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Let’s fix building regulation, not handball responsibility

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A focus on practical reforms and addressing workforce shortages is key to improving the safety of all Victorians in their homes.

Councils are eager to work with stakeholders to fix our building regulatory system but fear they’ve been thrown under a bus with risks and costs created by the State or the building industry.

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has so far been encouraged by the work of the expert panel commissioned by the State Government to review Victoria’s building system, including its respectful engagement with the MAV. However, elements of the Bill introduced into Parliament today continue a trend of the Victorian Government shifting risk to councils without any benefit for homeowners and residents.

The proposed requirement for additional inspections carried out by council at the end of construction is unworkable. A council building surveyor would be required to issue a report determining non-compliant elements for a building they may be seeing for the first time.

Already, the Victorian Government is attempting to make councils responsible for addressing combustible cladding and orphaned building permits. This shirks the State’s responsibility, and despite councils’ best efforts, staff shortages may mean even more delays for building owners.

These decisions detract from positive steps including establishing a statutory advocate for homeowners in the building system and requiring better documentation of buildings.

MAV President Cr David Clark said the number one priority must be to develop and grow a sustainable workforce of building surveyors.

“Let’s be very clear, there is no quick fix here. We need to start this work today, but it will still be several years before there’s actually a workforce capable of delivering on them.

“Once again having not being able to make the system work, the Victorian Government has chosen to make Local Government responsible and their residents pay,” Cr Clark said.

“Shifting responsibility for combustible cladding and orphaned building permits ignores the severe shortage of council building surveyors, and these aren’t issues of our making. They’re a result of the privatisation of building approvals combined with a lack of appropriate oversight.

Another concern is a requirement for a council building surveyor to perform an additional inspection at the end of certain types of construction.

“These additional inspections could cost councils $10,000 on a mid-rise apartment build and more for larger scale projects. They also assume an inspector can step on-site for the first time and identify issues with the foundations or insulation, when that work is already complete and sealed up.

“That’s not even considering the additional costs of insuring against the risks these inspections will impose on councils – a cost that ultimately will be borne by rate-payers.

“The MAV has had really constructive engagement with the expert panel thus far and we look forward to that approach continuing as the State Government considers the implementation of these reforms.”

For further information, contact the MAV Strategic Communications team on (03) 9667 5590.