Steps forward on building reform, but challenges remain

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Meaningful progress, but there’s plenty more to do. That’s how the Municipal Association of Victoria has described this week’s announcements on critical building reform.

The MAV welcomes the release of the Stage One expert panel report and the introduction of legislative amendments to Parliament as a positive step.

We are strong believers in the power of evidence-based policy and the transparency this requires. It has highlighted the need for more action on the two major shortcomings of the current system: a critical workforce shortage, and a fundamental conflict of interest in privatised building approvals.

MAV President, Cr David Clark said councils stand ready keen to work with government and industry on fixing this system.

“The local government sector has been as vocal as anyone on the need for to get these reforms right. Making the State Building Surveyor a statutory role and requiring the preparation of a comprehensive building manual for more complex buildings are positive reforms.”

“We want to partner with the state government, but we are not going to accept the existing problems of the building system dumped on our doorstep to fix alone,” Cr Clark explained.

“We need the Victorian Government and industry to work alongside councils to grow a sustainable workforce, and we need a fundamentally sound regulatory system that pays its own way rather than getting subsidised by ratepayers.”

The reality for councils is they need surveyors and inspectors, and they need them yesterday.

“Noone can find enough qualified people to staff the current system, let alone the type of regulatory system Victorians deserve. We want to work with the Victorian Government on addressing that urgently. Fantastic initiatives like the women building surveyors program funded in the 2020-21 Victorian budget need to be duplicated, and the sooner the better,” Cr Clark said.

Another glaring issue is, as it currently stands, developers can go through the whole building permit and inspection process while dealing only with a building surveyor they have chosen and paid for.

“While most developers and surveyors do the right thing, the current system leaves surveyors conflicted between their regulatory duties and their client’s expectations. Some surveyors feel their future employment depends on not raising too many problems during construction.”

“While we’re pleased the panel is considering those issues, some of the proposals simply don’t work. One example is it’s unreasonable to expect council to attend an almost-complete building for the first time and identify issues right down to the slab being poured incorrectly”.

“We’re glad the Government appears to have stepped back from that aspect, as it would really just be using local government as a band-aid to try to cover up a systemic issue.”