30 MAY 2020

The Berejiklian government has been urged to put its proposed reforms to the state’s building industry back before the upper house, to avoid a repeat of the Opal and Mascot towers debacles while it fast tracks developments in an attempt to spur the economy.

In its final report released on Thursday, a NSW parliamentary inquiry into building standards recommended that the powers of Building Commissioner David Chandler, who was appointed last year, be strengthened and he be given the support of a well-resourced commission.

Among the 22 recommendations, the government was also urged to follow Victoria in setting aside at least $600 million to fund the rectification of buildings containing flammable cladding.

The inquiry was sparked by severe cracking in the Opal and Mascot towers in Sydney, and the dangers of flammable cladding that were exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017. Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said the government was already taking action to lift standards in the industry and was “implementing a series of reforms”.

He rejected as “short sighted” the recommendation to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to remove cladding, saying it failed to identify the hospitals, schools or major projects that would need to be stripped of funding to finance the program.

But Greens MP David Shoebridge, who chaired the inquiry, said there was a risk that the mistakes evident in the Opal and Mascot towers were repeated unless the stiffer regulations were passed, and the building commissioner “empowered to inspect shoddy buildings”. “What we do not want is an accelerated building crisis in NSW,” he said. “If buildings are going to be built as part of the recovery, we need to ensure we have a building commissioner on the beat who can enforce the standards.”

> Full article on The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O’Sullivan