Leaky Homes A Trans Tasman Problem

Legislation was passed in New Zealand last week setting up a $1billion government funded rescue package for repairing leaky homes.

The leaky homes saga in New Zealand emerged in the 1990’s when the building code prescribed a particular type of untreated timber, which resulted in rising damp.

The building and construction minister described the package as necessary because there had been a systemic failure across the entire industry.

Meanwhile, in Australia, our own systemic failure is taking its toll on unit and townhouse owners. In 1997 or thereabouts, our local authorities decided it would be a good idea to outsource the certification of a building’s compliance with national standards, to private contractors chosen and paid by the developer of the building concerned. Recent academic studies show a rise in the incidence of serious building defects in unit and townhouse living since that time.

In Canberra, where our firm is active in resolving large-scale high rise building and construction defects, the president of the Owners Corporation Network ACT has recently been quoted as saying that defects in the ACT market are so prevalent that developers are finding it hard to sell units off the plan.

Private certification is one of those conflicts of interest that is impossible to manage. It is simply bad policy. Unless local authorities take back the responsibility of being the police for the building and construction industry, it won’t be too long and our governments will be shelling out to fund our own systemic failures.

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