Federal minister Karen Andrews told a July meeting of the Building Ministers’ Forum that we must rebuild confidence in Australia’s building and construction sector.
This reflects the findings of a report that Peter Shergold and Bronwyn Weir released to assess the effectiveness of building and construction industry regulation in Australia, which they presented to Australian ministers in February 2018.
Although impactful, many believe that not much action has been taken nationwide to conform to the report’s 24 recommendations. And overall confidence in building regulation and quality of the construction industry remains low.
When questioned, Weir said that she’d prefer to buy an apartment that is older in age; as, in her estimation, the level of industry noncompliance has lowered in the last 15 to 20 years.
It is important, then, that state governments act together to enhance regulatory oversight and fix defective buildings.
Residents of the Lacrosse, Neo200, Opal and Mascot towers and other buildings have been dealing with these issues very publicly. And last weekend, Mordialloc in southeast Melbourne was evacuated as well. The building was called unsafe as it was clad with combustible material and suffered from defects in its fire detection and warning system.
These will make for expensive fixes. A Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision asserted that the replacement of combustible cladding on the Lacrosse building in Melbourne would cost about $36,000 per unit. At Mascot Towers, consultant engineers have estimated repairs at up to $150,000 per unit on average.
UNSW and Deakin research indicate that 70-97 percent of units in strata apartments come complete with substantial defects. The sum total of repair costs for the approximate 500,000 tall apartments in Australia could be more than $10 billion.
The Victorian government is taking action on combustible cladding, funding a $600 million scheme to replace the problematic cladding. The government also is replacing combustible cladding on low-rise school buildings, regardless of their compliance with the National Construction Code.
Other states and territories should follow suit, with the federal government, which leads building regulation in Australia and is responsible for the National Construction Code, also taking action to help. They must coordinate and help maintain a program that resolves the risks and damages that currently face the building industry.
State and government entities alike must enact programs to repair defects, replacing combustible cladding, incorrectly installed fire protection measures, structural noncompliance, structural leaks and failures. Builders, developers, suppliers, etc., must take their share of the responsibility. And many believe that the Australian Building Codes Board should be reformed, until the board becomes an effective regulator.