A dispute resolution board (DRB) will likely be used during construction of the North West Rail Link project in Sydney in a bid to help ensure the project is not unduly stalled by industrial action or contractual disputes.
Former New South Wales Premiere Nick Greiner, now the head of Infrastructure New South Wales, says that since international use of DRBs became more widespread since 1987, roughly 30 such arrangements have been used in Australia. In that time, Greiner told a DBR conference in Sydney on Friday, DRBs have prevented dozens of issues from escalating into disputes.
Greiner says DRBs are in place for the current South West Rail project as well as the Wynyard walkway, which is part of central Sydney’s Barangaroo development, and that it was highly likely they would be used on the North West Rail Link as well.
“The North West Rail Link, which is being prepared at the moment, is expected to use DRBs on its major contracts” Greiner says.
A DRB is a panel of three impartial reviewers designed to solve problems between parties in a construction or infrastructure contract. Where an issue is not resolved by negotiation between the Principal and the Contractor, it is formally referred to the board, which is required to present a recommendation within a short period of time.
While a recommendation of the DRB is usually not binding, the process does provide a possible avenue for expedient dispute resolution should both parties agree to the panel’s recommendations.
The move to use a DRB comes during an increasingly turbulent time in the New South Wales construction industry. Following the collapse of 102-year-old construction firm Kell & Rigby, which went into receivership in February and was subsequently liquidated in April, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union called for a public inquiry into the industry in March, saying tendering and payment practices within the industry were forcing some builders to work at unrealistic prices.