Building inquiry reveals findings over dodgy towers

 

Warranties for major and minor building defects must be extended to a minimum of seven years and strata defect bonds should be increased, a parliamentary committee investigating the state's construction crisis has declared.

A financial support package to help owners remove flammable cladding is also required, the first report of the NSW parliamentary committee tasked with considering the regulation of building standards has found.

Residents were forced to evacuate Mascot Towers due to structural concerns. Picture: Monique Harmer
Residents were forced to evacuate Mascot Towers due to structural concerns. Picture: Monique Harmer

The committee handed down its initial report today, with 19 recommendations, following the highly publicised defect issues in Mascot and Opal towers and a series of pubic hearings which have flushed out more horror stories.

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The government currently has a bill before the parliament to tackle issues in the construction industry, however the Committee's view is that it is insufficient to deal with the problems.

Committee chair David Shoebridge slammed the government for not doing enough for any of the thousands of homeowners currently struggling with defects.

"The government's current bill offers not one red cent not one dollar, no assistance to any of those thousands of homeowners currently struggling with defects," he said.

Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: AAP
Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park. Picture: AAP

"Whether its flammable cladding or major structural defects we need the government to come forward with an assistance package.

"Homeowners didn't create this problem by themselves. It wasn't a lack of investigation by homeowners for Mascot Towers that has seen them face potentially millions of dollars in remediation cost.

"We believe the government needs to step up and assist those homeowners with a comprehensive rescue package."

The report also recommends the establishment of a Building Commission that is "sufficiently resourced" with powers to regulate the construction industry.

Committee chair David Shoebridge heard “harrowing evidence”.
Committee chair David Shoebridge heard “harrowing evidence”.

"We are disappointed with the government's piecemeal approach to legislation, and the lack of progress implementing it," Mr Shoebridge said.

The Committee will further consider the issue of flammable cladding in more detail next year.

The report has also called for the NSW government to immediately investigate the licencing system of building trades in NSW and whether independent examination is required before a licence is granted.

Mr Shoebridge said the committee heard "harrowing evidence".

"We had homeowners in tears about the personal financial and emotional costs they are facing," he said.

A damaged floor slab at Opal Tower.
A damaged floor slab at Opal Tower.

"We have regulators who don't regulate and people buying homes which are not fit to live and in some cases desperately unsafe, facing bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars to simply make their homes liveable.

"That cannot be allowed to stand in NSW."

Labor MP John Graham said the government needed to act quickly on the issue of flammable cladding.

"The most concerning evidence we received is that the building commissioner has advice sitting on the desk of the Minister about how to deal with flammable cladding and today it has still not been acted on," he said.

Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson yesterday accused Mr Shoebridge of attempting to delay the bill, saying it was a "betrayal of the public's trust".

"We must act now to restore confidence to the residential high-rise market by passing this Bill now, as the first step in the Government's commitment to fully implement the Shergold-Weir recommendations," he said.

"Despite this, Labor and the Greens have made a deal which will see them attempt to delay this Bill, and deny current and future homeowners new protections against defects."

 

Mascot Towers in Mascot. Picture: Monique Harmer
Mascot Towers in Mascot. Picture: Monique Harmer