Building Act review – opportunity to get rid of some red tape

The reviews into the Building Act 2004 and the Licensed Practitioner Scheme are a chance to get rid of some of the bureaucratic hassle and expense associated with building consents.

The two exercises are being run independently and will follow different courses.  Comments have been invited by Friday, 25 September for the Scheme Review.  But the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Act Review have no provision for public consultations.  Instead private sector input into the policy-making process will be via a Sector Reference Group and smaller working groups appointed on an ad hoc basis.  Not until the select committee stages of the legislation will there be the opportunity for public submissions.

It is also unclear how the Act Review will interact with the examination of the interface between the Resource Management Act (RMA) and the Building Act as part of Environment Minister Nick Smith’s Phase Two reforms. 

This Brief Counsel provides a user-friendly guide to both reviews.

Objectives of the Building Act Review

The review will identify changes to the Building Act and its administration with a view to:

  • removing regulation that is adding cost and producing little benefit

  • streamlining building consent requirements to reflect risk and complexity and to reduce the amount of work that requires consent

  • improving the alignment of the Building Code and NZ Standards

  • improving the way risk and liability is allocated across parties in the sector, including (but not limited to) options for the reform of the joint and several liability framework as applied in the building sector, and greater use of insurance/warranty products for better managing risk

  • increasing support for consumers through greater information and disclosure and improving the mechanisms for resolving disputes with practitioners, and

  • enhancing incentives for professional performance of practitioners (by, for example, linking licensing to the ability to self-certify). 

In relation to the consenting process, the focus will be on:

  • streamlining the consents functions, including options to:

    • facilitate or incentivise consent authorities to consolidate and rationalise building consent functions (including allowing them to be carried out by groupings of councils or at a regional or national level)

    • facilitate the development of other building consent providers

  • identifying how smart technology and other systems (such as shared IT platforms and improved product assurance databases) could improve the efficiency and timeliness of the consenting process, and

  • identifying other options to improve the consistency of decision-making across the consenting, inspection and certification process.

Out of scope for the review is the administration of the NZ Standards system.  In scope is the design of the Act and its supporting regulations (such as Building Codes and Standards).

The Act was last amended in July this year to provide for national multiple-use approvals and to introduce a more efficient process for dealing with minor variations to building consents.  Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson made it clear when these amendments were passed that they were only the first steps in a much more far-reaching review.

Sector Reference Group

Because the Sector Reference Group will be the principal source of industry influence on the recommendations, the Group’s role will be important.  The membership comprises: 

Peter Neven 
General Manager Infrastructure Division, Fletcher Building 
Richard Harris Director Jasmax Ltd and President NZ Institute of Architects
John Gray President Home Owners and Buyers Association
Brett Mettrick President, Registered Master Builders Federation
Richard Merrifield Recent President, Certified Builders Association
Yet to be appointed A nominee from ACENZ/IPENZ
John Duthie General Manager City Development, Auckland City Council
George Skimming Special Projects Manager, Wellington City Council
Irene Clark Manager Environment and Regulation, Local Government NZ.

Sector working groups to provide input at working level will also be appointed “as appropriate”.The TOR can be accessed here.


Officials are to report to Ministers by the end of October and to the Cabinet for decision by the beginning of December.  Any legislation should be introduced to the House in February or March next year for passage by June.  Implementation is expected in 2011 but the timing is contingent upon the nature and scope of the agreed changes.

The Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) Scheme Review

The purpose of the Review is to identify opportunities to streamline the scheme and to reduce the cost and complexity to applicants. Specific proposals are:

  • to introduce a ‘fast-track’ low cost application process for trade-qualified practitioners in which they would need only to provide evidence of their qualification, to supply appropriate referees and to demonstrate current regulatory knowledge

  • to simplify the building categories for the Site and Design licensing classes by reducing the number of tests to determine each category

  • to make it clear that licensed building practitioners must only work within their individual competency

  • to not proceed with the Building Services licensing class or with the licensing of Independently Qualified Persons (IQPs) on the grounds that it is not clear in either case that the costs are justified by the benefits, and

  • to have the LBP scheme recognise other registration systems so that practitioners don’t have to pay to be licensed under multiple schemes and to avoid duplication.

More information and a submission form are available here.

Where to from here

Chapman Tripp will continue to follow these issues and will keep you informed of any developments.If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact one of the lawyers featured.

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Related topics: Environment, planning & resource management; Property & real estate; Building Act review

Property & real estate; Environment, planning & resource management

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