In mid-2017 the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) asked us to undertake an assessment of the effectiveness of compliance and enforcement systems for the building and construction industry across Australia. Whilst our assessment has been thorough, this report focusses in a succinct way on shortcomings in the implementation of the National Construction Code (NCC). They will not come as a surprise to the BMF or building industry stakeholders as most have been considered in detail in a number recent government reports. We are confident that, assisted by this report, jurisdictions, working cooperatively, can address these shortcomings.
Our goal is to enhance public trust through effective implementation of building and construction standards that protect the interests of those who own, work, live, or conduct their business in Australian buildings. We make 24 recommendations. We believe that compliance and enforcement systems that incorporate our recommendations represent a national best practice model that will strengthen the effective implementation of the NCC.
A wide range of problems were set out in the Terms of Reference for us to examine, namely:
- a. roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of different parties;
- b. education and training;
- c. licensing and accreditation;
- d. accuracy of design and documentation;
- e. quality control and assurance;
- f. competencies of practitioners;
- g. integrity of private certification;
- h. inspection regimes;
- i. auditing and enforcement practices; and
- j. product importation and chain of custody
We were asked to assess the compliance and enforcement systems in place across Australia having regard to these problems. In doing so, we have given careful consideration to the opinions of various experts that have undertaken reviews of the building and construction industry on behalf of state and territory governments in recent years.
Our work was commissioned by the BMF. The BMF is the group of Australian Government, State and Territory Ministers that has responsibility for building and construction. The BMF is created under a series of intergovernmental agreements that establish and maintain the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) which is responsible for the development of the NCC.
The NCC contains the technical requirements and standards for the construction of buildings and for plumbing work. The NCC is adopted by each jurisdiction in its own building legislation. The goal is to have nationally consistent technical standards applying across Australia. Whilst our country has a national technical standard for buildings, our federation provides for each state and territory to have its own laws governing the implementation of the NCC.
Jurisdictions have been very open in identifying the growing challenges they have faced in ensuring effective compliance with, and enforcement of, the NCC. So have industry bodies. Criticisms have been delivered in a constructive manner with an emphasis on finding solutions.
After having examined the matters put to us, we have concluded that their nature and extent are significant and concerning. The problems have led to diminishing public confidence that the building and construction industry can deliver compliant, safe buildings which will perform to the expected standards over the long term.