New building law should cut the crap with consents

Your legislators have given the third reading to a Bill to speed up the building consent process and reduce costs. It is now set to become law, cutting some of the crap that surrounds the tedious consents process.

The Building Amendment Bill (No 2) reforms the Building Act 2004 (and there’s more to come).

It introduces multiple-use building approvals – a measure that will reduce duplication and fast-track the consent process for group home builders who build homes on sites across the country using the same, or similar, designs.

It also defines a new streamlined process to manage minor variations to building plans after the consent is issued. This should save time for applicants and councils.

Oh, and it makes project information memorandums, known as PIMs, voluntary. Good eh?

Alf agrees with Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson, who said the new law comes at a very important time for the building and construction sector.

“The downturn is continuing and building firms need as much help as they can get. The Bill will help boost efficiency and greater productivity at a time when it is most needed. And if builders pass on cost savings, then consumers will benefit too.

“Reducing building delays and costs is an important first step but it doesn’t go far enough. Everyone in the sector is going through tough times – homeowners, developers and builders – so there’s more to be done.

“Preliminary work on a wider review of the Building Act is progressing and I hope to be able to announce further streamlining measures in due course,” Mr Williamson says.

The review’s terms of reference are being tidied up as Alf writes this, but are expected to cover:

* What needs to be consented based on actual levels of risk and complexity, with the aim of reducing the amount of building work requiring a building consent.

* Taking a good hard look at the underlying risk and liability framework in the sector.

* Assessing how the role of Building Consent Authorities might change if more responsibility is transferred to builders, designers, and consumers.

* Exploring the extent to which licensed building practitioners could self-certify their work.

* Examining the role that home warranty insurance might play in such an environment.

* Removing unnecessary building control regulation

Maurice tells Alf the Government also will be looking at several non-regulatory ways to improve performance, such as:

* Supporting councils to work smarter using technology and leveraging the same technology to reduce design and building costs.

* Putting greater focus on information and education, so people make informed choices rather than having them made for them.

* Facilitating and incentivising Building Consent Authorities to consolidate and rationalise their functions.

* Getting better outcomes from the increased investment in trade training.

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