NSW building commissioner slams construction cowboys

The inquiry into NSW building standards on Friday featured the state’s new building commissioner, David Chandler, who lambasted the dodgy builders and engineers behind Sydney’s apartment crisis. From The SMH:

“It’s time for the NSW building industry to be different,” Mr Chandler, an experienced builder and manager who was last month appointed to the position by Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Mr Chandler told the committee the building industry in NSW had developed an “unsustainable culture of … ‘what’s in it for me’.”

Mr Chandler said he visited Mascot Towers and the evacuated apartments at Zetland on Thursday.

“When I walked across that job yesterday I don’t think I’ve seen many buildings as poorly built as that,” Mr Chandler said of the Mascot block, which had been “poorly” engineered in his opinion.

“I’m quite certain that the builder didn’t know how to read any construction plans,” he said… “There’s a builder there that’s operating that really shouldn’t have been in the space doing it. They didn’t have the capability, they certainly didn’t have the construction drawings. But perhaps the drawings in the first place were flawed.”

Seriously, who can be surprised by this debacle given the track record of the private building certifier “primarily responsible” for privatising the supervision of building standards in the 1980s and 90s. Also from The SMH:

Lyall Dix has been fined more than $88,000 by the Building Professionals Board following a dozen complaints about his role as a certifier, including that he “failed to adequately inspect” buildings, and “exercise reasonable care and attention” as the principal certifying authority.

The Herald revealed earlier this month that Mr Dix lost his accreditation and was disqualified from being a certifier for five years in 2012, but back in the 1980s, he was the head of the building branch of the NSW Department of Local Government.

This department was “zealous in its enthusiasm to break local government’s monopoly” on building controls, Development and Environmental Professionals’ Association (DEPA) Secretary Ian Robertson, said.

“Lyall Dix was the person primarily responsible for introducing private certification options in the Local Government Act in 1989, ” Mr Robertson, who has worked with DEPA since 1984, said.

“The process managed by the Building Branch in the lead up to the legislation was disgraceful. Local government bodies representing councils as well as employees who were building surveyors were never consulted.”

The fact of the matter is that for the better part of 20 years, the development industry has demanded more and more deregulation and the removal of “red tape” in the planning system to allow them to build bigger apartments faster. This, they claimed, would allow housing supply to respond to demand and help fix the housing crisis.

Fairfax’s Elizabeth Farrelly summed up the farce nicely last month:

In effect they insisted that legitimising rubbish housing was the key to affordability. Developers, went the unstated theory, couldn’t be expected to do anything but gouge the market. To build anything affordable, therefore, they had essentially to be subsidised – with dodgy materials, permissive planning, outsize buildings, suspect certification and professionals more flexible than your average yoga-mat. They had to be allowed to produce crap.

Except that suddenly – 10 years on – these crap homes, for which almost all public protection has been ritually burned, don’t look terribly affordable at all. In fact, they look like cynical, developer-fattening honey-traps set to impoverish families, communities, and the construction industry for years to come.

And suddenly they’re all pretending they never pushed for it. Suddenly Meriton wants immediate reform to stop substandard buildings. The Urban Taskforce supports Shergold and Weir’s calls for reregulation, clear materials standards and independent certification.

The proof is now in the pudding, with rubbish apartment blocks spreading like weeds across Sydney, many requiring rectification, and owners and taxpayers left to pick up the tab.

For years, the development industry has been allowed to run rampant across Sydney. It now must be muzzled by the government.

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