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BIA strongly rejects reported allegations

Media Statement

22 November 2002


The Building Industry Authority strongly rejects reported allegations made today by Mr Greg O’Sullivan on National Radio that the Authority has failed to show leadership in dealing with the leaky buildings issue, BIA Chief Executive Bill Porteous said today.

“The BIA has actively pursued a range of opportunities to investigate the cause and extent of the problem and is now actively pursuing solutions to prevent the problems from re-occurring in the future.

“Yes, Mr O’Sullivan and his brother have informed us over a period of time about their concerns and other anecdotal evidence also emerged. On the strength of that anecdotal evidence the BIA participated in the Weathertight Buildings Steering Group, which was set up to get to the bottom of the problem.

“When it became apparent that group was not making sufficient progress the Authority began a process (in August 2001) that led to the formation of the Weathertightness Overview Group and the Hunn report – which has been a watershed in this issue.

Mr Porteous also said that in hindsight it was easy to conclude the BIA ought to have informed the Minister earlier of its concerns regarding leaky buildings.

“But regardless of that fact the BIA was taking every reasonable measure to understand and deal with the problem. I do not believe that we would have done anything differently had the Minister known that we were investigating anecdotes that suggested a problem, and I have yet to hear any serious suggestion to the contrary.

“You cannot take action on a complex problem like this without having made an attempt to properly understand its nature.

“Bear in mind also that Mr O’Sullivan’s company alerted us to just two problem houses in 2001 - against the backdrop of more than 25,000 new houses being built every year. It would have been irresponsible for the BIA to have created public alarm and destroyed the value of many people’s homes on the basis of limited evidence.

“There was no corroborating evidence emerging, for instance, from territorial local authorities who, it might be expected, would have been in a very strong position to have identified problems.

“The appropriate action was to seek an independent investigation of the alleged problem and that is exactly what we did and we continued to take appropriate action.

“As soon as Don Hunn’s group alerted us to the balcony hazard, we issued a public warning and advertised the danger extensively.

“As soon as Mr Hunn’s interim and full reports were received, we released them. We immediately held a summit with representatives of the entire industry to discuss the way forward. Mr O’Sullivan’s allegation of a lack of leadership rings hollow since he was at that summit.

“The Authority has, for the last 18 months, acted to seek information, consult and inform the public, industry and local government about this issue to resolve a complex and serious issue as quickly and appropriately as possible,” said Mr Porteus.

ENDS

22 November 2002

Summary of BIA Activity on Weathertightness Concerns


April 2001 – BRANZ Steering Group begins considering anecdotes of potential weathertightness issues. No evidence that these are not simply isolated incidents. BIA is represented on this Group.

August 2001 – BIA Chief Executive concludes that an information vacuum is preventing progress via the BRANZ Steering Group. BIA concludes that an independent report is needed to investigate the extent of the suggested problem and inform remedial action. At this time there had been no communications from territorial authorities or building certifiers suggesting a problem requiring a regulatory response. All indications were (and continue to be) that the majority of buildings were being constructed in a sound and compliant manner.

October 2001 – CEO authorised to begin process of identifying a suitably qualified independent person. During course of drawing up a work brief for the independent person, it becomes clear that a panel of more than one individual will be needed (the Weathertightness Overview Group). Progress reports delivered to BIA in November and December.

November 2001 – Don Hunn identified as a suitable Chair for the Overview Group. However Mr Hunn not available for immediate start.

February 2002 – Further members Ian Bond and David Kernohan identified, and OG formally appointed February 18.

April 2002 – On the basis of preliminary feedback from the OG, BIA briefed Minister by letter of 30 April ahead of preliminary OG report.

May 2002 – Preliminary report received and released.

August 2002 – Public warnings about the dangers of potentially unsafe balconies issued immediately following advice from the OG.

Final report of OG received 30 August and released a few days later. A key conclusion of the report is that the extent of the problem remains unknown and further investigation is required.

October 2002 – Building Industry Summit held in Auckland to discuss the industry’s response to the OG report.

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