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Smith demands resignation of BIA head


Smith demands resignation of BIA head

United Future MP, Murray Smith, today demanded the resignation of the Chief Executive of the Building Industry Authority, Dr Bill Porteous.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Smith, a member of the select committee investigating the leaky homes syndrome, said the issue has now been with the country for several months with a huge number of average New Zealanders financially affected and crying out for justice on the one hand and a ducking for cover / passing the buck attitude from the building industry, local authorities and government agencies on the other.

Mr Smith said that,at the very least, Dr Porteous’ head should be rolling over this matter.

The MP detailed correspondence between the BIA and the building consultancy firm, Prendos, that first raised the warning over rotting homes in October 1997.

“Astonishingly, it appears that the growing concerns about the situation were not even conveyed by (Dr Porteous) to the BIA itself. Sir George Chapman, Chairman of the BIA from 1990 to 2000 has categorically stated that he was never, ever informed by Dr Porteous that there was any issue regarding leaky buildings or monolithic claddings.”

Mr Smith said UNITEC research was received by Dr Porteous in December 2000. It found that there was a 75% defect rate for buildings less than ten years old which it stated “is a cause for some considerable concern. So too is the fact that 50% of buildings constructed since the Building Code changes allow moisture entry to one degree or another.”

“At this point Dr Porteous’ own staff were becoming extremely concerned at the lack of action on the issue. In a personal memo to Dr Porteous dated 28 August 2001, Claire Benge said, “At this stage the staff are alerting the Authority of a potential crisis and would like their collective wisdom and experience in the industry to give guidance on the appropriate action to take.

“What is the trigger of a major investigation?” Ms Benge said ” Do we wait until someone loses their life from the collapse of a balcony or when a bank is left with houses that need such major repairs that the owners walk out? Or has the problem reached that stage now?

Dr Porteous finally tabled a report to the Authority’s August 2001 meeting and, according to Barry Brown, the current Chairman, that was the first advice of any substance that he or the Authority members themselves had received from Dr Porteous about the issue.”

Mr Smith then asked why it had taken Dr Porteous three and a half years, from the letter of April 1998, when Prendos first warned of the seriousness of the matter, to August 2001 before he brought the issue to the Authority’s notice and how much money he thought New Zealand homeowners lost to leaky building syndrome over those three and a half years as a result of his inaction and which could have been saved if the BIA (as, in their own words, ‘the guardian of the Building Code’) had taken its role seriously and acted promptly.

“When is he going to do the decent thing and tender his resignation?” he added. “I note that Dr Porteous has said that he hasn’t resigned because no one has asked him to. Well Dr Porteous, on behalf of the thousands and thousands of [affected] New Zealanders, United Future New Zealand is now asking - no demanding - you RESIGN.”


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