The biggest changes to the Building Act in 15 years could see stiffer penalties for those working in the $15 billion sector, builders held more accountable for their work, product regulation changes and a building levy reduction.

Jenny Salesa, Building and Construction Minister, said this afternoon submissions were now open on the Building Act 2004 changes and people had till June 16 to make their views known.

"These proposed reforms will deliver safer and more durable buildings, a high performing building sector and better efficiency in our regulatory system," she said, referring to the Government's Construction Sector Accord unveiled on Sunday.

"We are consulting on proposals to improve the regulation of building products and modern methods of construction including offsite manufacturing, strengthen occupational regulation, look at how risk and liability are managed, possibly reduce the building levy and strengthen penalties for those who don't comply with the law," she said.


People needed to understand their responsibilities more skilled workers were needed, better quality buildings were necessary and where people might be held more accountable when things go wrong, she said.

Statistics NZ said that in the year to January, non-residential building consents totalled $7.1 billion, up 7 per cent on the previous year. Residential consents were 33,576, up 7.4 per cent.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said people would get the opportunity to submit \"on the biggest proposed changes to the Building Act since it was introduced in 2004."

A discussion paper is now out, detailing the scope of the proposed reforms.

"Those aim to address many long-standing problems ranging from low productivity and inefficient practices and processes to attempt to resolve the skills and labour shortages, to resolving issues of poor health and safety," MBIE says.

Last year, ministry officials met with key people in the sector to understand what was holding it and how it could be more efficient and effective.

"These discussions helped us get a better understanding of the problems," MBIE said.

Concerns are unclear roles and responsibilities, lack of information available when it is needed and difficulty holding people to account for the quality of their work.


Criticisms of the current act are that information is not available when it is needed, it is difficult to hold people accountable for the quality of their work and problems addressing these concerns.

MBIE says key areas of concern revolve around:

• Building products and methods;

• Occupational regulation, specifically the regimes for licensed building practitioners, engineers, plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers;

• Risk and liability;

• The building levy;

• Offences and penalties.

Grant Florence, NZ Certified Builders Association chief executive, welcomed the announcement but said issues had been addressed many times in the last five to six years by the previous Government, all without a major overhaul. Law Commission investigations had also been undertaken, he noted.

"That did not result in the major change that is required," Florence said, referring for the need to address issues around building products and occupational licensing.

A simple framework was needed for identifying and accepting building products, he said.


"This includes relationship to the risk and liability because a building product manufacturer or supplier has a key role in the acceptance and management of risk and liability. This has to be simple to understand and relate to domestic manufacturers as well as imported products," Florence said.

Occupational licensing needed addressing, "initially to align this with the original intentions of the scheme when it was introduced."

Until aspects of risk, liability and building products were addressed, the existing licensing scheme would not be fully efficient, he said.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff says more staff are needed to keep pace with a record building rate. In the year to February, consents for new Auckland homes hit a record 13,847, up 25 per cent for the same period in the previous year, he said.

An average 1150 consents were issued every month in Auckland, Goff said.

"Housing in Auckland is still in catch-up mode. Much more remains to be done to get on top of our housing shortage which is one of the biggest challenges facing our city. However, these numbers show that real progress is being made," Goff said.