News


Policy sent to Premier

Date: Friday, 30 August 2019 4:16 PM

30 August 2019

Hon Daniel Andrews MP Premier of Victoria Office of the Premier

1 Treasury Place Melbourne VIC 3002

Hon Richard Wynne MP Minister for Planning

Level 16, 8 Nicholson Street East Melbourne Victoria, 3002

Dear Premier and Minister

RE: VICTORIAN BUILDING CONTROL & PERMIT SYSTEM SUBMISSION

I write on behalf of the Victorian Municipal Building Surveyors Group (VMBSG). The VMBSG is an association committed to good building control and regulation at a local government level in Victoria. The VMBSG operates under its statement of purpose and the rules of the incorporated association. The purpose of this letter is to specifically address issues surrounding the current state of the Victorian Building Control and Building Permit system.

The Victorian Building Control and Building Permit system has been subject to severe and critical scrutiny in recent times for a range of reasons. The unfortunate combustible cladding crisis, which has been received considerable media coverage, has culminated in further highlighting the numerous shortcomings of the system.

We believe that it would be fair to say that public confidence in the system is now at an all-time low.

Numerous inquiries and reports into the system over the years have identified serious systemic problems on multiple occasions and high-profile failures have received considerable public attention. Failures that in all too many cases will have catastrophic financial consequences for too many Victorian citizens.

Numerous attempts over the years to tweak the legislation have been ineffective in arresting the ongoing systemic shortcomings and failures of the system.

VMBSG has long been sceptical of the privatised Building Permit system. It was always obvious to our members that the inbuilt conflicts of interests between builders and developers and their building designers and private building surveyors would routinely deliver poor outcomes for the Victorian community. Obviously, as key players in the system, VMBSG members have done their best to support the system in an extraordinarily challenging environment. However the reputational damage that is inherent in the current state of affairs does tarnish the professional reputation of our members too.

It is now apparent to us that we have arrived at a point in time where avoidance of significant change is not an option. To this end, VMBSG have developed a submission to Government (attached) suggesting real improvements to the Victorian Building Control system that we believe will deliver better outcomes for the Victorian community. We trust that you will receive and review our submission documents with a view to real consideration for change.

The VMBSG looks forward to your response in relation to these matters. We would be pleased to provide any assistance in relation to further background and suggested system improvements wherever necessary.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you wish to discuss this matter further.

Yours sincerely

John Prendergast

President Victorian Municipal Building Surveyors Group

Letter-to-Premier-Minister-regarding-BP-System-300819

VMBSG-policy-proposal-for-reform-of-Building-Act-final

Attachment-1-High-level-list-of-issues-to-be-considered-in-review-of-the-Act

Attachment-2-Suite-of-main-regulatory-tools

Attachment-3-Statement-of-Intent-VBA-and-Local-Government-final

Attachment-4-The-Rangeview-Estate_


Media Release – VBA


11 April 2019

Open-Flued Gas Heater Safety Audit

To highlight and identify the life-safety risks posed by poorly installed open-flued gas heaters leaking carbon monoxide, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has launched its 2019 awareness and testing campaign.

The campaign, which commenced in March, will see 150 newly installed gas heaters in Victorian homes tested over three months.  The results of this campaign will inform whether plumbers need further education and training on installing and commissioning gas heaters.

Partial combustion of natural gas can produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that can cause death or chronic illness if it spills or leaks from gas heaters. A blocked flue or chimney, negative air pressure, or non-compliant installation can have tragic consequences.

CO poisoning can happen in any building with gas heating appliances, including newer models. In Victoria over the past decade there have been several deaths from CO poisoning.

As part of its 2019 campaign, the VBA Plumbing Audit Program is inspecting newly-installed gas heaters across the state, checking for correct installation and CO leakage. The three-month audit program follows last year’s statewide education and testing program of appropriately registered and licensed plumbers to ensure they have the skills and awareness of issues that can arise from incorrectly installed or poorly maintained gas heaters.

The VBA will use the results of the audit as the basis for ongoing education and information activities with practitioners and homeowners on the risks posed by CO poisoning.

Always use licensed or registered people

With colder weather approaching, the VBA and Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) are stepping up safety warnings to Victorian households and recommend gas heaters are serviced and checked by an appropriately licensed or registered plumber at least every two years.

Only heater manufacturers and appropriately licensed or registered practitioners can legally conduct heating work and have the appropriate insurance. Using an unqualified practitioner for installation and servicing puts lives and warranties at risk.

Consumers should always ask to see their plumber’s photo ID card, which shows the classes of plumbing work they are registered or licensed to do. In addition, you can check that your plumber is registered or licensed by going to the ‘Find a Practitioner’ tab on the VBA website (www.vba.vic.gov.au). All gas work, including the installation, relocation or replacement of any gas appliance or the conversion of an appliance from one gaseous fuel to another, requires the plumber to issue the consumer with a Compliance Certificate.

Electrical work related to heaters requires an electrician licensed by ESV. Visit the ESV website (www.esv.vic.gov.au) for more information.

Media Enquiries

Karen Lyon, Communications Manager – Phone: 03 9618 9316   Email:communications@vba.vic.gov.au

Website: vba.vic.gov.au   Twitter: @VicBuilding   Instagram: @victorian_building_authority


Apartment Design Advisory Service (ADAS)

Applications are now welcome!

The Victorian ADAS offers free expert advice to assist developers and designers to comply with the Better Apartments Design Standards.

Building designers or developers involved in the early stages of an apartment design can apply to have a free collaborative workshop with the ADAS design advisory team.

The ADAS advice will assist with compliance with the Apartment Design Standards and will help make planning approvals easier.

To find out more about how to get involved visit our website at www.planning.vic.gov.au, or get in touch with our service coordinator at adas@delwp.vic.gov.au or by calling 03 9412 4057.


From MAV CEO, Kerry Thompson: Registration and Inspection of Swimming Pools and Spas

Subject: From MAV CEO, Kerry Thompson: Registration and Inspection of Swimming Pools and Spas

4 September 2018

TO THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Sent to CEOs and CEO PAs

Dear colleague

Registration and Inspection of Swimming Pools and Spas

Recently the Building Amendment (Registration of Building Trades and Other Matters) Act 2018 was introduced to parliament. The Bill, amongst other things, provides for a system of mandatory registration and inspection of swimming pools and spas.

We understand that there is some concern within the sector about the potential implications of this bill for councils, and seek to address some of those concerns.

Under the Bill, councils would be required to maintain a register of all swimming pools and spas appurtenant to residential buildings which have either been registered with the council or which the council is aware of within its municipality.

The Bill also provides for regulation making powers to establish a mandatory registration and inspection regime of swimming pools and spas. It is vital to note that any such regulations will go through a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) process with public consultation. However, both the drafting of the regulation making powers and the Second Reading speech point to a requirement on owners of spas and pools to arrange for inspections, rather than this requirement being on council. This interpretation is shared by Simone Holding of Maddocks in this Lexology article, “Importantly the obligation to carry out mandatory inspections will not rest with Council”.

Public consultation for the Building Interim Regulations 2017 included a suggestion to address pool and spa barrier compliance through requiring all pools and spas to comply with the most recent barrier standards, rather than the current standards which vary based on when the pool was installed. This had the potential to be extremely onerous for councils to enforce, even with the proposed three-year lead-time, and there was insufficient evidence to suggest that it would improve pool safety.

Instead, the MAV along with the Victorian Municipal Building Surveyors Group (VMBSG) and other stakeholders advocated for a system of mandatory registration and regular inspections. In the case of the MAV we requested feedback from all councils on this, and of the 38 that responded the overwhelming majority supported both mandatory registration and mandatory regular inspections.

Both our advocacy and that of the VMBSG focused on the need for the owner to be the primary person responsible for registering their pool or spa, engaging a qualified person to perform inspections, and lodging proof of compliance resulting from that inspection with council within the required timeframe. Our understanding is that this will be reflected in the model proposed under the RIS, and that direct intervention by councils will be limited to cases where the owner of a registered pool or spa has not supplied evidence of compliance within a required timeframe. We are committed to working with DELWP and the VBA to ensure that councils have the capacity to fulfil these responsibilities.

The issue of resourcing is an issue that goes beyond spa and pool barrier fences and affects the entire building regulatory system. Council’s role as a building regulator rarely operates to cost recovery and is generally subsidised by other activities or revenue streams. Even where councils have the necessary funds, it is increasingly difficult to find enough suitably qualified persons to carry out the work. We are keen to raise this as a broader issue facing the building regulatory system in Victoria.

We also wish to reiterate that Local Government already has responsibility under Section 212 of the Building Act to administer and enforce the Act and regulations within their municipality, and this extends to spa and pool fences. We believe that moving to a model where the responsibilities of council are more clearly defined and have a dedicated funding stream through prescribed fees would be a positive step forward.

We will be strongly advocating for the interests of the sector when the time comes through the RIS process, and will be seeking your input to inform that advocacy. We will also continue to work with the State in the meantime to attempt to ensure that the options presented as part of that RIS are reasonable and workable for local government.

While much depends on the detail of the regulations, we believe that there is a significant opportunity to improve not only the state of pool and spa safety but also the position of local government. If the RIS proposes options which are unworkable for local government, we will oppose them strongly.

We understand that John Prendergast, President of the VMBSG, has written to all Municipal Building Surveyors on this issue.

If you wish to discuss this further, please contact Emlyn Breese at the MAV, telephone 03 9667 5534.

Warm regards

Kerry

Kerry Thompson | Chief Executive Officer

Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)
Level 12, 60 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000 | GPO Box 4326, Melbourne 3001
Ph: (03) 9667 5502 | Fax: (03) 9667 5550 | Email: kthompson@mav.asn.au
Website: www.mav.asn.au | Extranet: www.mav.asn.au/extranet