Government consults on Building Act reform

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Minister for Building and Construction Maurice Williamson has released a discussion document outlining proposals for the Building Act.
“Without compromising quality and safety, these are major proposals that will move us to the next generation of building control,” Mr Williamson says.

The discussion document and consultation follow a review of the Act, and are part of the Better Building Blueprint, a series of measures that will make it easier and cheaper for New Zealanders to build good quality homes and buildings.

The Minister says the proposals are open to debate and change. The Government wants input from the sector and the general public.
“The public must be able to have confidence in the system which is why I want their input into any proposed change. While the Building Act review has found that the system is not broken, and quality is improving, it is still more costly than necessary and less efficient than it could be.
“I’m convinced there is room for improvement and consistency across the country. This will reduce costs and improve efficiency for the consumer and the builder. I have an open mind on the best way to achieve this,” Mr Williamson says.

“We want to make sure we get the right balance between risk, regulation and skills, and this consultation will help us do that.
The discussion document is available from
www.dbh.govt.nz/consulting-on-building-act, and people can comment online or in writing before 23 April 2010. The key proposals for reform are:

Moving to a more balanced building consent system:
• Lowest risk building work (such as a basic shed, or a low deck) would not need a consent.
• Low risk building work (such as a simple, one-storey house) would go through a quicker, simpler consenting process with fewer council inspections and more reliance on the skills of licensed building practitioners to get it right first time.

• High risk, more complex houses would continue to go through the current approval and inspection process.
• Complex, major commercial building work would go through a simpler process than it currently does, recognising the experience and skills of the professionals involved, and that commercial contracts for major projects include quality control.

Rebalancing responsibility back towards building professionals and tradespeople:
• Building professionals and tradespeople would take more responsibility for making sure their work meets Building Code requirements. Licensing of building practitioners will identify those with the relevant skills.

Better tools for consumers to hold building professionals to account:
• Better equip home owners to hold builders to account, with mandatory written contracts setting out what’s expected, how any faults would be fixed, how disputes would be resolved and details of financial backing (surety).

Further improvements:
• Make sure the fundamental elements of the system — the Building Code and the purpose and principles of the Building Act — are clear.
• Explore ways of making the administration of the system more cost-effective.
• Simplify processes to review the fire safety of building plans and the inspection and maintenance of essential systems such as fire sprinklers and lifts.
• Examine whether the building consent system is the best way to regulate public infrastructure works such as bridges and tunnels.