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Final Section of the “Hunn Report” released

Final Section of the “Hunn Report” on Weathertightness Released

The final section of the Overview Group Report on weathertightness of buildings, released today, finds the Building Act fundamentally sound but identifies aspects that require revision to prevent the reoccurrence of similar problems in the future.

Section 3 of the report examines the Building Act and Regulations, and the way in which they are administered by the BIA and the territorial authorities, in light of the recent weathertightness problems. It was withheld by the Overview Group when releasing the main body of the report in September as they did not have to hand all the information they required at that time to make recommendations.

The final section, which includes five recommendations, was received by the Authority on Friday, considered at a meeting today and immediately released to the public.

BIA chairman Barry Brown said that the final section completes the task assigned to the Overview Group by the Authority.

“We engaged the Overview Group led by Don Hunn to give us a thorough and independent analysis of the possible causes of the leaky building problem and recommendations for resolving it.

“The Authority was pleased to receive the final section of the report and will continue to work as speedily as possible with other government agencies and the industry to put in place measures to arrest the problem.”

In identifying areas of the Building Act and Code that could have contributed to the problem, the Overview Group finds that what it calls a “light-handed” approach to building controls may have had the effect of not providing sufficient protection to consumers.

The report notes that there is a power imbalance between homeowners and the producers of buildings when things go wrong, and that legal redress available to homeowners is too slow, difficult to access, expensive and time consuming to be effective:

The building industry is too complex an environment to place so much reliance on market forces. In addition, the Overview Group considers that the significance of the consumer/supplier power imbalance is such that a higher level of regulatory control is necessary and justified.

The Overview Group also identifies other problems with the Act that could have contributed to the problem. These are:

a lack of emphasis that residential buildings must provide shelter to occupants – that is, be weathertight and durable

important parts of the building code were not sufficiently integrated

the process for accrediting proprietary building products is inadequate.

The Overview Group recommends the current review of the Building Act being undertaken by the Department of Internal Affairs broadened to address these aspects, and to reassess how the Authority implements its functions under the Act.

However, the Overview Group also stresses there was no general desire by the people it interviewed for a return to “highly prescriptive method based controls”. The report says:

There is ample evidence the Act has provided real benefits by allowing innovation in, and the freedom to choose, design, materials and construction solutions … The Overview Group acknowledges that it has taken a major crisis in the industry to expose deficiencies in the legislation, which in many cases are quite subtle.

The final section also identifies the need for the BIA to take a more active role in fulfilling its functions under the Act. It says the BIA should recommend to its Minister that the Department of Internal Affairs should review the BIA’s role, structure and resourcing, enabling it to provide a more comprehensive service to the public and the industry.

Barry Brown said the findings of the final section of the Overview Group report should be read in conjunction with the main body of the report which found the causes of the weathertightness problem are wide ranging (including industry standards, culture and operations, combined with changing social and economic factors) and no one factor could be blamed.

The main body of the report contains 20 recommendations, all of which are being progressed by the Authority. A full copy of the Overview Group Report, with the final section, is available on the BIA’s website – http://www.bia.govt.nz

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