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MAV MEDIA RELEASE

UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY TO

FIX OUR BUILDING REGULATORY SYSTEM

8 April 2021
Significant changes to the building regulatory system are needed to improve community safety and address conflicts of interest, the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) advocated today.

The MAV made the announcement with the release of the Framework for Reform discussion paper by the Victorian Government’s independent expert panel looking at Victoria’s building regulatory system.
The panel is undertaking the most comprehensive review of the building system since the introduction of private building surveyors in the early 1990s.

The review recognises major longstanding problems in Victoria’s building system. It provides a not-to-be-missed opportunity to make the changes needed to give Victorians the protection and confidence they deserve.
MAV President, Cr David Clark, explained that one of the most glaring problems in the current system is the inherent conflict of interest in the private building surveyor model.

“This is a discussion we have to have and an unprecedented opportunity to right a wrong – for the safety of all Victorians, the first priority must be protecting families,” Cr Clark said.

“We must have a building system that focuses on ensuring buildings are safe and compliant with building codes, rather than satisfying developers. Allowing developers to employ their own building surveyor, as they can in the current system, is incompatible with a rigorous system of regulation.

“We need to move to a system where building surveyors are no longer conflicted between their role as regulators and accommodating the developer that employs them. This will improve community safety, consumer protection, and the integrity of the construction industry. It will also provide a level playing field for the many building surveyors already doing the right thing.

“We have all seen the results of poor building regulation in Victoria, the cost and stress it creates for those left to mop up the mess is enormous.

“We shouldn’t for a minute think the problems with Victoria’s building regulatory system are contained to high-rise apartment buildings and flammable cladding. We’ve seen issues with every type of building – these are always costly for owners, and too often they’ve tragically resulted in loss of life and serious injury.

“There’s been excavation work collapsing and endangering neighbouring properties. Balconies and decks have collapsed, residents in new estates finding mould and being told their best option is to demolish and start again. We’ve had whole suburbs covered in smoke from chemicals burning in warehouses never designed to hold them and without the necessary fire suppression systems.

“We need comprehensive changes to address all these problems, not just tinkering around the edges.”
The discussion paper includes three possible reform models put forward by stakeholders including one by the MAV. Our model would have the Victorian Building Authority assign inspections to private surveyors, rather than have the surveyors employed by developers.

The MAV has called for an increased council role in the enforcement of building compliance, noting that this must be supported by additional resourcing through the building levy. The proposal is in keeping with the Victorian Municipal Building Surveyors Group, which has put forward an alternative model which also seeks to increase councils’ role and ensure that inspections are independent from developers.

Cr Clark added that the regulators currently lack the role clarity and resourcing they need to succeed.
“There will be many voices claiming we can’t afford to take the steps necessary to solve these problem – the reality is we can’t afford not to, effective regulation is essential not only for public safety but for the sustainability of the construction industry” Cr Clark said.

“We support councils playing an increased role in the regulatory system. As the level of government closest to the community councils are best placed to be responsive to local issues and bring independence to the regulatory role. This increased role must be adequately resourced, rather than leaving ratepayers to subsidise the regulation necessary to support the construction industry.

“Councils have a long and proud history in employing Municipal Building Surveyors to protect public safety and who operate without the inherent conflict of interest embedded in the current private building surveyor model.”
The MAV is urging all Victorians to provide their feedback calling for a strong and independent building regulatory system that serves the public, not developers. Consultation on these reforms is open until 19 May on the Engage Victoria website.

For further information, contact the MAV Communications Unit on (03) 9667 5590.


Media Release – Regulator takes outsourcing websites to task

Media Release Monday, 1 March 2021

 Media Enquiries: Clayton Bennett – Senior Media Adviser 0417 854 245 or clayton.bennett@vba.vic.gov.au

 Regulator takes outsourcing websites to task

Victorians should be wary of anyone offering their building or plumbing services on online marketplaces and through apps.

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) warns that consumers should always check the credentials of anyone advertising on online platforms to make sure they are a registered or licensed professional.

The VBA is currently investigating a number of unregistered people advertising their services through online forums.

The VBA’s Executive Director of Operations Lynda McAlary-Smith said consumers should make sure they are dealing with a registered or licensed practitioner before agreeing to any work.

“Anyone looking to hire someone to work on their home should take some simple steps to protect themselves and their properties,” she said.

“You can check whether the builder or plumber you’re looking to use is registered with the VBA and whether they’ve faced any disciplinary action.”

Ms McAlary-Smith said that in some cases, people will pretend to be registered builders or licensed plumbers and carry out works that require proper training and accreditation.

This includes the installation of gas heaters or the construction of walls, both of which can have critical safety risks if installed or constructed incorrectly.

“Repairing or rectifying non-compliant work can also run into the thousands of dollars, putting added financial strain on homeowners,” she said.

“Building a house or renovating is often the biggest investment most people will ever make, so it is important homeowners protect themselves.”

In Victoria, consumers need to use a registered builder or building company for domestic building work worth more than $10,000.

To hire a plumber, always check that their registration or licence allows them to do the work needed.

Five signs your builder or plumber is unregistered or unlicensed:

  • • They cannot be found on the VBA’s Find A Practitioner search engine
  • • They do not ask you to enter into a written contract before work begins
  • • They ask for too much money upfront or at each payment stage
  • • They are not prepared to tell you about, or show you, examples of recent work or provide contact details of former clients
  • • They cannot or will not show you their VBA ID card

To find a registered builder or a registered or licensed plumber, go to vba.vic.gov.au/find

Visit the VBA consumer portal for tips on home renovation.


Public Consultation Required

A discussion paper is now open for public consultation in response to the Building Confidence Report. 

To varying degrees, all jurisdictions rely on private building surveyors as part of their building approvals process. The integrity of the process and those involved is essential to achieving National Construction Code compliant buildings.

Building Confidence Report (BCR) recommendations 9 and 11 relate specifically to private building surveyors:

  • Recommendation 9: That each jurisdiction establishes minimum statutory controls to mitigate conflicts of interest and increase transparency of the engagement and responsibilities of private building surveyors.
  • Recommendation 11: That each jurisdiction provides private building surveyors with enhanced supervisory powers and mandatory reporting obligations.

The objectives of these recommendations are to mitigate conflicts of interest, increase transparency in engagement and statutory responsibilities, provide enhanced supervisory powers and require mandatory reporting.

In response to these recommendations, the BCR Implementation Team has developed a discussion paper to facilitate stakeholder input and feedback into the content of the proposed model guidance. The feedback will test if the guidance meets the objectives of BCR recommendations 9 and 11, and the needs of those impacted.

Providing comment

Responses to questions in the discussion paper above are invited until 11:59PM AEST Monday 26 April 2021, via the ABCB’s Consultation Hub. Only comments submitted using the online form will be considered.

If you have any questions about these consultation, please contact bcrimplementationteam@abcb.gov.au.

    ACCESS CONSULTATION HUB    


Media Release

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Record attendance for building industry conference

More than 700 building practitioners gathered virtually to hear industry experts discuss emerging trends and take part in interactive forums at the Victorian Building Authority’s (VBA) Building Surveyors’ Conference.

The VBA’s CEO Sue Eddy said the theme of the conference was ‘reset and rebuild’.

“The building and construction industry is, and will continue to be, the lifeblood of our economy and building surveyors are a vital conduit to its health and safety.”

“It was great to see so many practitioners attend the event. It’s a mark of confidence in our industry that everyone is so energised to work together and find solutions to common challenges,” Ms Eddy said.

“We all know that 2020 was an unprecedented year. The conference was a chance for us all to discuss the need to prepare for a fundamentally different new normal.”

“Right now, we have key drivers converging, like a new digital frontier, accelerated development in technology and shifting consumer preferences coupled with the economic recovery from coronavirus.”

“This year we’ll adapt, even more, learn new ways to collaborate and embrace new technologies that will help the industry rebuild and flourish.”

Among the 25 speakers who presented at the two-day event were Dame Judith Hackitt, who led the inquiry into London’s Grenfell Tower tragedy and Peter Shergold, the Chancellor of Western Sydney University.

Dame Judith shared the United Kingdom’s experience of competence and regulatory responsibility while Mr Shergold spoke about how regulation is a key to public trust.

Victoria’s State Building Surveyor Andrew Cialini also announced the regulator’s new Practitioner Education Series, an initiative which combines masterclasses and Essential Safety Measures webinars.

“This series is aimed at prioritised building industry learning needs identified from our other risk-based activities and will help support the industry by providing practical insights, evidence-based strategies and useful resources,” Mr Cialini said.

“It is an exciting opportunity for practitioners to gain valuable learnings from subject matter experts.” Starting the series in late March will be a webinar from the VBA’s Principal Fire Safety Engineer Dr Weng Poh. Dr Poh will discuss the requirements for the construction of fire rated elements in construction.

Media Enquiries: Clayton Bennett – Senior Media Adviser 0417 854 245 or clayton.bennett@vba.vic.gov.au


[VBA media release] Building and plumbing work to continue with precautions

Media Release
Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Media Enquiries: Hugh McMaster – Senior Communications Advisor
0413 730 221 or hugh.mcmaster@vba.vic.gov.au
Building and plumbing work to continue with precautions
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is urging Victorians to take extra precautions to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) when using a builder or plumber.


The Victorian Government has designated construction work as essential, meaning builders, plumbers and other trades are still carrying out jobs in homes, other buildings and on construction sites.


Trades must comply with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidelines for the Building and Construction Industry, which have been endorsed by building and construction unions and employer and industry associations.
Builders, plumbers and other trades can continue to work in private homes and buildings if the owner or tenant is not self-isolating or in quarantine.
However, if the owner or tenant has coronavirus, feels unwell with a fever or has cold or flu-like symptoms, they should postpone any non-urgent work.

An exception exists for any building or plumbing issues that pose a serious risk to health or safety.


For these urgent or emergency cases, homeowners are permitted to call a builder or plumber, but they must inform the tradesperson they are self-isolating, so the trade can take all necessary safety precautions.
Urgent works include blocked or burst pipes, blocked stormwater drains, roof leaks, collapsed balconies, ceilings or walls, faulty heaters, gas leaks, no hot water and non-functional smoke alarms.
The VBA’s State Building Surveyor, Andrew Cialini, said Victoria’s building practitioners and trades were following the recommended safety precautions when attending to jobs at people’s homes.
“Builders and plumbers are making important changes to their work practices to help reduce the risk of infection and keep everyone safe,” said Mr Cialini.


All trades must take precautions to reduce the spread of infection. These include:

• sanitising their hands before entering a home and frequently while they are there
• staying at least 1.5 metres from other people – or wearing a mask if this is not possible
• working with one person per four square metres of space, whenever possible
• covering their nose and mouth with their upper arm, a flexed elbow or a tissue when coughing and sneezing, then washing their hands afterwards
• wiping down their tools and equipment with alcohol wipes.


“By handwashing more frequently, adopting physical distancing and wearing personal protective equipment, Victoria’s trades are keeping this vital industry open,” Mr Cialini said.


“Builders and plumbers understand the importance of workplace health and safety, and now more than ever, it’s important we all follow the government’s advice to keep people safe.”

Homeowners looking for a registered building practitioner or a registered or licensed plumber should visit vba.vic.gov.au/find to find a tradesperson in their local area.


VBA inspectors are continuing to inspect building and plumbing work across the state for compliance.

“Our inspectors have a critical public safety function, so they are out on the street, inspecting properties. They’ll be taking all necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe,” said Mr Cialini.
For further information on the coronavirus, visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au.


Fire Rescue Victoria

Good afternoon,

Please find the attached letter regarding Fire Rescue Victoria, on behalf of David Bruce, Acting CEO/Chief Officer, Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board.

Regards,

Jane Sexton

Executive Assistant to David Bruce,

Acting CEO/Chief Officer; Jasmine Doak, President

Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board


Protect Your home from Bushfire – VBA Media Release

Media Release

12 December 2019

Earlier start to Australia’s bushfire season brings forward the need to prepare your property

The Victorian Building Authority has backed the 2019-20 Victorian Fire Season Campaign with a range of last-minute measures homeowners can still take to help prepare their properties ahead of what promises to be a highly challenging bushfire season.

Australia’s 2019-20 bushfire season got off to an early, devastating start, with blazes in New South Wales and Queensland destroying almost three million hectares of vegetation and more than 740 properties and claiming six lives since late August-early September.

Fortunately, despite parts of Victoria reporting their driest winter and spring on record, the state has so far avoided the same fate as its northern neighbours – with a small number of relatively smaller fires reported, and only one ‘Code Red’ fire danger day declared. However, as history shows, things can change swiftly, and a long, hot summer lies ahead.

The VBA Director of Technical and Regulation, Dr Darryl O’Brien, said Victorians should use this reprieve to ensure their fire safety and survival plans are in place and take steps to protect their homes as best possible, including from ember attack, which has been shown to be the key factor in more than 85 per cent of houses destroyed by bushfire.

“There are some easy and affordable actions people can still take to prepare their homes before the full force of summer arrives, particularly in relation to ember attack. We would encourage people in bushfire-prone areas to act quickly,” Dr O’Brien said.

The actions include:

  • Sealing gaps with joining strips, silicon weather strips, draught excluders on side-hung doors
  • Sealing vents and weep holes in external walls with corrosion resistant steel, bronze or aluminium mesh
  • Sealing around roofing and roof penetrations
  • If an evaporative cooler is installed, protecting it with a mesh screen
  • Clearing leaves from gutters and considering installing an appropriate leaf-guard type product
  • Checking that your gutters are in good condition and will hold water if you block the downpipes
  • Enclosing the subfloor of your home with a non-combustible material
  • Installing shutters or metal flyscreens to doors and windows.

Dr O’Brien said a Registered Building Practitioner can advise on whether property owners can retrofit safety elements, and to what extent it is possible before bushfire season is fully upon us.

“In addition to these steps, routine building maintenance, vegetation management and the removal of flammable materials close to buildings are easy bushfire protection measures you can take,” he said.

The VBA and the CFA have produced the Guide to Retrofit Your Home for Better Protection from a Bushfire as practical information for people wishing upgrade to their existing homes to be better protected from bushfires. The guide is for properties up to Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) 29.

For more information on the 2019-20 Victorian Fire Season campaign, visit the campaign website, the VBA website for a range of information on building and bushfires, or the CFA website to view information on home improvements and other preparations to make your house safer.


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

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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