Spot the difference
Updated: Feb 8
The NSW Public Accountability Inquiry into the Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes has delivered their 1st report "Regulation of building standards, building quality and building disputes; First report - Report No. 4", a little more than 17 years after the Campbell Report. 17 years ago many of us gave evidence to the Joint Select Committee on the Quality of Buildings following 4 years of private building certfication.
Many of the 52 Recommendations of the Campbell Report were not adopted by the successive governments, including Recommendation No.1:
"A Home Building Compliance Commission (hereafter the Commission) be established forthwith to oversight home building regulation in New South Wales. The Commission is to be separate from the Department of Fair Trading and responsible directly to the Minister for Fair Trading."
When parliament considered the privatisation of the building approvals and inspection process, Legislative Assembly Hansard records 15 October 1997 state:
"The most often stated problems with the system are that it is over-regulated; it is full of duplication; separate approval processes sometimes conflict with one another; there is a lack of certainty; there is a lack of transparency; no-one is accountable; there is little co-ordination; the process and scale of assessment is often out of proportion to the environmental impact; and it all takes too long."
On 1 July 1998 privatisation of the building approval and building inspection commenced.
The Chairman's forward in 2002 stated:
"This Inquiry into the Quality of Buildings has been conducted against the background that homeowners, individuals and groups from all sectors of the building industry have expressed concerns about the current state of home building in New south Wales. Complaints from a variety of sources have indicated that the current system is inefficient, not coordinated and has resulted in hardships for home buyers as well as for building practitioners.
The Committee has received over 200 submissions from all those involved in the property market and has taken substantial evidence from individual homeowners, based on their own experiences. This forms the basis for the case studies detailed in the Report and puts a human face to the issues addressed.
The building regulation system should rely on three core pillars. These are responsibility, accountability and liability. Adherence to these pillars should be a major priority in regulating one of the most costly and significant financial products in the market, namely a house. Yet, there is more consumer protection afforded in the purchase of other consumer items, such as a defective motor vehicle, where greater standards of responsibility, accountability and public liability apply to rectification and redress."
The Chairman's forward in 2019 stated:
"The public's faith in building standards and building quality in New South Wales is at an all-time low. The lack of standards in the industry has been highlighted in many reports before us, dating back 20 years. It has been a two decade-long experiment with privatisation, deregulation and industry self-regulation. It is unacceptable that to this day comprehensive reform has not been put in place. I hope that this report will help deliver that change."
So as we start another year one can observe that:
"the system is over-regulated; it is full of duplication; separate approval processes sometimes conflict with one another; there is a lack of certainty; there is a lack of transparency; no-one is accountable; there is little co-ordination; the process and scale of assessment is often out of proportion to the environmental impact; and it all takes too long.", and
The quality of buildings, including life safety, structural, weatherproofing and waterproofing outcomes are demonstrably worse then they were prior to 1 July 1998.
Whilst we spend hundreds of hours and often thousands of dollars in the development assessment and development consent process, often to addressing the finer compliance issue around SEPP 65 and the Apartment Design Guide, to deliver high amenity apartments, none of that counts if the building is a fire trap, structurally defective, not weatherproof and leaks.
When you look at over 17 years worth of inquiries and reports as listed below, and the abject failure of the system, one cannot tweak it to make it work. It needs root and branch reform.
If you try to spot the differences between any of these reports and inquiries, there is really very little difference, the fundamentally flawed 1 July 1998 privatisation of building approvals and inspections is an abject failure.