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Weathertightness - Chief Adjudicator Appointed

Hon Clayton Cosgrove
Minister for Building and Construction

4 December 2006 Media Statement

Weathertightness - Chief Adjudicator Appointed

Building and Construction Minister Clayton Cosgrove today announced the appointment of Patricia McConnell as Chief Adjudicator of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service (WHRS) for a three-year term starting this month.

Ms McConnell is a barrister based in Rotorua. She has an established reputation as an adjudicator and manager of adjudication services through her role as Principal Tenancy Adjudicator with the Tenancy Tribunal. She also has extensive experience in tribunal, District Court and High Court civil and criminal litigation.

The Chief Adjudicator is primarily responsible for delivering an efficient WHRS adjudication service, and for providing leadership to the current four adjudicators. Their key role is to determine the liability of parties and remedies in relation to eligible claims referred to the WHRS for adjudication.

“Ms McConnell has a great deal to offer and brings extensive experience and an in-depth knowledge of dispute resolution issues. She is well placed to lead the WHRS adjudication process, and I am delighted to have her onboard,” said Mr Cosgrove.

Mr Cosgrove said he would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the work of Paul Skinner – the first WHRS Chief Adjudicator – and thank him for his service to the community.

Under the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Amendment Bill currently before Parliament, it is proposed that the Chief Adjudicator become the chair of a new Weathertight Homes Tribunal. The Bill proposes new enhanced investigative powers and authority for the Tribunal, including new offence provisions when parties fail to appear when summoned or disobey an order of the Tribunal.

Mr Cosgrove said establishing the new Tribunal is part of the Bill's package of reforms aimed at speeding up the dispute resolution process so owners of leaky homes can get compensation from the liable parties and get their homes fixed faster.

Other key proposals in the Bill include: more comprehensive assessment reports so people can claim for potential as well as actual weathertightness-related damage; changing the voting thresholds to make it easier to resolve multi-unit claims; a new streamlined process for lower value claims; requiring territorial authorities to place WHRS notices on Land Information Memorandum (LIM) reports and time limited mediation.

Mr Cosgrove said he hopes to have the legislation passed before Christmas, and to have the reforms in place for 1 April 2007.

--

Background Information

What is the role of WRHS adjudicators?
The function of adjudicators is to determine the liability of respondents to a claim and remedies in relation to eligible claims referred to the WHRS for adjudication.

What is the role of the newly appointed Chief Adjudicator?
The Chief Adjudicator will be primarily responsible for delivering an efficient WHRS adjudication service, and for providing leadership to the current four adjudicators.

What are the key proposals in the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Amendment Bill, including those related to adjudication services?
The key proposals to amend the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2002 are;
- A new streamlined process involving pre-hearing conferencing and time-limited mediation before claims move to adjudication
- Beefed up assessment reports for all WHRS claimants so people can claim for potential as well as actual weathertightness-related damage
- The establishment of a new Weathertight Homes Tribunal to provide independent adjudication services
- Changing the voting thresholds to make it easier for a class action approach to be taken by owners of units within apartment blocks
- Requiring territorial authorities to place WHRS notices regarding affected property files on Land Information Memorandum (LIM) reports
- Clear objectives for adjudicators to take a more investigative approach
- Enhancing the power and authority of adjudicators, including new offence provisions when parties fail to appear when summoned or disobey an order of the Tribunal

What do the proposed WHRS enhancements mean for owners of non-weathertight homes?
The main anticipated benefits of the changes are:
- Home-owners will receive an accurate and comprehensive assessment of the damage to their house and what work is needed to repair it
- Improved information and case management
- The average time for claims to be resolved will be reduced
- Legal and evidential costs incurred by claimants and other parties should reduce
- Barriers to making claims by bodies corporate and apartment owners will be reduced, assisting these home-owners to resolve their disputes. Those living in apartments form around 70% of WHRS claims
- Homeowners will be able to claim for a wider scope of damage

What happens now?
The Bill has been reported back by the Social Services Select Committee and is before Parliament. The Government hopes to pass the legislation this year.

How do the WRHS reforms fit into the bigger picture?
The WHRS enhancements are part of a package of Government reforms aimed at ensuring homes are built right the first time. These include the licensing of those who design and build while protecting the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture, the review of the Building Code, an accreditation and auditing scheme for Building Consent Authorities, sector and consumer education, building product certification, a financial assistance scheme pilot to help owners of leaky homes in the worst of circumstances, and investigation into a home warranty insurance.

ENDS

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