Vic building reforms ‘throw councils under the bus’

The Municipal Association of Victoria has slammed proposed changes to the state’s building laws, saying the reforms will stretch resources and increase costs and risks to councils.

David Clark

The Building, Planning and Heritage Legislation Amendment (Administration and Other Matters) Bill was introduced into parliament last week.

Planning minister Richard Wynne told parliament the bill would reshape Victoria’s regulatory system and herald “a new era for the integrity of building regulation in Victoria.”

Among other changes, the legislation will require an additional layer of inspection by an independent council inspector before an occupation permit can be issued for apartment blocks.

“At this stage it is intended to only prescribe a subset of building work … that being residential apartments for which this additional inspection will be required,” Mr Wynne told parliament.

Extra costs

MAV says as well additional costs of more than $10,000 this requirement will create insurance, workforce and logistics issues for councils.

It could also put building surveyors in the position of having to issue a non-compliant report for a building they may be seeing for the first time, the peak says.

MAV says it supports reform of the regulatory system but the proposed changes have thrown local government under the bus and represent a continued shifting of responsibility by the state government.

They also fail to take into account the current shortage of council surveyors, with many councils struggling to fill the role.

Workforce issues

MAV President David Clark says the state is  trying to make councils responsible because it’s unable to fix the system.

“These additional inspections could cost councils $10,000 on a mid-rise apartment build, more for larger scale projects, he said.

“They also assume an inspector can step on-site for the first time and identify issues with the foundations or insulation, when that work is already complete and sealed up.

 “That’s not even considering the additional costs of insuring against the risks these inspections will impose on councils – a cost that ultimately will be borne by rate-payers.”

Cr Clark says the focus has to be on creating a sustainable workforce of building surveyors.

“Let’s be very clear, there is no quick fix here. We need to start this work today, but it will still be several years before there’s actually a workforce capable of delivering on them,” he said.

The government was already shirking its responsibility by trying to make councils responsible for combustible cladding and orphaned building permits, Cr Clark said.

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