements will be made as progress permits,” Dr Cullen said.

Other members of the ministerial committee are Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton, Attorney General Margaret Wilson, Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel, Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins, Local Government Minister Chris Carter, Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard, and Associate Health Minister Damien O’Connor. The expert panel is chaired by former State Services Commissioner Don Hunn and comprises Tomas Kennedy-Grant, a mediator, arbitrator and legal adviser; Ian Bond, an engineer, David Kernohan, an architect, and Brian Roche, a senior partner with PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

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