Two New Zealand councils have called for the government to introduce warranties into new building legislation to protect ratepayers and councils from the financial fallout of dodgy building and construction practices.
The New Zealand Herald reports that councils and ratepayers have been left to foot bills for shoddy building work in the past and that councils in Christchurch and Wellington have called for the introduction of a new warranty scheme to protect consumers and local authorities from liability when builders do not produce proper work.
“Councils end up as the last man standing,” Christchurch councillor Sue Wells has told a parliamentary select committee. “There is no warranty scheme that will protect the ratepayers of Christchurch or throughout the country in the event that any of these licensed building practitioners undertaking repairs or rebuilds don’t do it well.”
Wells says as many as 10,000 tradespeople were expected to be involved in the rebuild of Christchurch following last year’s earthquake, and that the costs would be substantial if even a small portion of them did unsatisfactory work.
“We’re looking at a $30 billion rebuild,” Wells says. “We’re looking at 30-40,000 major repairs in our city over the next five years of over $150,000 per dwelling. You start to get a bit of sense of why we have some concerns and why we think there’s a gap here.”
The calls come as many councils throughout the country have had to fork out millions of dollars over recent years to finance their part of a financial assistance package to home owners after tens of thousands of homes constructed over the past two decades failed to live up to weathertightness standards.
Under the package, councils that elected to participate in the scheme paid 25 per cent of repair and restoration costs, with the government contributing a further 25 per cent and homeowners having to meet the balance.
The calls also come as the Building Amendment Bill currently before parliament seeks to improve accountability within the construction industry.
That bill, if passed, would require builders to show their track record before taking on a job and would require any defects to be fixed within 12 months without question and regardless of the cause.
The new laws are aimed at cleaning up industry practices, which have been the subject of intense criticism following the leaky homes debacle.
Wells says, however, that the reforms do not go far enough and that builders in the past have regularly shut down their companies to escape liability.
She says the Council wants a mandatory warranty scheme for new homes and significant alterations which would be effective for 10 years.
Meanwhile, John Scott, Wellington City Council manager of building consents and licensing services, has called for a surety fund, which would be paid for either by the government or the industry.
Wells says remedies for dodgy work must be sufficient to provide an incentive for building firms to avoid the cost of subsequent remedial work.