NSW inquiry recommends building commission

An inquiry has made 19 recommendations following a number of high-profile NSW building defects.
An inquiry has made 19 recommendations following a number of high-profile NSW building defects.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry has recommended a building commission to fix the state's beleaguered building and construction industry as the government tries to get its own reforms through the lower house.

The Public Accountability Committee on Wednesday released its first report on building standards, quality and disputes, making 19 recommendations following a number of high-profile NSW building defects and evacuations.

They included the establishment of a building commission with powers to regulate and oversee the industry, the extension of statutory warranties for defects to a minimum seven years and the increase of an existing defects bond.

"Every stakeholder said this industry needs root and branch reform, that this industry needs a single building act that is governed by a senior minister," committee chair and Greens MP David Shoebridge told reporters.

The report also recommended the government's own response to defects - the Design and Building Practitioner's Bill 2019 - is halted pending consultation with the Insurance Council of Australia and other stakeholders.

But Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said the report's authors were betraying the public's trust by attempting to delay the bill, which was being debated in the lower house on Wednesday.

"Industry and the public made it clear to governments across the country that we must take immediate action to better protect homeowners and lift standards," Mr Anderson said in a statement.

"We must act now to restore confidence to the residential high-rise market by passing this bill."

Committee member and Nationals MP Trevor Khan also issued a dissenting statement in the report, saying the recommendations were generally not supported by evidence or economic analysis.

The government's proposed legislation would require builders and designers to be registered, plans to be declared and designs to be compliant with the Building Code of Australia.

Builders would also have a duty of care to homeowners.

However, the report said inquiry participants told the committee the government's proposals were "inadequate" to address the scale of the problems.

"The good news is that there's a majority of MPs in the NSW upper house who are committed to fixing the government's bill," Mr Shoebridge told reporters.

He said bill opponents would seek the establishment of a stand-alone building commission which would bring together all aspects of building regulation under one body, giving the industry a "much tougher hand".

Australian Associated Press