Concerns that some homes in the state’s north may not have been built to cyclone standards and speculation over conflicts of interest in private certification have brought about a major review of the building certification regime in Queensland.
Unveiling a 60-page discussion paper, the state’s Housing and Public Works Minister Tim Mander said the government had become aware of serious potential deficiencies in respect of certification earlier this year relating to framing requirements in high wind areas in Mackay.
A subsequent audit of 112 properties by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission identified 11 which failed to meet framing requirements.
“Those results are unacceptable which is why we need to take a close look at the certification system as a whole,” Mander said. “The construction industry employs around a quarter of a million people state-wide and is one of the four pillars of the Queensland economy, so we need to make sure it's operating the way it should.”
Outlining a range of options across 21 areas, the paper notes a number of concerns with the current system.
One issue revolves around a perceived conflict of interest associated with private certification. The paper notes the potential temptation for some certifiers to enforce building standards less strictly than would otherwise be the case in order to preserve relationships with builders who engage them.
On this point, it canvassed two possible options for change: abolishing private certification altogether or introducing a ‘hybrid’ type system similar to one in place in Western Australia where private certifiers can advise on the merits of individual development applications but ultimate responsibility for approval decisions remains with local governments.
Of these, the former seems unlikely to be adopted amid fears acknowledged in the paper that this would impact development approval times, reduce competition and service levels and stretch local government resources.
Other concerns revolve around issues such as a lack of rules as to who may engage certifiers and excessive workloads on certifiers (possibly compromising standards of work) due to the low numbers of certifiers available in the state (Queensland has only 409 licensed building certifiers against 1298 in New South Wales and 1206 in Victoria).
Options outlined with respect to the former issue include mandating that certifiers be engaged by consumers rather than builders, and beefing up consumer ability to request information or inspections. For the latter, the paper raises the option of creating a fourth ‘inspector’ level (entry level) type of accredited individual who could conduct building inspections but would not be able to approve building developments.
Mander says the review was designed to ensure the system met industry and consumer needs and would also look at improvements to the Building Act which would reduce costs and delays.
The review will be conducted by construction law barrister Andrew Wallace.
Submissions close on July 25.