The Queensland government is currently legislating one of the key items on its Queensland Building Plan construction industry reform agenda.
The new rules aim to address the use of non-conforming building products, giving new powers to the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to take action and introducing chain of responsibility legislation.
Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the laws would apply to all in the building product supply chain including designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers.
Mr de Brenni said the proliferation of cheap, imported and substandard products is a risk to the health and safety of all Queenslanders – including those working on building sites.
“Under our new laws everyone in the building product supply chain will be accountable rather than just the tradie at the end of the line,” he said.
The new laws will allow QBCC officers to inspect buildings, take samples for testing and direct rectifications.
“Presently, the QBCC can inspect only active building sites – these changes will substantially expand the powers the QBCC has,” Mr de Brenni said.
The government will also be able to recall non-conforming products and issue warnings about them.
The QBCC will also have the power to direct those identified in the supply chain as responsible for the use of NCBPs to replace the product or fix the problem.
Currently, the state’s Building and Construction Legislation (Non-Conforming Building Products-Chain of Responsibility and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2017 has been tabled in the Queensland parliament.
An industry source said that it is fully expected to be passed, and Mr de Brenni said he expects the new rules will be in place by the end of the year.
It is a move that has been welcomed by industry bodies including the Building Products Innovation Council and the Property Council of Australia Queensland division.
Property Council Queensland Executive Director, Chris Mountford, described the new laws as a systematic approach to sharing information, determining risk and applying lessons learned from recent incidents including the Grenfell Tower fire in the UK.
“It is important to work through these issues methodically and base any advice to the public on evidence and facts,” Mr Mountford said.
“The Property Council congratulates the State Government on taking a national lead on this issue, moving quickly to respond to potential risks and recently legislating to mitigate the entry of non-conforming building products into the supply chain.”
BPIC chair, Elizabeth McIntyre said the new legislation not only has the potential to remedy the many problems associated with product and building code compliance, BPIC is confident the changes will also drive improved productivity in the state’s building products industry.
“Furthermore we note and welcome the apparent alignment of existing Workplace Health and Safety legislation and duty of care provisions, which have the potential to spearhead a seachange across all states,” she said.
The government is currently assessing feedback from stakeholders and industry on all the other proposals outlined in the Building Plan.
They include security of payment provisions to ensure subcontractors in the industry are paid “every time, on time and in full.”
One of the suggestions being considered for achieving this is the introduction of Project Bank Accounts for projects over $1 million. A 12-month trial of PBAs on government projects valued between $1 million and $10 million has been proposed, commencing January 2018.
If this is successful, the PBAs would apply to all projects, including private sector projects valued above $1 million from January 2019. The Property Council Queensland the Urban Development Institute of Australia have both objected to the PBA initiative. In its comments on the plan, the UDIA said that PBAs would be “an additional cost on the industry and community without necessarily addressing poorly performing contractors.”
Other items on the reform agenda include a review of the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme; a review of the Plumbing and Drainage Act; and changes to the Queensland Housing Code and the Reconfiguring a Lot Code.
Building certification is also under the microscope. Proposals included adding restrictions on the use of ‘competent persons’ and a requirement for a certifier to physically attend mandatory inspections, also introducing new mandatory inspections for fire separation in duplexes and townhouses.
A “cab rank” model has been suggested for assigning building certifiers that would have a standardised fee structure and be managed by the QBCC.
Licensing reforms have also been proposed that would include requiring all waterproofing work to be undertaken by a licensed person, licensing of energy assessors, licensing of plumbing and drainage apprentices and the introduction of a continuing professional development scheme.
At this stage, the state government has not indicated when the rest of the reforms will be announced.
For anyone in the Queensland construction industry it’s a definite case of watch this space – the winds of change are blowing.