Victorian Building System Review – Stage One Report Published
With the publication of the first of three reports on building reform in Victoria, we have the first insight into the Building System Review priority areas.
An Expert Panel (Panel), chaired by the Victorian Commissioner for Better Regulation, is undertaking a comprehensive review of Victoria’s building system. The Panel is undertaking its review in three stages, culminating in advice and recommendations to the Victorian Government for the development of a new Building Act.
Expert Panel’s 16 Key Recommendations
The Panel has published its Stage One Report which proposes 16 key recommendations for reform, focused around the following four key issues:
- practitioner registration;
- consumer representation and advocacy;
- regulatory oversight; and
- building approvals.
The first three of the Panel’s recommendations are labelled ‘foundational’ goals which, according to the Stage One Report, underpin the effective implementation of the remaining recommendations.
The foundational recommendations are to:
- Strengthen regulators’ and agencies’ data collection, coordination and information sharing practices.
- Enforce and improve requirements for documentation across the building lifecycle to improve accountability and transparency.
- Introduce a requirement for building owners to be provided with a building manual.
Practitioner Registration Recommendations
The practitioner registration recommendations are to:
- Expand and refine registration and licensing schemes to strengthen accountability, regulatory oversight and consumer protection.
- Develop competence frameworks for all classes of registered and licensed practitioners
- Enable the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to use professional associations’ accreditation schemes as a pathway to registration and licensing decisions.
- Implement the Panel’s proposed six-point plan to boost the number of building surveyors and their quality.
Consumer Representation and Advocacy Recommendations
The consumer representation and advocacy recommendations are to:
- Establish a statutory Commissioner for Building Consumers to represent consumer interests within the building system.
- Increase availability of consumer support and advocacy services.
Regulatory Oversight Recommendations
The regulatory oversight recommendations are to:
- Make the State Building Surveyor a statutory role and establish the Office of the State Building Surveyor as the principal source of technical advice for industry and practitioners. The Office will also include specific experts on fire safety and structural engineering, plumbing and other specialist areas.
- Actively support the improvement of the VBA’s capacity so that it is a contemporary best practice regulator.
- Modernise legislative schemes and regulate governance and operations for architects and design practitioners to ensure alignment and best practice and that qualification requirements include focus on compliance with current regulatory settings.
Building Approval Recommendations
The building approvals recommendations are to:
- Introduce measures to strengthen building approvals processes for all projects.
- Introduce additional safeguards in the short term for more complex building projects, with an initial focus on residential apartments.
- In the medium term, once the ABCB complexity framework is finalised, adopt it as the basis for an expansion of these safeguards to all medium, high and very-high complexity buildings.
- In the medium term, enhance the role for local councils and Municipal Building Surveyors’ for more complex and higher risk buildings.
Some notable recommendations to emerge from the Stage One Report include the introduction of the new advocacy and regulatory roles of the Commissioner for Building Consumers and the State Building Surveyor respectively. These recommendations have already been adopted as part of the Building Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 which recently passed Parliament, with the introduction of a Building Monitor in lieu of the Commissioner for Building Consumers.
The amendment Act includes a number of other amendments to the Building Act 1993 which incorporates some of the recommendations of the Panel as set out in the Stage One Report. It is anticipated that further amendments reflecting the Panel’s recommendations will be introduced in the future.
The next part of the review is Stage Two. It will consider options for improving building information development and retention, dispute prevention and resolution, insurance, building maintenance, and consumer protection including the introduction of a statutory duty of care. The Stage Two discussion paper is expected to be published later in 2023.
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