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Building Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018 (No 27)

[5.00 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, first I thank the Leader for the substantial briefings we had today, and also Mr Dale Webster, who has answered most of the questions I had raised with some practitioners in Launceston. I hope the Leader and the President will bear with me while I ask some of these questions again so that I can have the answers on Hansard. I had thought of asking them separately, but I think it is good, particularly for the practitioners, to go to one area to find the answers to the issues they have raised.

I note there are practical administrative changes to most of the areas detailed within the bill. For example, it is amending section 53 of the act to allow like-for-like repairs of buildings damaged as a result of a natural disaster - flood, fire, wind or storm damage - without the need to upgrade the entire building. It makes for good common sense and will assist those who are going through these tragic and often challenging circumstances. There are also changes to the current requirement for the responsible builder or plumber to issue the owner with a standard of work certificate, which is then provided to the local council to issue a certificate of completion. If the responsible person refuses or is not able to issue the certificate, the changes will allow owners to apply to have the completed works inspected by a building surveyor to obtain the certificate of completion. This amendment makes sense.

I also note from the briefing today - and the Leader might like to respond to that when we get to it - that if the responsible person refuses to issue a statement of work certificate, it will be a reportable offence to the Director of Building Control for investigation. That was one of the concerns raised by a practitioner in Launceston.

With regard to the Occupational Licensing Act changes as part of the building reforms in 2016 and the rights of owner-builders to construct their own home being preserved, I understand the uncertainty for owner-builders as to whether outbuildings associated with a dwelling, like a shed for example, could be included in the same permit issued if that dwelling has been addressed with these changes. Perhaps that could be clarified.

The bill provides for the Administrator of Occupational Licensing to make a detailed determination as to the specific types of buildings or building work that require an owner-builder permit and the types of low-risk work that must be constructed by a licensed builder, thus providing greater clarity as to what works they can and cannot undertake.

However, there is a question whether it may be possible for the Director of Building Control to issue owner-builder licences for commercial building work. Mr Webster's answer to that question could perhaps be put on the record. Concern was raised by another practitioner that this section would allow the administrator to license an owner to be an owner-builder for a commercial project. The current act prevents owners from owner-builder projects on commercial building classes 2 to 9. They must appoint a licensed builder to oversee the works and ultimately take responsibility for it. Commercial projects have greater levels of risk to both occupants and the community. Owners are potentially in charge of building work that could include passive and active fire safety systems, paths of escape, performance solutions, and complex and challenging construction methods.

Past practices of the licensing administrator in granting licences to persons of questionable qualification and experience as licensed building practitioners has highlighted concerns and risks of licensing of owner-builders to undertake commercial work.

If it is not the intent, this clause should be codified to prevent any possibility of an error or omission allowing the issue of an owner-builder licence for commercial building work, BCA classes 2 to 9, including walk-up flats and multistorey residential. The question was answered in the briefings but it would be useful to have it on Hansard for the practitioners who asked those questions, for clarity.

I note that the bill makes changes to the building regulations, including requiring temporary occupancy permits for temporary swimming pools and the safety barriers that are already required by law to be around temporary swimming pools in backyards. In 2015, Tasmania had the highest number of drownings in Australia. This change adds to the level of community safety.

A couple of other questions were asked and answered in briefings. The second reading speech said -

The building framework was thoroughly reviewed between 2014 and 2016, resulting in the introduction of nation-leading reforms on 1 January 2017, which make it faster, fairer, simpler and cheaper to build in Tasmania.

The comment came from a building surveyor in Launceston - and a response from the Leader would be good - and this is not my comment -

This claim cannot be substantiated, the Act and determinations are more complex, increase paperwork, disjointed and repetitive regulation greater numbers of illegal works due to total confusion by owners and builders.

He added that there is -

No scrutiny on bathroom construction waterproofing and mould growth due to poor building work.

It would be really good if I could have a response to those comments put on the record. That is in regard to the level of regulatory oversight for building work matching risk to public health and safety.

Mr Webster outlined this morning the four groups that were established to take over from the committee previously disbanded in 2017, and that question was also asked. The second reading speech stated that -

… the Director of Building Control has regularly consulted with stakeholders who deal with the legislative framework …

The four groups were mentioned this morning. I want to make sure I have it right. We now have the industry reference group, the local government reference group, the technical reference group and the consumer group. Many people from the various groups are invited to be part of these groups. Most peak bodies are included in those groups. Could the Leader confirm I have those right and note who is invited along to those meetings?

There was a question about clause 7. Most of these questions were answered this morning and I was very pleased they were. It is purely a matter of putting them on the record. I think they will be satisfactory to the individuals who put the questions. The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors had concerns with regard to inferring that the designer provides the assessment method to the building surveyor, which is questionable in professional practice. Building surveyors were concerned because they felt it should be the designer in consultation and with the agreement of all stakeholders, including the building surveyor who determines the assessment and/or verification methods to be adopted for the performance solution. As clause 7 currently reads, it was felt that it implies the designer chooses the assessment methods, negating the building surveyor's responsibility for revision of acceptance and approval of any assessment methods as the appropriate authority identified in the Building Code of Australia. It would be good if Mr Webster or the Leader could clarify that.

I am almost finished with my constituents' questions. In regard to clarity around renovations, at what point does the whole property need to be upgraded to meet the National Construction Code? Applying the new rules within this bill will mean that the entire house will not be required to be upgraded if the renovations make up less than 50 per cent of the building. This is most welcome.

I believe with the answers received this morning and the briefings, which were very pleasing and very clear, we have answered most of these queries. There are always going to be some that will not satisfy the questions asked. I believe most were answered satisfactorily and the amendments provide for more certainty and greater safety within our community. They appear to be providing further clarity for owner-builders and I believe they are practical administrative changes. I will support the bill.

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