A Greenslabor’s regulation discussion paper to fix everything

Under the Greenslabor regulatory systems for the last decade, residents have endured a laissez-faire approach to building compliance and regulation.

This stupidity was overseen by various ministers including ministers for housing, urban development, social housing, housing services, planning and for sustainable building and construction. It has been easy for Greenslabor politicians to duck the question by saying it is someone else’s portfolio.

Meanwhile horrendous stories about outrageous building faults are common. In some cases, buyers with these sub-standard units cannot live in them nor sell them on. The fault list includes leaks through the ceiling, plaster flaking off, doors and windows not fitted correctly, whole floors moving with bracing poles having to be put in place, balconies being unsafe, walls cracking and more.

On Thursday 2nd February this year there was a media release from Rebecca Vassarotti, Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction. The title of the statement was Have Your say on developer regulation.

After a decade or so of her government not doing much, the minister has called for feedback on her discussion paper. Her timeline is that something will be regulated in 2024.

The impression is that at last the government is taking these matters seriously. But the minister is taking no blame for the lost decade of wishy-washy regulations and for her government not responding earlier to the many who have suffered because of questionable developer practices.

The media statement has loads of worthy sounding spin as if someone else was responsible for not much being done about compliance and regulation for the last decades.

There’s several like this: ‘Currently, the chain of accountability in the ACT’s building regulatory system does not place regulatory responsibility on developers for building quality issues. This must change. Property developers within the building and construction industry must face greater accountability’.

The reality is that residents and buyers (except the politicians) have been saying this for more than a decade but instead people have suffered because of bad building standards and shoddy work standards. She is not admitting to any faults by her government – someone else was responsible!

There’s a lot emphasis on being committed, wanting something, having meetings, developing a framework and her hopes for the discussion paper.

Residents are being asked to go online and read about seventy pages and to make submissions to the Have your say website. They are the same residents dealing with hundreds of pages of documentation about the planning mess made by the chief minister and his planning chief.

One of the biggest frustrations is that residents have submitted mountains of submissions on the planning reforms and they have mostly been ignored. Why would anyone waste time on this web site that is the black hole of resident’s submissions?

On page 57 of discussion paper is a little wonder. At the end of a table about improvements to regulation since 2004, they list the introduction of the 2022 planning bill ‘that seeks to deliver a more ‘spatially-led’ and ‘outcomes-focussed’ planning system that is clear, easy to use and facilitates the realisation of long-term aspirations for the growth and development of Canberra while maintaining its valued character’.

Believe that nonsense and you would believe anything!

I hope that the many residents in sub-standard units in badly built apartment blocks feel better told that the new planning bill will solve all their problems. T

he many who have suffered because various ministers would not act, should feel better knowing this Greenslabor government has taken years to produce a discussion paper. Given their record of non-delivery, a discussion paper will most likely be the most tangible outcomes for a while yet.

But then again, maybe Minister Vassarotti can be different from the many ministers before her and she will deliver a regulatory and compliance system that delivers sound, safe and well-built buildings from 2023. We shall see.


This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News

Paul Costigan is a commentator on cultural and urban matters


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