Builders face test as government gets ‘serious’ about building quality

The government will also target licence holders who have received building-related complaints to resit tests.

Aspiring Class C builders, which are permitted to construct low-rise residential developments, have been required to sit exams since 2016 .

The Canberra Times last year reported that nearly half of Class C licence applicants failed the exam the first and second time in 2017-18.

A crackdown on builder licensing was proposed as part of a raft of ACT government building regulation reforms, which were announced in 2016 and earmarked for implementation within two years.

But the government has so far delivered on just 14 of 43 measures outlined in its own reform package. Government officials last year cited the challenges of recruiting suitably-qualified staff among the reasons for the delay.

On Friday, Mr Ramsay said 28 of those reforms would be implemented by June 28, including new guidelines for design documentation and measures to improve on-site supervision of builders.

The full suite of changes would be delivered before the end of the parliamentary term in October 2020, he said.

In its submission to the ACT Assembly’s building quality inquiry, the government conceded that its existing rules had largely failed to prevent builders breaching construction laws on work sites.

But Mr Ramsay said the tide was starting to turn following the introduction last year of Access Canberra’s Rapid Regulatory Response Team, which is tasked with attending construction sites immediately after complaints are made.

“In addition to the reform agenda, we have also improved the way that compliance is monitored to make sure that poor quality work is addressed quickly, and I’m delighted to see this approach is already working,» Mr Ramsay said.

“This action is being felt across the industry, and coupled with the reform agenda, the message is clearly getting through that the government is serious about eliminating poor quality building work.»

Master Builders of the ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins welcomed Friday’s announcement, but stressed the testing regime should not be used to punish good-quality builders.

“When a license holder is selected to sit the exam at license renewal, it is important for this to be used to target repeat offenders or those with a track record of poor building quality and not apply more cost and uncertainty for the many good quality builders that are operating in the ACT,» Mr Hopkins said.

«After all, these measures are about improving the overall standard of the industry, not punishing those already delivery high quality.»

Dan Jervis-Bardy is a Canberra Times reporter.

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