New South Wales building laws: Renovate and extend or knock down and rebuild?

With high-rise building methods and flammable cladding issues now entering the realm of dinner discussions and debate, it’s not surprising that the release of the NSW Government’s plans to overhaul the building and construction industry has grabbed the headlines this week.

It has been touted as the ‘biggest overhaul of building laws in NSW history’ and we will watch with interest to see whether the plan will indeed help improve some key parts of the industry – and ideally help avoid such issues as we have seen with the Opal Tower in Sydney.

The proposed changes outlined in the NSW Government’s announcement include:

  • appointing a NSW ‘Building Commissioner’, with responsibility for licensing and auditing practitioners, to act as the building regulator
  • that builders declare buildings have been built according to plans
  • that building designers and builders must be registered
  • ensuring the right to compensation for homeowners and owners corporations if builders have been negligent.

This announcement is the government’s response to an independent report commissioned after the Building Ministers’ Forum in August 2017.

We await more details from NSW Labor about their proposed plans for building reform. So far there has been talk about promoting accountability through the setting up of a single agency, if elected, and developers would also be prevented from choosing their own certifier. Federal Labor has discussed introducing a national registration scheme.

A reform package could take the approach of either tinkering with and supplementing existing legislation or starting again from scratch, renovate and extend vs knock down and rebuild, if you will. The latter approach would present an opportunity to draft laws which address and overcome many issues with the existing system and which are fit for the future. 

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