Building ministers agree on national approach

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THE federal, states and territories governments have agreed to work together to raise building standards across the country to fix the flammable cladding and structural defect problems and professional indemnity insurance crisis.

THE Building Ministers’ Forum agreed not to establish a national taskforce, which Victoria and Queensland opposed, arguing it would add more red tape.

Instead each jurisdiction will implement the recommendations within the Shergold-Weir report to suit their own needs, but they will aim for a consistent national approach.

The ministers also agreed to work fix the PII crisis, which will be developed in consultation with the industry in the coming months.

In the meantime, they called on insurers to meet their existing obligations and lift their exclusions on professional indemnity insurance following this strong action by states and territories.

Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said the landmark agreement means the Australian Building Codes Board will be expanded, better resourced and force greater engagement from the building industry.

The ABCB will be tasked with preparing a national framework to efficiently guide implementation of recommendations from the Shergold Weir report, particularly for highly complex buildings.

This week the Andrews government unveiled a $600 million scheme to rectify private buildings with combustible cladding. But half of that will be raised from developers after the commonwealth rejected the plea for assistance. Victoria will increase the building permit levy to raise $300 million, which is expected to be passed onto apartment buyers.

“We’re working with the rest of the country to make sure people can have faith in our building system – everyone has a right to buy a property and know it’s been safely built.

“We’ve had productive talks but remain concerned the commonwealth is shirking their responsibilities when it comes to helping fix combustible cladding,” Wynne said.

He reiterated his call on the federal government to ban the importation of flammable building products into the Australia, which the Morrison government has so far shown no interest in doing.

The Australian Institute of Architects’ national president Professor Helen Lochhead said measures to ensure the consistent registration of qualified building practitioners across all jurisdictions and maintaining a truly independent certification of building works throughout construction, must be priorities.

“The Shergold-Weir report, now 18-months old, specified a three-year timeframe for the implementation of its recommendations. There is a huge amount of work still to do and the urgency of pursuing both reforms and rectification works in the interest of public safety must not be allowed to wane.” Lochhead said.

Fire Protection Association Australia CEO Scott Williams said the community’s trust in the building sector has been eroded, and there is a lot of work to be done to restore that by both industry and government.