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Govt To Loosen Rules On Overseas Building Products – Expert Reaction

The Government has announced three changes to the Building Act with the intention of making it easier and cheaper to bring in overseas building materials to New Zealand.

The changes deal with recognising certain overseas building product standards and certification schemes.

The SMC asked independent experts to comment.

Professor John Tookey, School of Future Environments, AUT, comments:

“The concept of recognising materials standards from other jurisdictions is sound. For example the US, Europe, and Australia all have similar standards for construction products. The devil will be in the implementation detail. The current problem is the time and cost associated with the testing necessary to receive NZ code compliance from BRANZ etc. This places a natural handbrake on new product introductions. The cost to test to New Zealand standards is disproportionate to the profits achievable in a small economy like New Zealand. New Zealand is an expensive economy to service, with substantial shipping and internal logistics costs. The challenges come down to which standards we adopt from which jurisdictions. New Zealand has some unique and essential performance requirements. These include seismic performance, U-V stability for painted / surface treatments and moisture tolerance amongst others. Hence it is unlikely to be possible to accept all products from any one particular jurisdiction.

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“A major factor in this proposal will be the perception of risk for construction funders. Most construction is undertaken with borrowed capital. Banks therefore have the value at risk. Banks will have a profound interest in any (actual or perceived) ‘loss of value’ from reduced product durability. Hence any selected equivalent standards should ideally be higher than our current ones. In addition, insurance companies are going to be similarly concerned. Durability of construction materials and potential ‘through life’ differences in wear and tear losses will need to be funded. Consequently insurers will need to be placed well ‘on side’ with this initiative if they are to provide similar coverage and premiums.

“Ultimately this will require someone, with very significant ‘signing off’ capacity in government, to identify which codes from which countries are equivalent to our own. While the initiative is commendable, signing off on the risks may be a problem. The spectre of our leaky building past will give pause for thought.”

No conflict of interest.

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