The Department of Building and Housing has recently
released a discussion document outlining proposed reforms to the
Building Act 2004. Input from the building sector and the public
are being sought. Submissions can be made before 5.00pm, 23 April
The proposed reforms are aimed at moving towards a more
efficient building control system, and balancing risk, the amount
of control and the capability and responsibility of the parties
involved in the building process. The key proposals in the
discussion document are:
Clarification of the Building Act and simplification of the
Clarifying the purpose and principles of the Building Act 2004
and ensuring they are clearly set out to provide direction to those
who apply and administer the Act. The objective is to ensure
consistency in the administration of the Act nationally.
Simplifying the Building Code so performance requirements are
clear and easy to access.
A more balanced approach to building control
Lower risk building works will not require building consents.
Some examples are installation of a heat pump, basic shed or low
deck. Other low risk building works including a one storey house
would go through a quicker or simpler consenting process with fewer
building consent authority inspections where there is certification
by a licensed building practitioner. This proposal is likely to be
welcomed by the building industry.
A more streamlined consent process for complex major commercial
building work, recognising the contract arrangements of the parties
who have experienced and skilled professionals involved and would
provide for risk management and quality control in their contracts.
For example, arrangements for expert peer-review of complex
commercial work. Again this is a positive proposal.
High risk and more complex houses would continue to go through
the current consent system. This recognises that such projects come
with increased risk and consequences of failure.
Considering whether the building consent system is the
appropriate way to regulate public infrastructure works such as
bridges and tunnels.
Streamlining processes for the review of fire safety and
building plans and inspection of the critical systems like fire
sprinklers and fire alarms. " Improving the application
process for building warrants of fitness and clarity about building
warrants of fitness and compliance schedules.
Investigating ways to administer the building control system in
a more consistent and cost effective manner.
Shifting responsibility towards building professionals and
Building professionals and trades people would need to be more
accountable for ensuring their work meets the Building Code. The
expectation being that reliance on the role of the building consent
authorities in respect of third party reviews will be reduced.
Increased consumer protection and building consumer
Written contracts would be required that set out what builders
are expected to do (including mandatory warranties that builders
cannot contract out of), how any faults or defects would be fixed
and how disputes will be resolved. These agreements will include
details on financial backing of the builder (surety). The aim of
having improved contracting practices is to ensure increased
consumer confidence in the building industry.
Generally the proposals are positive for the industry and
consumers. These are by and large evolutionary changes from what we
started with 19 years ago.
The challenge for the Government will be in getting the balance
right between the various parties. Shifting the responsibilities
from building consent authorities to building professionals in
respect of building works may still mean that the cost to a
consumer is not reduced at least initially, but in the long term
the cost efficiency will be apparent.
Building professionals who certify works will no doubt factor
the additional responsibility into fees. However, the 'one
process for all' approach that is in place needs to be made
more flexible to recognise the complexities and risks of different
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