The highly respected building commissioner in NSW is set to stay in his role for one more year after reversing his decision to quit later this year.
On Friday, NSW Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, Small Business and Fair Trading, Victor Dominello, announced that NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler will no longer resign and will stay on in his role for one more year.
He will now remain in his role until August 2023.
Over the coming year, he will focus on advancing ongoing and additional building reforms as well as working with the strata community to rectify cladding and other serious defects in existing buildings.
Appointed to the newly created role of Building Commissioner in 2019 following revelations of serious structural defects at the Opal and Mascot Towers as well as the discovery of widespread use of flammable cladding on multi-storey buildings, Chandler has been instrumental in driving the NSW Government’s six-pillar plan for building reform.
Known as Construct NSW, this involves two major pieces of new legislation which are now in force, a new rating scheme to help consumers and the regulator to identify trustworthy buildings and developers; development of a new platform for digital learning in construction; improving contracting practices and standards; using digital tools to drive transparency and accountability across the industry; and ensuring that reforms are evidence based through industry research and data collection.
Chandler has also been instrumental in a program to support owners corporations in rectifying combustible cladding on existing buildings.
A further new initiative will see the government work with the strata community to help rectify other serious defects in existing buildings.
Last month, however, Chandler announced his shock decision to resign in November this year – a move which promoted widespread anger and disappointment among industry and consumer representatives with some in the NSW government.
In his resignation letter, Chandler outlined how his decision had been driven by a breakdown in relations between himself and the Office of then current (now former) fair trading minister Elina Petinos. (Petinos was subsequently sacked on July 31 over allegations of staff bullying.)
As outlined in the letter, this included alleged political interference over the issuing of a draft stop-work order issued against the Coronation Property Group – of which disgraced former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is a board member – in relation to its Merrylands development.
Chandler now appears just as determined as ever in driving change.
In an email sent to his contacts over the weekend, Chandler declared that it is now time to return the focus to the ‘main game’.
In a LinkedIn post, Chandler described how he had joined the NSW Fair Trading team and had uncovered both unsafe work practices and non-conformance with declared designs during an unannounced visit to a Northwork Construction site in the Newcastle suburb of Wickham.
The project will now attract a full audit and safety inspection under the Residential Apartment Buildings Act.
Similar audits will take place in Wollongong this week and in other regional centres where the pipeline of multi-storey apartments continues to grow.
In his post, Chandler warns that a new breed of ethical players is emerging in construction.
Those who believe that nothing is gong to change are relics of the past, he says.
“I recently commented on a post by a final year #UTS construction management student, Shantel,“ Chandler wrote.
“She was looking forward to a more ethical and better practicing industry as a result of the #CONSTRUCTNSW reforms. #Educators are now presenting more attractive career prospects for future trade and professional graduates. We need this, to attract our future workforce.
“My message to these nay-sayers is that it may be time for them to leave the industry. They are not needed. If they choose to hang-in, then they had better adopt a new business model based on competence, compliance and best practice. They will be exposed otherwise.
“The days of behaviours that hide behind denial, intimidation and litigation are rapidly coming to an end. Those living in the past will find that they have fewer customers and they will not attract the talent that the trustworthy players are now experiencing.”
Chandler’s reappointment has been welcomed by industry representatives and consumer advocates alike.
Steve Mann, CEO of the NSW branch of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA NSW) said the transformation of the NSW multi-residential development sector under Chandler’s watch has been a ‘last place to first place story’.
“David Chandler is an advocate for the modernisation of a viable Australian construction sector with a view to help prepare the next generation of constructors to be future ready,” Mann said.
“He has delivered the critical reforms needed to rebuild consumer confidence in trustworthy developers. He has also been working on the pathway for Decennial Liability Insurance (DLI) to cover structure and common areas as a 10-year wrap and this will be a game changer for apartment purchasers in NSW …
“… UDIA looks forward to continuing this important work with David Chandler.”
Tom Forrest, CEO of developer lobby group Urban Taskforce Australia, agrees.
“Urban Taskforce has consistently supported the work and professionalism of David Chandler,” Forrest said.
“When he resigned, Urban Taskforce was on record calling on the NSW Government to do everything it could to preserve his role in building confidence in the sector.
“The Quality development community is 100% behind his quest to rid the sector of sub-standard players.”
On the consumer side, Karen Stiles, Executive Officer of the Owners Corporation Network of Australia, says Chandler’s decision is most welcome.
“We are thrilled to have the Building Commissioner back in the saddle, with the backing of a senior Minister to ride the wave of enthusiasm for real industry reform,” Stiles said.
“Strata is this state’s fastest growing housing sector. It needs to sit in a senior ministry so the million plus people who live and work there get the attention and support they deserve.”
Expressing gratitude to supporters who had reached out to him, Chandler says momentum for reform is growing.
“There is much to do to maintain the momentum that is changing the main game in NSW construction, for the better,” Chandler said.
“There are so many positive reports on how developers, designers, constructors, installers and certifiers are now embracing best practice as their main game.
“Of course, there is a shrinking rump of players still stuck in the past. These players will attract increasing attention and accountability.
“The reforms in the NSW residential construction space are showing that doing it right is far less costly than doing it again, and sometimes again!
“This week will see the passage of further reforms that will address some of the concerns held by industry over recent times.
“The reform momentum in NSW is now back on track. Good news for most, less so for others. Great news for consumers.”
Respected lawyer Bronwyn Weir – who co-authored a major report for building regulation and reform in 2018 – agrees.
“David’s decision to stay on is a great outcome for owners and occupiers of apartment buildings and for those within industry that want to see better outcomes. David’s style as a regulator is unique and is having a positive impact,” Weir said.
“The longer he can continue to embed within government initiatives such as the OC audit program and DBP Act audits, the more we will see building standards lift and the burden on consumers of poorly built apartments eased.
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