22 Jun 2017

Fears building regulator overhaul will leave it out of touch

10:49 am on 22 June 2017

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is overhauling its building arm and that has raised fears this will distance it from companies and councils.

no caption

Photo: RNZ

Several senior managers' jobs in the Building Systems Performance group are being disestablished, but job numbers are not being cut. The unit is one of seven groups within the ministry.

"The branch has been reviewed, and proposed changes to its structure are currently being considered," the ministry said in a statement. "The proposals are geared toward continued improvement of MBIE as a building system regulator."

Industry insiders said it appeared the ministry aimed to focus more on making policy and less on hands-on work such as giving technical advice to councils. One council source said such advice was "really useful" and and helped avoid having to go through a more time-consuming system, called determinations, to settle difficult building issues.

There was also a concern the focus on policy would come at the expense of monitoring, enforcement and sending ministry people out to meet contractors and councils.

The Building Systems Performance group is poised to be split into two divisions, with its operational arm being put into the Market Services section, a different part of the ministry. Among the manager roles set to be eliminated is that of the Manager of Determinations.

The overhaul is being led by Building Systems Performance general manager Anna Butler, who came from the Ministry of Social Development last year.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith's office said the changes were an operational matter and he would not be making comment.

Industry urges regulatory review

Meanwhile, the Building Industry Federation has urged the government to urgently review the Building Code and regulatory systems.

The federation said it might be time to look at border controls to try to hold back a flood of non-conforming building products (NCPs).

"We have the New South Wales government reconsidering the state's building safety measures with 'a sense of urgency' and the Queensland government promising to redraft its building laws this year specifically because of a surge of NCPs into the Australian market," Building Industry Federation chief executive Bruce Kohn said.

"While commendable action was taken in New Zealand months ago to tighten fire safety provisions and cover-off the problem that seems to have arisen in the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, the use of NCPs continues unchecked."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs