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Cosgrove: Roofing Association Conference

Hon Clayton Cosgrove
Minister for Building Issues

Embargoed until 1.15pm 21 June 2006 Speech

Minister's speech to officially open the Roofing Association of New Zealand 2006 Conference

Venue: Hotel Grand Chancellor, 161 Cashel Street, Christchurch
Time/Date: 1:15pm, Wednesday 21 June, 2006

Members of the Roofing Association of New Zealand, the Association’s President Des Cowperthwaite, Vice-President, Paul Wayman, your Executive Officer Lorraine Mills, special guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be with you today.

Let me acknowledge up front how proud I am to be Building Issues Minister, especially at this time when the sector is undergoing such profound transformation. This is an exciting time to be in the building industry. Changes are afoot in the way we design and construct our buildings, in how we expect our building to perform, and what we do when things go wrong. There also are major changes that will further professionalise the industry and kick out the cowboys. This Labour-led government is committed to ensuring that houses, and buildings, are built right, the first time.

In recent weeks I have made a number of announcements that impact on the future of New Zealand homes and buildings and the people who design and build them.

Four weeks ago I announced the release of a discussion document that will literally shape the future of our buildings. The Building Code Review discussion document is out now and I strongly encourage anybody with an interest in safe, healthy buildings that promote wellbeing and sustainable development to read the document and make submissions.

The review represents a significant leap forward in what a Building Code can do for the country. It gives us an opportunity to have a fundamental rethink of how buildings should perform, and against what sort of hazards they should withstand.

For example, can the Building Code, through structural performance standards, mitigate the risk from landslides, coastal erosion, wildfire, volcanic eruption or even a tsunami? Could walls and roofs made to bear heavier loads save lives? This all needs consideration.

Once the review is completed, there will be different performance standards for buildings. Please look at the document, and provide feedback. Only in that way can the Code meet the high standards of building professionals such as yourselves, and set practical benchmarks.

Six weeks ago I announced the government’s shake-up of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service. While the Service has been achieving some success, it was often too slow and unnecessarily drawn out by lawyers and experts, making a difficult experience worse for those suffering from a leaky home.

$30.5 million has been allocated in Budget 2006 to put in place reforms that will stop gaming of the system, hold those who are liable to account and get leaky homes fixed faster. Money has also been set aside to provide advice and consumer education – a move that will lift consumer confidence in the housing market.

However the announcement that is undoubtedly of most interest to everyone in this room, is the one I made two months ago – the introduction of licensing of building practitioners. While much of the publicity has been focused on builders, the scheme also applies to those involved in the design and construction of buildings, from the designer to the carpenter, the external plasterer and you as the roofer.

I have been pleased by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to all of these announcements from both the building sector and the general public. As a package, these measures represent a significant step towards the government’s goal of ensuring New Zealanders have access to quality, healthy homes and buildings that meet their needs, and to increasing consumer confidence in the people who build and design.

We could ask ourselves why these announcements have been welcomed so widely. One building industry leader was even quoted in the media as saying that, in the case of licensing, bureaucracy was needed. He said the proposed regulations were relevant, important and would create the behavioural changes in the industry that the government, and the industry as a whole, was looking for. For too long the hard-working professionals who comprise the bulk of the industry have been tarred with the same brush as the few fly-by-night cowboy operators out there.

The reason these new regulations are attracting such widespread support is because, in a nutshell, they make sense. These changes make sense to those who swing the hammers, pour the concrete and do the roofing because the regulations have been developed by government in partnership with industry. Your industry representatives have been heavily involved in the government's decision-making process. For that, I would like to thank you all. If it was not for the input and advice from industry leaders such as yourselves, I do not think we would have a chance of being successful.

I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my personal thanks for your Association’s contribution to licensing so far. It is contributions such as yours that keeps policy practical. What will be implemented must be both robust and realistic, and only by having practitioners involved can that be the case.

I am pleased that your involvement will be ongoing. I understand from my officials that the Roofing Association was represented at an industry sector group meeting with the Department just last Friday. I am advised that the industry will continue to meet over the coming 18 months, to keep providing a practical perspective on implementation.

I have instructed my officials to keep seeking industry input, and I acknowledge that involvement places a drain on resources for Associations such as yours. You have an ambitious work programme of your own and ongoing consultation adds considerably to that. However I would encourage you to stick with it – we need your input to be successful, and to ultimately deliver what is needed.

Your focus on professionalising the over 2,000 contractors in the roofing industry is to be encouraged and supported. Your plans to develop further roofing codes of practice will mesh well with the introduction of a trade licence class for roofing. You are well-prepared for licensing and your constructive attitude and positive approach is highly valued by the government.

Your own review of your industry’s existing qualifications is also another initiative I support. An industry that constantly asks itself if it is well-prepared for the future exemplifies leadership. As you will have no doubt read and heard, I am adamant that experienced and highly skilled building practitioners with no formal qualifications will not be excluded from the licensing regime. I do not want competent people being sent back to school in order to prove what 20 years of building strong and reliable roofs clearly demonstrates.

This does not mean that I am “anti-qualifications” – just the opposite. I want competence recognised because someone’s record can help prove that, as can a robust qualification.

The road ahead clearly lies in apprenticeships and training, leading to qualifications and ongoing demonstration of skills. The National Certificates in Roofing, which acknowledge the specific skills associated with all types of roofs, be they metal, shingle, concrete or torch on membrane, is a key part of that.

This Labour-led government recognises that skills are vital. We have rebuilt the apprenticeship system that was destroyed in the 1990's by a short-sighted former administration. At the end of last year, there were 1,266 modern apprentices and 7,681 industry trainees in the building and construction industry. Budget 2006 has earmarked more investment in apprenticeship training. A further $34.4 million over four years will fund an additional 3,000 Modern Apprenticeships, taking the total number to 14,000 by 2008 – from which the building sector will directly benefit.

These skilled new apprentices, backed up and overseen by the licensed building practitioners of tomorrow, will help form the solid foundation the building industry needs to face the challenges ahead. And there are plenty of those, as you well know.

Consumers want different things from their buildings. Residential buildings have become much more complex. At the same time, there are new technologies and more materials to deal with. There is perhaps less co-ordination than there used to be between design and construction. It is the site boss and the tradespeople whom people rely on to get the job done.

You are specialists – fundamental to the success of any building, and highly visible, but often overlooked because people take the roof over their heads for granted. Until the roof leaks or blows away, that is.

You are asked to practically implement the creative ideas of designers and architects – and in such a way that the roof doesn’t leak, sag or become unsafe.

You are asked to install a range of roofing materials across a range of locations, climates, and systems.

Having a specific licence class for roofers was done to ensure that your specific contribution to high quality, well-built homes and buildings was recognised. You are part of a team on a site.

As you probably know, while specialist and trade licences do not become mandatory until 2011, voluntary licences for site, design and carpentry will be available from November next year.

Site licences will have an impact on you – in order for a site lead to do their job properly, they will need to effectively use trades such as yours. It will not be about each individual trade taking responsibility for their part of the job and then walking off the site once the job is done. In the past a small number of people have simply elbowed each other out of the way to finish their bit of the job and move onto the next – quality was not a priority for these cowboys.

There will need to be a greater degree of communication between all parties on site. This is the way the good operators such as you already do their work. Talking with the foreman, talking with the other trades on-site to ensure that the best house possible is built for the homeowner.

Not everybody works that way. Building trades have become more fragmented, and there is more use of semi-skilled workers. The Hunn Report talked about how systems failures often happen at the boundaries between trades.

Introducing a site lead ensures that someone will oversee the construction of building work, including the co-ordination and integration of trades work, and to certify that the building work as a whole complies with the consent.

One of the purposes of licensing, and the other improvements taking place across the sector, is to raise consumer confidence. Consumers will be confident that the changes will translate to better homes and buildings if the professionals in the building industry support the new measures and make sure they are implemented.

That requires continued engagement from you as I mentioned earlier.
So what do we need to engage on next? What are the next steps from here?

Virginia Burton from the Department of Building and Housing will be giving you a more detailed overview of progress tomorrow. Today, I would like to outline to you what is coming up in broad terms over the coming months.

The government will be finalising licence standards and assessment criteria for the design, site and carpentry classes, with valuable input from industry working party workshops held three weeks ago. Work on the assessment tools and guidelines for selected licence classes will begin in September.

Draft complaints and disciplinary procedures are proposed to be out for feedback later in the year and fees and levies will follow in early 2007. This is all in time for the Department to be ready for November 1, 2007.

The government is reconstructing the whole building sector, to repair the damage done after it was deregulated in the 1990s, where there were virtually no rules and anyone could strap on a tool belt and call themselves a builder or a roofer. The days of the cowboys are numbered. For many builders and tradespeople who choose to seek licences, this will be the first time their skill will be recognised through national standards. Licensing gives recognition where it is due, and gives an assurance of quality for New Zealanders.

With the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service reforms, the accreditation of local authorities as Building Consent Authorities, building practitioner licensing and the Building Code review underway, the sector’s transformation is taking shape. Transforming the building sector is not an overnight job. It will take time, but the investment that this represents will pay off on all fronts. Just like designing and building a house, we need to get it right, the first time.

Good buildings matter. Being a top-notch building professional matters. There are a lot great builders and tradepeople out there and the more I have to do with this practical industry, the more I can appreciate that.

What we expect from our buildings and how we build them is going to change. For building professionals such as yourselves, professionalism and accountability are the best ways to meet this challenge.

I congratulate you on your commitment to that.

All the best for your conference, and I have much pleasure in declaring the Roofing Association of New Zealand's 2006 conference officially open.


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