‘Watered down’ builder licensing — an independent view


Dear Mr Cosgrove

Having attended the recent Registered Master Builders Conference 2007 and listened to your address there, I am compelled to write to you with my reaction to the path that New Zealand builder licensing is obviously taking.

One particular area that yourself and the Department of Housing really seem to be wavering upon is the decision allowing DIY persons to be undertaking construction of residential dwellings.

Having owned and operated a residential building company now for 14 years, I feel that to be even considering allowing non-professional and non-licensed owners/builders/DIYers, whatever they may be called, to undertake construction of modern, complex and often specialised residential dwellings is simply a huge mistake if Kiwis want a world-class residential construction industry.

My understanding is that the Australian state of New South Wales has allowed home owners to undertake their own house construction once every three years. The non-licensed builders have masqueraded as owner DIY builders and are producing inferior and shoddy houses, therefore continuing to undermine professionalism and the public’s trust of the residential building industry in that state.

The path I feel that will serve New Zealand home owners and the New Zealand residential building industry best is very simple. If a building project requires a building consent then it must be built by a licensed builder.

This form of registration/licensing requirement has been working very well for electricians, drainlayers, plumbers and gas fitters for many years.
The outstanding irony is that as a presently “non-licensed” builder and site/project manager, I am co-ordinating and instructing these “self-regulated registered” trades every day of the week!

Yet when your government deems Kiwi builders are to be licensed you choose to ignore the existing regulation systems of other trades that are working very well and that could be a basis for builder licensing.

You have chosen instead to form a new bureaucratic government department consisting of some 300-plus staff, of whom I understand less than 12% come from a building industry-related background!

Listening to your statements gave me an insight into just why, over the past three years, my company has had six building project start dates delayed due to Resource Management Act and building consent problems — all of which you claimed to be aware of.

However, you did not provide any concise solutions for improvement in your address.
Delays of four to five months for building consents are still occurring in your very own constituency of Waimakariri. I have just been informed by a client that his consent lodged in late October 2006 for a new dwelling has finally been issued last week.

However, my company simply could not wait any longer and, earlier this year due to incurring more down time, I was forced to “scramble” and find alternative work.
This is an all too familiar scenario for many builders I speak to with today’s bureaucratic consent processing.

As employers and business owners we are expected to pay our GST, PAYE, provisional and terminal taxes on time. However, a building consent that, under the building act, is required to be issued in 20 working days can, depending upon the territorial authority, take up to six months.
One of the present buzz words is “home affordability”. Have you, as the Minister of Building and Construction, thought of how the delays with building bureaucracy contribute greatly to increased costs?

New Zealand is one of the last western countries to undertake licensing of its builders. Surely we should be looking to see what works and what doesn’t for other nations then head down an intelligent and informed path to the creation of a world-class residential building industry.

As Minister you claimed you are not wanting builder licensing to become a political football as the New Zealand voter deserves better, post “leaky homes”.
Mr Cosgrove, you have already made builder licensing political because it seems to me you are intent upon having a “dollar each way” by attempting to appease both Kiwi builders and the DIY voter as well.

Let’s be real, “DIY voter” describes probably around one million plus Kiwi voters! Kiwis it seems are now getting “watered down” builder licensing.
About as good as “watered down” concrete when a strong foundation is required.

Yours Sincerely
Andrew Wallace

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