On Sunday 10th February 2019 the New South Wales’ Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean announced the establishment of a new Building Commissioner to oversee and approve construction of new multi-story residential buildings, and also to ensure the competency of building practitioners. FPAA CEO Scott Williams praised the changes as providing much-needed oversight and accountability for the New South Wales construction industry, while NSW Australian Institute of Architects chapter president Kathlyn Loseby applauded the extending and mandating of responsibility for compliance and certification across the industry.

The new Building Commissioner would assume responsibility for approvals on high-rise designs, and for the registering and auditing of building practitioners. The plan would see registration and qualification required for all designers and builders involved in high-rise construction, with regular audits of practitioners. Buildings would also need to be declared compliant with the Building Code of Australia.

Changes to the system follow a series of prominent building safety events, including the Opal Tower crack in Sydney that made world headlines, and a combustible classing-fuelled fire at the Neo200 building in Melbourne.

Loseby said, “Events of the past few years, be they Opal Tower here in Sydney only recently or Lacrosse down in Melbourne in 2014, have eroded the public’s trust in the safety of our built environment.”

The NSW plan will clarify current law to ensure building practitioners have a duty of care to owners and corporations. The announcement forms part of the legislative shake-up which is seeing Minister Kean and the NSW Government accepting the “vast majority” of recommendations from the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report. It has not yet been revealed which recommendations will not be acted on.

“The fire protection industry has long advocated that building practitioners at all levels must have the necessary competence and be accredited to perform their job roles. Minister Kean’s announcement is an important step towards regaining consumers’ confidence in their buildings, and in those who design, build and maintain them”, said Mr Williams

“The Association believes this affirmative action is overdue, and will go a long way to ensuring that buildings in NSW have the compliance and quality that the community deserves.”

“It is imperative that governments right around the country act to restore that confidence, which is exactly what the recommendations of the Shergold-Weir report seek to achieve and why we endorse every one of them.”