MPS reveal: What you can expect from us


Life may be like a box of chocolates, but in the construction industry it is better to work with known quantities.


Building Today asked Minister for Building and Construction Shane Jones and National Party Spokesman for Building and Construction Dr Nick Smith what the industry could expect after the November 8 election from the party in charge.


Building Today: What are you doing to guarantee quality built housing?

Shane Jones: Labour is working to ensure we have a building sector where all buildings are built right the first time. We want buildings that are designed, built and inspected by people who know what they are doing.


Nick Smith: The current Government has smothered the building industry in regulation and bureaucracy in a misguided attempt to improve quality. National’s approach will be about driving quality by increasing commercial accountability, investment in skills and improving New Zealand standards.


Commercial accountability will be increased by Government strongly encouraging warranties. We will improve skills by investing in trades academies in schools and refocusing the tertiary sector towards practical trades.


We’ll be making greater use of New Zealand Standards by updating them and by making them more accessible.


BT: How do you intend to solve the housing affordability issue?

Shane Jones:
Labour has been working to reduce compliance costs, cut red tape and make it cheaper to build starter homes. We are also introducing “mega-consenting” which will allow group builders to use a single consent up and down the country to build simple starter homes.


Nick Smith: Housing affordability has deteriorated more under the nine years of this Government than at any other time in New Zealand history, as evidenced by the severe drop in home ownership and the ratio of net incomes to home costs. National’s strategy has four key planks.


First, to increase take home pay by providing an ongoing programme of tax reductions. Second, to reduce interest rates (which increased from 6% to 9.5% under Labour) by taking a far more disciplined approach to public spending.


Third, to constrain section costs by releasing more land and reforming the Resource Management Act. And, fourth, to constrain building costs by reducing over-the-top building regulation that is adding up to $30,000 in unnecessary compliance costs.


BT: How do you intend to improve the building and construction sector?

Shane Jones: By simplifying the building code requirements for the design and construction of all buildings while protecting health, safety and investment.


We’ll consult with competent experienced practitioners from the different sectors to simplify legislation, organising appropriate training of practitioners in all sectors of the industry and giving effect to key factors such as quality, safety, access and health.


Nick Smith: The building and construction sector has had a merry-go-round of Ministers under Labour — 10 Ministers in nine years — that has seen no consistency in policy and a lack of leadership such that the bureaucracy has run riot. This is simply not good enough for a $16 billion per year sector.


National will provide clear direction and practical expertise. Our focus will be on working with industry, strengthening commercial accountability, improving skills, investing in practical New Zealand Standards and reducing bureaucracy.


BT: Do you support the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service and its work in addressing leaky homes?

Shane Jones: No reply at time of going to press.


Nick Smith: No. It’s been a fiasco with more than $100 million spent on the bureaucracy of disputes but with only 16% of claims having been resolved after five years.


The cost of the dispute process of more than $100,000 per claim has exceeded the average settlement of $70,000. It would have been better to have sent a cheque to the home owner.


National wants the focus to go into fixing the homes rather than on expensive disputes which only the lawyers are winning. We will work with councils and the industry on finding a more practical way forward.


BT: What is your party’s view on builder licensing?

Shane Jones: No reply at time of going to press.


Nick Smith: The Government’s proposals for licensing builders are excessively bureaucratic and expensive, and the low level of uptake reflects builder frustrations.


The system has two flaws. First, it tries to micro-regulate builders into a whole lot of sub-trades. This adds to the complexity and cost.


Second, it fails to use existing industry bodies such as Registered Master Builders, Certified Builders, Institute of Professional Engineers, Architects Institute and so on, and seeks to reinvent the wheel.


National will simplify the builder licensing system and use existing industry organisations to provide a register of building professionals.


BT: What will your party do about delays in processing building and resource management consents?

Shane Jones: No reply at time of going to press.


Nick Smith: Delays in building consents, resource consents and code compliance certificates are a significant problem, with some districts having more than 50% breaching statutory time frames. This problem has got worse during Labour’s watch as a consequence of its building and resource management law changes.


National will establish a building ombudsman with the power to discount or waive fees where statutory time frames are breached, and work with local government on other legislative amendments that will assist them meet time lines.


Time is money in the building industry, and this needs to be recognised by central and local government.

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