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Changes symptomatic of larger building issues

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Changes in council building requirements symptomatic of larger building issues, says Local Government New Zealand

For immediate release on 5 December 2003

The decision by Auckland City Council to change its building applications, consent, inspection and compliance requirements is part of a larger complex building issue which councils and Government have to address, says Local Government New Zealand Chief Executive Eugene Bowen.

“Auckland City Council is reacting to a number of different issues: the historical issues relating to “leaky homes”, the need to protect home-owners and potential future financial risk to ratepayers, and new technical information which has now come to hand.

“Local authorities have been closely examining their procedures under the Building Act 1991 following the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service’s first determination, Kelleway v Waitakere City Council. This adjudication found that the council should cover for the liability of the absent builder and that councils need to be “satisfied on reasonable grounds” of granting building code compliance.

“Local Government New Zealand is strongly against councils being adjudicated additional liability because of builders who cannot be found. We are opposed to having ratepayers’ money used to pay for damages incurred by defaulting bad builders. There is wider responsibility for the systemic failures of the past,” says Mr Bowen.

“The decision by Auckland City Council to refer to homeowners to seek a determination from the Building Industry Authority is entirely within the scope of the current legislation.”

The current Building Act provides for local government to seek a determination from the Building Industry Authority "if there is any doubt or dispute in respect of (17(c)).. the issuing of, or the refusal to issue, a code compliance certificate”.

‘The historical system was not as robust as it could have been. On the best information available at the time, local authorities exercised their best judgement and were satisfied on 'reasonable grounds' that the provisions of the building code would be met. The 'reasonable grounds' relied upon by local authorities included the producer statements prepared by the manufacturers of the monolithic cladding that it met the weather tightness requirements of the building code.

“Unfortunately we lacked intelligence from Canada or Australia where this problem had been experienced for some time which might have enabled the release of “approved documents” specifying how the claddings could be used as an “acceptable solution”.

“We are pleased that the Government has addressed many of these building issues with the introduction of the Building Bill 2003. This Bill is an opportunity to ensure that councils’ needs are met as a co-regulator of building certification,” says Mr Bowen.

The Building Bill 2003 establishes a new regime for the regulation of building that will enhance the quality of all the inputs to the building process (builders’ registration, certified products and processes, and establishes a much stronger Building Industry Authority) and accredited Building Consent Authorities. The Bill also contains “implied warranty” provisions. Other consumer protection mechanisms are also being considered.

Local Government New Zealand supports these measures and has also advocated for the adoption of a “proportionate liability” approach, to be included in the Bill.

Ends

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