A message from the CEO – August 2019

Friday, 16 August 2019

The VBA welcomes the State Government’s decision to establish Cladding Safety Victoria (CSV) to support and fund the rectification of higher-risk apartment buildings, while also undertaking a thorough and necessary review of building policy.

I believe these are important steps for keeping Victorians safe and rebuilding public confidence in our building system, which has been understandably shaken.

I am very proud of the VBA’s cladding audit work and of our input in shaping the Government’s approach to rectification.

I can assure you that the process of identifying at-risk properties, engaging with owners corporations and ensuring action is taken to implement interim safety measures has been a major and unprecedented undertaking.

Equally, issuing Building Notices and Orders to owners to drive the start of those rectification works has been a problematic but crucial undertaking.

However, delaying enforcement action was not an option.

We know the safety risks these buildings pose to the people who live in them, to the people who visit them, to neighbouring properties and to the first responders who are put at risk in the event of a fire.

The establishment of CSV will now enable residents and owners to receive the support and guidance they need to get their buildings fixed and to also maintain safe occupation until those necessary works are completed.

It is important to note that the cladding audit is only one of many wide-ranging actions the VBA has driven over the past 18 months to lower risks to the public and improve industry practice across Victoria.

I am proud to be leading a team with a dogged determination to make sure we do everything we can to prevent a repeat of these past issues.

We have built extensive regulatory networks, working across borders and regulatory boundaries to share intelligence on those who insist on flouting the rules.

I want the industry and the Victorian public to be assured that the VBA I lead is – and will continue – to use every available power we have to enforce compliance.

Practitioners whose conduct has not met the required standard are being increasingly challenged to justify their practices and standards, with strict sanctions later imposed to moderate or prevent their future industry participation.

On 1 July, Victoria’s new building permit and levy system came into effect, alongside the VBA’s BAMS platform, which supports the issuing of building permit numbers and has been well-received.

From this base, I intend to seek, via the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, regulatory change to require all supporting documentation to be attached through the permit process, as the next big step in real-time regulatory information.

On behalf of industry, we sought clarification from the Australian Building Codes Board on the interpretation of the low-rise construction concession.

I am pleased to see that national clarification has occurred as a result of our advocacy. Notwithstanding the Advisory Note status of the clarification, we will regulate industry to this standard.

We are determined that our visible presence on sites under construction is increased, and I am pleased to report that for the 2018–19 financial year, our team achieved 8318 inspections.

Importantly, we are now consistently being seen at 10 per cent of sites under construction to highlight the fundamental importance of compliance and safety across the industry.

I believe the focus of our monitoring and enforcement activity, as well as the recent appointment of Victoria’s State Building Surveyor, Mr Andrew Cialini, represent a pivotal point in building regulation in Victoria.

On Thursday, 10 October 2019, Mr Cialini will lead a free whole-of-industry training session focusing on accelerating industry compliance with the key performance requirements of the Code.

Professional indemnity insurance is another major challenge already spreading to building insurance more broadly.

But insurers will only underwrite the building industry in the future if they have assurance that Victoria’s regulatory framework will be reformed with speed, that the regulator is adequately resourced and continues to actively manage risks, and that industry is taking genuine responsibility for safety and the quality of its work.

I came into this role determined to take responsibility for changing the VBA into the regulatory organisation it should be.

While my team and I have acted quickly to set a new regulatory standard, it is patently clear that this organisation alone cannot stamp out the culture that has enabled an element of the industry to deliver sub-standard building work across Victoria and then simply walk away from their responsibilities.

We look forward to working alongside all levels of Victoria’s building sector to drive urgently needed cultural changes that will create a building and construction sector that can be rightly proud of itself, and one that all Victorians can respect and trust.

Victorians expect no less of us all.

Sue Eddy

Chief Executive Officer
Victorian Building Authority

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