The ACT Government is putting the building industry on notice in response to community feedback regarding building quality across the territory.
Minister for Regulatory Services Gordon Ramsay said with the increase in the number of building approvals in the capital, particularly multi-unit developments, this is an opportune time for the industry to ensure they are complying with building regulations and quality standards, providing confidence to those purchasing new dwellings in the capital.
“It is not the government which builds buildings – the industry does – and our message to industry is clear: the government alone cannot solve this problem. Industry needs to step up, drive professionalism and accountability, and manage underperformance. We’ll be watching closely,” Minister Ramsay said.
The Government has already implemented a number of measures in the Improving the ACT Building Regulatory System reforms developed in 2016. Further to these reforms, the Government is announcing today tough new changes to licensing requirements targeting builders who have had regular complaints made against them.
From next year, up to 20 percent of all builders seeking to renew their licences will need to pass a test to ensure their skills and technical knowledge are to the standard expected by government, regulators, industry and the community.
This initiative will see up to 180 builders across the A, B and C classes of licences tested annually from 2019 at the point of licence renewal, with a particular focus on those builders who have been subject to substantiated complaints or come to the attention of Access Canberra for building quality concerns. Those who fail after two attempts will not have licences renewed.
Those applying for class A, B and C licences for the first time in the ACT will need to sit a test at point of application. Tests will also be able to be used at any time by the Constructions Occupations Registrar as part of a skills assessment of builders, where the Registrar believes grounds for occupational discipline exists.
“These tests send a clear message to the industry that the government will work to prevent builders who are not up to scratch before entering the local industry, as well as removing existing builders who do not have the required skills and knowledge. In addition, the level of information needing to be provided to certifiers before work is signed off will be increased. The government will be making further announcements about this in the coming months,” Minister Ramsay said.
“Our community should have confidence in the building construction industry and, to ensure this is the case, the government commenced a significant series of improvements and reforms in 2016.
“It was through this work, led by Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman, that industry also indicated they would like to see greater testing to support professionalism in their sector.
“I have been working closely with Minister Gentleman on these improvements from a regulatory perspective. It is important that we work to address issues in quality at the source, by weeding out those in the industry who are not delivering to a standard we expect, rather than just managing the end result – which can be works that do not meet standards.”
Access Canberra will work with industry on the changes to licensing renewals and applications this year. In 2016 a test at application for the C class licences in the ACT was introduced and Minister Ramsay said of the 80 people who sought to gain a licence to work in the ACT, 38 failed the first attempt (48%). Of the 38 who sat a second time 17 (44%) failed.
“The testing has been an important measure we introduced to prevent those who do not have the knowledge or technical understanding we expect in the ACT, from working here. I’m pleased it is being extended to the other classes on application, as well as renewal,” Minister Ramsay said.
“In addition to the inherent safety risks that substandard building can cause, it also has significant financial and emotional impact on those in our community who are affected.
“These regulatory changes support the raft of improvements already underway and strike the right balance between supporting a high performing industry sector, as well as sending a clear signal that the ACT is open for business, growth and development – but to a high standard.”
The government has already implemented 13 of the reforms and partially implemented one other of the Improving the ACT Building Regulatory System reforms announced in 2016.
These reforms include:
- further restrictions on the qualifications and experience required to gain an ACT licence;
- new provisions and powers to help prevent phoenixing in ACT construction licensees or people shifting their operations between existing licences;
- clarifying the roles of building certifiers and the obligations of corporate and partnership licensees in
- new grounds for occupational discipline and automatic suspensions; and
- expanding statutory warranties to all residential buildings.
“Over the next 18 months other changes will include documentation guidelines for people preparing building approval applications for complex buildings, including apartment buildings; new training courses on the ACT’s building regulatory system and building approvals; codes of practice for builders and building certifiers; and
development of a new auditing system from building approvals and building projects.
“Our message to industry is clear. You are on notice to lift building quality and we will continue to work with you to support this outcome for our community,” Minister Ramsay concluded.
Gordon Ramsay MLA