Building industry groups have signed a joint call for urgent Australia-wide action on building regulations. The letter, signed by the Property Council of Australia, the Insurance Council of Australia, Ai Group and the Australian Construction Industry Forum, says Australia’s fragmented approach to regulatory enforcement and compliance with building regulations requires a renewed commitment to national action to maintain public confidence in the built environment. Source: Timberbiz
Their concerns are:
- Australian and international insurers are introducing strict cladding-related exclusions in mandatory professional indemnity insurance products for building practitioners in the building supply chain.
- The discovery of major defects in buildings has significantly reduced the ability of those building owners to find an insurer willing to accept the risk.
- State and territory governments have not taken a consistent and comprehensive approach to undertaking and completing audits of existing high-rise buildings with combustible cladding, nor developed a remediation strategy.
- Governments are taking an inconsistent and fragmented approach to implementing reforms described in the Shergold-Weir report, which was released 18 months ago.
The letter says that although some action has been taken to amend the National Construction Code (NCC) and effectively eliminate the use of many types of combustible cladding on new building facades, the response of state and territory governments to dealing with cladding on existing buildings has been patchy and inconsistent.
The building, construction, property and insurance industries have continued their calls for state and territory governments to adopt a consistent and best practice regulatory response to the challenges presented by combustible cladding.
The letter says that positive action has been taken in some jurisdictions however, other states are lagging and the continued inconsistency in the approach across governments is manifesting in the crisis confronting building practitioners in the building supply chain.
They say this has led to significant increases in professional indemnity premiums and a reduction in cover via exclusions on combustible cladding and non-conforming building products.
Building surveyors, engineers and architects were now struggling to obtain the insurance they need to do their job, which in turn could seriously affect future building or construction activity.
Consumers, building owners, building practitioners and their insurers needed certainty and confidence in building regulation.
“Building and construction, when combined with the property sector, is the nation’s largest industry, provides the most full-time jobs and is a vital engine of economic growth. The economy must not be put at risk by the failure to provide certainty through a consistent approach in dealing with these issues,’’ the letter says.
“The entire building and construction supply chain risks being further impacted by this continued uncertainty, and industry participants want to work cooperatively with governments to rebuild that confidence.
“We urge the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to work together in providing certainty through a uniform national approach to dealing with these matters.”
The group says that as organisations representing the building, construction, property and insurance industries, they urged the Federal Government to play a leadership role and bring together all state and territory governments to develop and implement a consistent and best practice Australia-wide response for risk assessment and a rectification strategy for existing buildings with combustible cladding with an agreed timetable that reflects the urgency of the issue.
They say this will reduce confusion, clarify the scale of the challenge and support a viable professional indemnity insurance market that provides the coverage needed by industry participants and building owners.
They have also called for the establishment of a joint government-industry taskforce to oversee urgent and consistent implementation of all Shergold-Weir report recommendations across all jurisdictions.
Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews says the building sector insurance crisis is “slowing Australia down” and she will push for a national taskforce to bring state building regulations in line with one another. She has promised to make her “very strong views” on national building regulations known at a state building ministers’ forum on Thursday.