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Government acts to improve building regulations

Government acts to improve building regulations

Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel today announced the government’s proposals for better regulation of the building industry.

The government’s decisions, confirmed by Cabinet today, focus on: Better building controls and a more proactive regulator, which will provide better articulation of the Building Code, coupled with better guidance and information on how to meet the requirements of the Building Code. Better administration of building controls, with more reliable inspection and code compliance requirements. More competent and better-informed building practitioners, who will certify their work. Better-informed and protected consumers.

“The experience of the weathertightness issue has highlighted problems in the building industry and the government wants to put it right. The primary focus of our decisions today, can be summed up in this phrase: Design and build it right first time.

“It is ironic that most of us would not contemplate buying a second hand car without having it checked first by someone qualified to do so. Yet in the case of what is usually the single largest investment most of us will make in our lifetime, it is incredible that we don’t apply the same rigour.

“The proposed changes place more emphasis on buildings being fit for the purpose for which they are built and being built with the whole life of the building in mind. There will be improved monitoring of the industry by the regulator, better specification of the Building Code, and more information and guidance about practices and products and complying with the Code.

“We are putting in place the means to improve local authorities’ administration of building controls. Local authorities will be accredited and audited against benchmark standards and will have enhanced infringement fee powers. Private building certifiers will also have to be accredited.

“Builders, architects, designers and other building professions and trades will be subject to a licensing regime and will be required to self-certify their work. This will mean consumers, as purchasers of building services, will have better information about, and be able to better rely on, their building professional.

“We are also introducing standard contract provisions to help protect all the people who are involved in the building process, particularly the homeowner.

“The BIA, the functions of which will be transferred to a government department, will also have new powers to warn against, ban, and require some designs, practices and products to be used in some circumstances, with improved enforcement powers,” Lianne Dalziel said.

The decisions are the result of a comprehensive review of current building regulation, which took into account the recommendations of the Hunn report on weathertightness and the Select Committee Inquiry into Weathertightness. The measures announced today are largely based on the proposals outlined in the discussion paper, Better Regulation of the Building Industry in New Zealand, which was released in March.

“Officials from the Ministry of Economic Development and I have spent a lot of time over the past few months talking to builders, architects, designers and other members of the building industry, as well as to consumer groups and other stakeholders. Over 300 largely supportive submissions to the discussion paper were received.

“A key theme to emerge from the submissions and consultation was widespread support for the focus on input controls so we get it right first time.

“Licensing of building practitioners, improved information provision, product certification, accreditation of building inspectors and more effective enforcement were also widely supported measures.

“Support for measures such as compulsory insurance, bonds or guarantee funds was not so strong. Instead, the view was generally that the emphasis should be on ensuring better control of the inputs so there is less need for redress.

“However, I am still aware of the need to cover those situations where something does go wrong and so I have asked the Ministry of Economic Development to develop a dispute resolution process based on the one in the Construction Contracts Act,” Lianne Dalziel said.

The new measures will be implemented through the Building Bill which is planned for introduction to Parliament in July. The Bill will then be referred to a select committee, providing an opportunity for further submissions.

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