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Government strengthens BIA, welcomes Hunn report


Government strengthens BIA, welcomes Hunn report

The Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen and Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins today welcomed the final report of the Hunn Overview Group into weathertightness saying the recommendations reflected government thinking and that work on them was already in train.

Mr Hawkins also released the reply from the Chairman of the Building Industry Authority, Barry Brown, to his “please explain” letter of 30 October asking why the BIA did not inform him of the leaky buildings issue until 30 April, this year.

“I welcome Mr Brown’s apology and acknowledgement that he was remiss in not advising me earlier.

“Although I accept his view that any information he might have been able to give me sooner would have been anecdotal rather than firm, early warning of potential problems is essential if Ministers are to be advised on a timely and no surprises basis,” Mr Hawkins said.

The Ministers said that demonstrably there were problems with the functioning of the BIA.

“The Hunn Report recognises this and recommends that the Authority’s role, structure and resourcing be reviewed to enable it to provide a more comprehensive service to the public and to the building industry.

“Significant changes are likely to emerge from this exercise.

“The government has already moved to strengthen oversight of the Authority by shifting responsibility for the policy and regulatory functions from the Department of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Economic Development [MED.] That will take effect from 1 January.

“To further reinforce the supervision, the government is establishing a three-person advisory group, led by Paul Carpinter, the former chief executive of the MED, to assist the MED in its new role. The other two appointments will be announced in the near future.

“Mr Carpinter brings a strong mix of government experience, strategic thinking, and industry knowledge. He also has good working relationships within the government and a deep understanding of statutory responsibilities and processes.”

The Hunn Group was commissioned by the BIA in February to investigate issues relating to leaky building syndrome. It reported back at the end of August on most of its terms of reference but has only recently completed its investigation into whether the weathertightness failures were due to deficiencies in the Building Act and regulations or to the way in which they were administered.

Its main findings are: that there are features of the Building Act and Code that are deficient and have contributed to the leaky building problem; and that the scope of the current review of the Act be broadened to address these features and to explore how the BIA should be structured to best achieve the purposes of the Act.

Dr Cullen said work was already well-advanced on all these areas and on the question of whether there should be compulsory registration for builders.

“Firm proposals relating to these issues are expected to be before the Cabinet next month. The government expects to be in a position to begin announcing decisions early in the New Year.

“The home is by far the largest investment that most New Zealanders make and the government is determined to ensure to the greatest extent possible that people can make that purchase with confidence,” he said.

The Weathertight Homes Resolution Service to provide homeowners with a low cost means of seeking redress would not be transferred to the MED but retained within the Department of Internal Affairs at least until June, 2003.

“Legislation to establish the service was passed under urgency in Parliament last week. The logistics of putting the disputes machinery in place and appointing the personnel are proceeding on schedule and it is expected that the first mediators will be appointed before Christmas.

“People registering with the service will be receiving application forms within the next week and assessments of properties will then begin,” Dr Cullen said.

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