NSW govt promises biggest shake-up of construction industry

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THE NSW government has vowed to conduct “the biggest shake-up of the construction industry that New South Wales has ever seen,” in response to the Mascot Towers incident.

Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson also announced on the weekend that the government will provide a $3 million assistance package to residents, via a no-interest loan. Depending on their circumstances, residents in one-bedroom unit can access up to $220 per night, $300 per night for two-bedroom unit and three-bedroom unit for $400 per night.

The special one-off package comes after residents were told last Thursday that they cannot move back into their homes for at least a month. At the same time, the building’s insurer had denied the claim for temporary accommodation and they were told to go to the Salvation Army to seek financial hardship assistance.

Yesterday residents were allowed to return to their apartments for 4 hours to collect their belongings.

“The residents of the Mascot Towers are facing exceptional circumstances with a long wait to understand what has caused this problem.

“That’s why the government is providing residents and owners some certainty by helping them meet the cost of emergency accommodation until liability can be determined and these costs recovered,” Anderson said.

“Whilst residents wait for advice from specialist engineers on the root cause of the problem, we are taking decisive action to ensure all residents of the complex, both homeowners and tenants, are not left out in the cold.

“I hope that this package will also help ease some of the stress that has no doubt been felt by the strata manager and volunteer strata committee, who have worked tirelessly to support residents in these exceptional circumstances,” the Minister added.

Although Anderson said the government believes “there is no great cause for alarm” that other apartment buildings in NSW face the same issues, the government has promised to conduct “the biggest shake-up of the construction industry that New South Wales has ever seen.”

Firstly, Anderson said he “couldn’t believe” that there was no requirement for engineers to be registered in NSW.

“So we will be fixing that problem very quickly and a raft of reforms will be put in place to ensure people can get confidence back in the construction industry in this city,” Anderson said.

This incident comes six months after residents were evacuated from the Opal Tower, where many apartments remain vacant. A subsequent review ordered by the government recommended an overhaul of the industry, however the government has yet to act.

Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer, who previously called for a Royal Commission, recently expressed skepticism on whether any further inquiries will result in reforms, as evidenced by the lack action from recent Opal Tower review.

“We’ve had 70 plus inquiries into building industry, and everyone of them has made recommendations that have never been to adopted,” Dwyer said.

A report released last week by Deakin and Griffith universities found defects in 85% of apartment buildings.

The Strata Community Association, representing the sector which oversees $1.2 trillion of strata properties under management, CEO Alisha Fisher said apartment owners faced potential financial ruin to fix building defect problems out of their control.

Investors in Neo 200 building in Melbourne, which caught fire due flammable cladding, have been unable to lease out their apartments despite slashing rents.

“This report will shock people. It has unveiled the horror story the last few years has been for the construction sector in Australia. Thousands of people remain impacted by combustible aluminium cladding and now we have other major defects including problems with water penetration and incomplete fire safety systems still out there.” Fisher said.

Meanwhile the Owners Corporation Network’s chair Philip Gall has warned in an ABC editorial against buying off the plan apartments.

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