Building industry heading for shake-up

By David Eames

Builders could be licensed, and their materials accredited, under a proposed shake-up of the building industry and its codes of practice.

Housing and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson is calling for an overhaul of the Building Act, after seeing what he believes is disturbing evidence of shonky builders erecting leaky homes.

Mr Williamson yesterday told the Herald the review of the act would be "a multi-pronged piece of work" that would examine possible legislative changes, licensing of builders and the accreditation of specific building materials.

He said since taking over the portfolio, he had been shown properties under construction that, in the opinion of experienced builders, would not just become leaky, but likely rot.

"I am trying to change the nomenclature ... I know they are called leaky homes, but they are actually rotting homes."

The minister said he believed a mindset had developed in the industry where all one needed was "a ute, a dog and a cellphone" to become a builder.

As a result, substandard houses were being built.

Building and Housing Department officials had been briefed, and were "quite keen" on a review of the act, he said.

The department's tasks would include examining whether various "regulations, bureaucracy and red tape" were delivering the required "outcomes", and the possibility of "some form of liability" to be imposed on industry cowboys.

While builders would not be legally required to become licensed, a licensing scheme could provide a level of quality assurance for customers, he said.

The accreditation of specific building materials - while an option - was problematic, as any materials were only as reliable as the tradesman using them, he said.

"We don't yet know the answers, but we do know there's a problem," the minister said.

Master Builders Federation chief executive Warwick Quinn said the review would need to address industry problems that led to the leaky homes crisis, while ensuring changes were made to reduce compliance costs and speed up plan approval.

Federation chairman Mike Fox said a review of the act was "very timely", and builder licensing should be a priority. "The public needs to know a builder is capable of doing the work they are doing."

Builder licensing worked in a number of countries, including Australia, and would provide "the most bang for the buck", he said.

The review could be completed by the end of the year.

- NZ Herald

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