Georges River Council takes aim at private certifiers

Residents muzzled: Under the State Government's new Medium Density Housing Code, private certifiers will be able to approve terraces, dual occupancies and manor houses without consulting councils or taking into account residents' objections. Picture: Supplied
Residents muzzled: Under the State Government's new Medium Density Housing Code, private certifiers will be able to approve terraces, dual occupancies and manor houses without consulting councils or taking into account residents' objections. Picture: Supplied

Georges River Council is lobbying the NSW Government to urgently overhaul the regulation of Private Certifiers across NSW.

The move comes as it was revealed that Georges River Council receives more than 1000 complaints a year regarding private certifiers.

And it is seen as even more urgent with the impending introduction of the State Government’s new Medium Density Housing Code -  due to be start on July 6- which will allow one and two-storey dual occupancies, manor houses (blocks of four flats) and terraces to be carried out under a fast track complying development approval by private certifiers without council input.

And private certifiers will not need to taken into account any objections by residents.

Deputy Mayor Councillor Kathryn Landsberry has called for the council to write to the Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts calling on the State Government to urgently proceed with its  commitment to overhaul the regulation of Private Certifiers, as promised in its response to the Independent Review of the Building Professionals Act delivered by former Treasury secretary, Michael Lambert in 2015.

The review was prompted by a fatal fire in an apartment block at Bankstown and found that buildings were being approved by private certifiers due to conflicts of interest and ineffectual practices.

The review found "a lack of clarity about the roles, responsibilities, functions and accountability of private certifiers".

In a Notice of Motion lodged by Councillor Landsberry at the May 28 council meeting and unanimously supported, the council noted its concern that the NSW Government’s commitment to “enhance certifier accreditation by re-writing the Building Professionals Act” as a priority reform, has not yet been delivered, despite its commitment to introduce the new legislation into Parliament before the end of 2017.

Cr Landsberry asked the council to call on the State government to make the necessary legislative amendments to prevent accredited certifiers from having the authority to approve development under the Government’s new Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code.

“Georges River Council now needs to hold the NSW Government to this commitment and ensure that the changes needed are introduced,” Cr Landsberry said.

“In late 2014, former Treasury Secretary Michael Lambert conducted a review of the Building Professionals Act 2005, and delivered his findings in 2015.

“The review identified that there are systemic problems in building regulation across NSW, including a lack of clarity about the roles, responsibilities and accountability of Private Certifiers.

“The NSW Government then committed to a number of actions to resolve these problems including enhancing the requirements for certifier accreditation.”

Every year Georges River Council receives more than one thousand complaints regarding private certifiers, yet the council receives no funding from the NSW Government to investigate these complaints.

The problem is so severe that Council now prioritises only those matters that represent a significant threat to human safety or property.

Councillor Landsberry said the council would call on the State Government to make necessary legislative amendments to prevent accredited certifiers from having authority to approve dual occupancy, terrace and manor housing developments under the new Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code.

Councillor Landsberry said under the Code there would be no requirement for objections to a development to be considered by private certifiers.

“Only council Certifiers should be permitted to determine these applications,” she said.

“Council Certifiers have no conflicts of interest and know what is in the best interests of the local community.”

Georges River Council Mayor Kevin Greene echoed Councillor Landsberry’s comments and said it was imperative that the State Government meet its commitment to review the Act.

“It is important that the roles, responsibilities and functions of Private Certifiers are clearly defined and to keep them to account,” Councillor Greene said.

“The introduction of this new Medium Density Housing Code also makes it more important for the State Government to act now for the best interests for our local community.”

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