Time is running out for dodgy developers - and dodgy builders, certifiers, and engineers too


In our April issue we complimented the Building Commissioner for the prohibition orders since December 2020 and an Enforceable Undertaking that week which prompted our article. Courageously on the Building Commissioner’s website they claim they are “Leading a once-in-a-generation reform of the design and building industry”, a bold call but the evidence of achievements so far is very impressive

And it just keeps getting better. In the next week or two the NSW Government will announce a rating system for developers. A crash hot, capable, thorough and honourable developer could get five stars, others will struggle to get one, or even a half. But it will mean for the first time that when consumers buy off the plan, or even after construction, they can make an informed judgement about the risk associated with the developer who constructed the building, based upon those stars.

A survey of more than 500 apartment buildings in NSW earlier this year found 90% of Strata managers or nominated members of Strata committees would not recommend buying a unit off the plan to a friend or family member.

We met with building Commissioner David Chandler on 23 November at a meeting organised via an introduction from LGNSW CEO Scott Phillips. Originally scheduled for half an hour, we finished just short of an hour and a half. It was a very impressive experience.

The SMH that morning had reported proceedings the day before in David Shoebridge MLC’s Upper House Committee. David Shoebridge is really the Leader of the Opposition in NSW and proceedings in the Upper House Inquiry provide Parliamentary privilege to witnesses.

Shoebridge had asked the Building Commissioner some questions and he didn’t hold back. He accused the builder of the Opal Tower of being involved in multiple projects across the city which are “embroiled” in legal action with apartment owners over alleged defects.

He had also received what he described as an “audacious” request from lawyers for the builder, Icon Co, “to relinquish his powers to refer directors of the corporate watchdog if he determines that they have not acted properly”.

The SMH quotes Mr Chandler saying, “The moment I got this I just looked at it and said, ‘you are joking’. I basically said, well good luck with that. I’ll see you in the Supreme Court ...”

It was the Opal Tower and the Mascot Tower that’s forced the NSW government to do something about the construction industry and establish a building watchdog. This is no lapdog, this is a seriously dangerous, carnivorous watchdog, pursuing those damaging the reputation of the construction industry.

He had also said, “why don’t you stop spending your money on litigation and go and fix the defects … If you simply added up all of the litigation that is surrounding these five projects it’d be a very large number”.

Given the way NSW Government has managed building and development historically, and particularly over the last three or four decades, it seems extraordinary that they would have acted to establish a watchdog with such overwhelming legal powers and capacity and they are continuing to build its resourcing. Too bold for Labor. 

In describing the proposal to rate developers and builders of residential buildings, Mr Chandler told the enquiry, “this is monumental. It will be long-lasting, and it will be game changing. This is a regulated rating system as opposed to a Trip advisor-type system”.

Notably he also told the enquiry that there was “potentially 10 developers, 10 builders, 10 certifiers and 10 engineers that probably represent 80% of the defects that I’ve seen”

Here is a link to the SMH article..