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Licensing brings new era for building industry

Licensing brings new era for building industry

New Zealanders will know they have engaged a quality building professional when they choose one licensed under the Licensed Building Practitioners Scheme launched today, says the Minister of Building and Construction Clayton Cosgrove.

“From today (1 November 2007) designers, builders, site supervisors, construction managers and carpenters can apply to become licensed under the scheme. Next year, the opportunity to become licensed will be extended to external plasterers, roofers, bricklayers and blocklayers, and specialists in concrete structure, steel structure and building services,” Mr Cosgrove said.

The first stage of the scheme will be voluntary but from November 2010 specific restricted work will have to be done or supervised by a Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP). People without licences will still be able to work in the building industry, but will require supervision when doing restricted work.

Speaking at the official launch of the scheme in Wellington today, Mr Cosgrove said it signalled a new era for the building sector.

“This is the first time there has been a national building competency scheme that has a disciplinary framework that holds practitioners accountable for their work,” he said. “It aims to ensure that buildings and homes are designed and built right the first time, and to raise consumer confidence in the quality of that work.

In order to be licensed, building practitioners will need to demonstrate that they have the required experience, skills and knowledge within a series of occupational classes and that they are competent to do the job. “In essence this is about reinforcing good, skilled building professionals and getting the cowboys out of the industry,” said Mr Cosgrove.

Mr Cosgrove said the scheme takes the guesswork out of knowing who is - and who isn’t - a good building professional.

“There will be a public online register of licensed practitioners so the public know they are hiring a competent professional. Cowboy builders who have left us with problems such as leaky buildings will have no place in this new environment.”

Mr Cosgrove said for the first time consumers will have an independent investigative body to complain to should an LBP do work they feel is deficient.

“Licensing means increased accountability. The Building Practitioners Board will have the power to investigate complaints and can take action against an LBP, including making the practitioner undergo more training, imposing a fine or cancelling the licence. The online register will also include details of any disciplinary action taken against an LBP.”

Mr Cosgrove congratulated three practitioners at the launch – a carpenter, a site manager and a designer – for being among the first to apply to become licensed.

“Hundreds of requests for application packs have already been received for the LBP scheme which formally recognises - often for the first time – our skilled, competent building professionals,” he said. “I expect all licensed builders and designers will rightly use this mark of quality to promote themselves in the marketplace.”

Mr Cosgrove said he wished to thank the men and women of the building industry for their direct involvement in helping design the LBP scheme to ensure that it would work where it counts – on the building site.

“The licensing scheme has come about with the strong support of the building industry because it is totally committed to ensuring its reputation is enhanced and the quality of New Zealand’s homes and buildings are improved.”

Mr Cosgrove said he wanted again to reassure home-handy men or women that the Kiwi Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tradition would be protected under the licensing scheme, and they would still be able to do DIY work, including building a standard, straight-forward house from scratch or adding on a room. Options to ensure future house buyers know if a house was built by an LBP or a DIY’er are being looked at.

“They can then make an informed choice of which home to buy – a DIY built house or a home built by an LBP, with all the protections and accountability that comes with that.”

Occupational licensing is part of the Labour-led government's suite of reforms to transform the building sector. Other reforms include the current Building Code review, the accreditation of Building Consent Authorities to ensure that building consents and inspections work is carried out efficiently to a high standard, the revamped Weathertight Homes Resolution Service and new Weathertight Homes Tribunal, new measures to make homes and workplaces more energy efficient, and investigation of a home warranty insurance scheme.

Background Information

Why is the Government introducing licensing in the building industry? The Licensed Building Practitioners Scheme is designed to help ensure homes and buildings are designed and built right the first time by setting quality benchmark standards for the building industry. The scheme is a requirement of the Building Act 2004. It aims to provide consumer protection and a complaints system as well as recognise the competence of skilled, experienced building practitioners. There has always been legal liability in the building industry and the licensing scheme is not intended to change this. However licensing will mean increased accountability through the Building Practitioners Board which will have the power to investigate complaints and to fine, suspend or rescind a licence when work is deficient.

What is the significance of 1 November 2007? 1 November sees the launch of the first licensing scheme for building practitioners in New Zealand. Practitioners in seven licence categories (see below) will now be able to lodge applications to be licensed with the Department of Building and Housing. Practitioners will have their competency assessed ASL Ltd, an external agency that will make recommendations to the Licensed Building Practitioners’ Registrar on whether or not a practitioner should be registered. The first licences are likely to be issued by the Department of Building and Housing in late February 2008. For the first time, practitioners will be able to have their skills and knowledge formally recognised in a nationwide system.

How will it improve homes and buildings? The licensing of building practitioners will give the public peace of mind that their homes and buildings have been designed and built by competent practitioners.

What work has to be done by a Licensed Building Practitioner? From November 2010, certain work on homes and buildings will have to be undertaken or supervised by a licensed building practitioner. Restricted work will be defined in consultation with the building industry.

What types of licences will be introduced under the LBP scheme? There are 13 licence classes in total. The first seven licences can be applied for from 1 November 2007 are: Carpentry Site 1, Site 2, and Site 3, Design 1, Design 2, and Design 3 (The levels of licence are linked to the complexity of the building work or the role being undertaken.) Carpenters, builders, site supervisors, construction managers and designers can apply for these licenses. Another six licence classes (brick and blocklaying; external plastering; roofing; concrete structure; steel structure; building services) will be developed with industry and introduced from 2008.

What happens if I have a complaint about a licensed building practitioner? The LBP scheme aims to increase accountability of practitioners. If a licensed building practitioner works on your home or building, and you believe the work to have been below-standard you can lodge a complaint with the Building Practitioners Board. The Building Practitioners Board is empowered to investigate complaints and can take action against a licensed building practitioner. Actions that can be taken range from making the practitioner undergo more training, imposing a fine or cancelling the licence.

What will it cost to be licensed? For each application there will be an application fee of $80 and an assessment fee ranging from $355 to $1070. All licenses have an annual renewal fee of $170.

What about Do-It-Yourself (DIY) builders? The government has made it clear that the Kiwi Do-It-Yourself (DIY) tradition will be protected under the licensing scheme. People will still be able to do DIY work as at present, including building a standard, low-risk house from scratch. The government is looking at options to ensure future house buyers know if a house was built by a DIY’er or an LBP, with all the protections and accountability that comes with that. This means home buyers can make an informed choice.

How often do practitioners have to renew their licences? Once licensed, practitioners have to renew their licences every year. Additionally, every two years they will have to show they have undertaken some skills maintenance work. This ongoing professional development is to ensure they keep up with changes in the building industry.

ENDS

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