A Certifier’s Response to … ‘The Certifier of the Tower deemed to be the Worst Development in Sydney is under Investigation!’

WE are all aware that there are some Certifiers who have worked in cahoots with dodgy developers, however, they should not all be tarred with the same brush!

CAAN shares this response from Steven to this article issued on CAAN about the Certifier under investigation regarding the high-rise development in Auburn.


Steven wrote:

The issues at this site are not the Certifiers doing, they are the dodgy builder and his dodgy sub contractors doings. Being under investigation does not mean being guilty.

When is the Government going to focus on the developer/builder instead of over regulating the regulator?

Certifiers can get fines of up to 200K and be tarnished through the media whilst these inept developer/builders continually get away with the same ‘shit’, and aren’t subject to fines or reprimands.

CAAN:  We wrote in the text to our intro: ‘Was Mr Storer employed by the developer, and if so, did the developer exert pressure upon the Certifier to issue the occupation certificate?

Following which Merhis was able to get customers who had bought apartments off the plan to settle!

In which case it would seem the developer ought be under investigation!’

Steven:  It’s not so much a matter of whether the developers exert pressure on Certifiers or not because most times Certifiers don’t even deal with the developer directly and more so deal with the principle contractor/builder.

The big issue is unskilled labour and poor workmanship by tradies and builders working to stupid time frames and not quality controlling their trades.

It’s not the Certifiers role to ensure quality control and we get wrapped into these messes because certain tradies and builders don’t give an F!

You can do an online course and be a builder or PM in 12 months!

You don’t need a licence or any qualification to install fire doors, fire seals, build fire walls, fire rate floors, columns etc, etc

But yet there is an expectation that Certifiers should be responsible for these imb.ciles and their lack of knowledge. We are constantly fighting with tradies regarding these issues (which is not our role).

For your info, to be an A1 Certifier you need a minimum of 6 years study and 8-10 years in the industry.

Our minimum PI insurance policies are circa 200+ pa.

On the flip side, to install a fire door to your apartment, the tradie needs a chisel, a drill, a tool bag, no licence, qualifications or insurance!

Why and how do we have a system where this is permissible?

Why is it that this Certifier is likely to now get fined for poor workmanship by tradies and the builder? Yet the tradies probably won’t even know about it, and be currently installing the same shit on the next apartment.

You want to fix the problem, start fining and reprimanding builders and tradies for unskilled and poor workmanship, and watch the quality of work surprisingly increase!

NSW is going to be left with no Certifiers willing to work in residential apartments very soon. Already 70% of Certifiers refuse to touch it,  and in that 70% sits the top end of town.

This Certifier is being tarnished because the SMH just like every other news outlet thrives on shock media. Why don’t they focus on the builder and his tradies?





The apartment block at 93 Auburn Road has significant building defects.
The apartment block at 93 Auburn Road has significant building defects.CREDIT:RHETT WYMAN

The Certifier of the Tower deemed to be the Worst Development in Sydney is under investigation

The apartment block at 93 Auburn Road has significant building defects.
The apartment block at 93 Auburn Road has significant building defects.CREDIT:RHETT WYMAN

Jason Storer, the Certifier who issued an interim occupation certificate for the Merhis Auburn Tower is under investigation. 

Was Mr Storer employed by the developer, and if so, did the developer exert pressure upon the Certifier to issue the occupation certificate?

Following which Merhis was able to get customers who had bought apartments off the plan to settle!

In which case it would seem the developer ought be under investigation!

MEANWHILE the Fair Trading investigation into Maurice Freixas who issued an occupation certificate for Peak Towers, the apartment building next to the Mascot Towers which the owners allege was the cause of the cracking in the Mascot Towers.

The Commissioner will be able to withhold occupation certificates so builders or developers will not be able to force buyers to settle on properties with defects.

If a buyer has taken a bank loan can they obtain insurance so that they are not forced in a predicament like this to either lose their deposit or buy and hope for the best?

Now that this development is under investigation what does that mean for the protection of the buyers investments?



A 16-Storey Auburn Apartment Tower nominated as the Worst for Defects opening the way for an Industry Shake-Up

CAN you believe it … that this is the worst? …

When they are everywhere!

NO doubt David Chandler has seen as bad if not worse …

DID the Commissioner have to back off from referring those who it seems have been instrumental in planning law changes in NSW?

WE know they hold the reins with their annointed one from the Property Council in Canberra … he who wrote their policy before entering politics …


SERIOUSLY … how can the Commissioner cut through?

IS this about NSW INC appearing to clean up the industry?

Focusing on a 16-storey Auburn apartment building full of fire hazards and defects months after owners and tenants moved in … when Sydney Precincts are riddled with defects

WHY has NSW INC delayed the powers of the NSW Building Commissioner until 1 September?

THE Commissioner visited this development by Merhis in October last year … at the urging of Fire and Rescue NSW because only one of its two lifts worked and it failed to meet fire safety, structural, and waterproofing standards!

IS the delay due to give this Cohort time to address (to fudge) issues?  Because the Commissioner will be returning to this Merhis development on 1 September …

DESPITE this Merhis … not unlike his mates … describes the buildings as ‘architectural landmarks of the finest standard’…

HOWEVER, the Commissioner has managed to get the new laws passed whereby with developments less than 10 years old owners can now sue those responsible for the defects.

-occupation certificates can be withheld

A further three orders were issued by the council with concerns about construction integrity.  When the Commissioner had found a lift shaft so far out of plumb the installers were unable to find a vertical pathway for the lift.  A layer of concrete was removed to make the lift fit but they had to resort to installing a smaller lift!

Yet the builder/developer claimed that many were latent defects or caused by extreme weather events or damage by tenants …



RELATED ARTICLE: https://caanhousinginequalitywithaussieslockedout.com/2020/06/16/will-the-new-nsw-building-laws-make-apartment-living-safe-and-secure/?fbclid=IwAR3Nw0SCpLNTbvEMVvMZUzEARQgfaEdAscDFelv17zTlu6SjXo6eLXLCbVQ

The Auburn apartment tower the building commissioner has named as 'probably the worst' he has seen.
The Auburn apartment tower the building commissioner has named as ‘probably the worst’ he has seen. CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY

WILL the ‘New’ NSW Building Laws make Apartment Living Safe and Secure?

New NSW building law could be a game changer for apartment safety

Photo: The Conversation: New NSW building law could be a game changer

WILL the ‘New’ NSW Building Laws make Apartment Living Safe & Secure?

UNTIL now … apartment owners have had numerous obstructions in their way to seek redress! They will now be able to launch claims over cladding, water proofing and fire safety defects!

Two bills were passed last week … expected to take effect on 1 September 2020!

-The Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2020

-The Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Bill 2020

At the heart of the legislation … the Secretary of the Department of Customer Service will be able to order the correction of ‘serious defects’ in residential apartments.

-such powers will apply up to 10 years after an occupation certificate was provided

-to ensure defects are rectified prior to residents occupation a prohibition order can be provided to delay an occupation certificate

With the power to order rectification after developments are completed and the statutory duty of care will attract attention across Australia!

This is at the core of private development and the quality of developments too often left wanting …

IF one takes a moment to observe many Tradies … sadly they are always in a hurry … chasing the $$ … if the client questions they are told ‘Don’t stress’.  Unfortunately all too often the job can be left done with little care (half-arsed) to move onto the next job … and the next …

WHERE did this attitude stem from? Often it seems in contempt?

APART from the lack of pride in their work what has contributed to this?

-the demise of TAFE

-the loss of apprenticeships

-the shortage of qualified trades people

-the importation of Visa workers whose training may be unknown!

THAT aside Tradies/Contractors command very high fees e.g. $198/200 an hour compared to the $30/$50 (or less) for the rest of us!

Put that in the context of a multi-storey apartment development …

HENCE the need for defects to be rectified prior to the issue of the occupation certificate.

-the contractors then remain under pressure under their contracts

HOWEVER it is the ‘Developer’s Project’ and the developer calls the shots including cost cutting …

Is this where the contempt stems from?

WHAT will happen now … with this Sector having it so good for so long?

Will developers resort to the appeal mechanism? And in turn the contractors, subbies, and others … will they resort to relief provisions in their contracts?

WHAT then for the apartment owners and tenants?

WILL NSW INC ensure the Regulator has the resources?

MEANWHILE there’s hope … because NSW Lawmakers it appears have the momentum to attain the reform needed!





New NSW building law could be a game changer for apartment safety
Photo: The Conversation; David Chandler OAM; NSW Building Commissioner

THE NEWS we’ve been waiting for … Since it was discovered that MASCOT TOWERS were on unstable ground with loss of soil!

THE owners have voted to sue neighbouring property developer Aland over cracks

Image may contain: tree, sky and outdoor
CAAN Photo: Mascot Towers June 2019


LAST Week the Mascot Towers Owners Corporation voted to take legal action against ALAND, the developer of Peak Towers

A statement has been issued which reveals:

-the owners corporation has claimed following excavation work cracks appeared at Mascot Towers

-those constructing Peak Towers removed soil that supported the Mascot Towers

-that Aland’s shoring system was under-designed; piles incorrectly built; with inadequate waterproofing

-October 2019 tests found a loss of soil under the Mascot Towers near the boundary of Peak Towers

-earlier Aland refused to provide the engineers for Mascot Towers with access to inspect the Peak Towers basement

WILL NSW INC heed a message from this? With much of Sydney built on weathered sandstone ridges … and overdevelopment especially in and around Mascot … Ryde … Macquarie Park … MEADOWBANK … Sydney Olympic Park … the Upper North Shore that the Mascot Towers, the Opal Tower maybe but an indicator of more to come!


‘Mascot Tower owners vote to sue neighbouring property developer Aland over cracks’


Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor

CAAN Photo: Mascot Towers June 2019

MASCOT TOWERS Apartment Owners being forced to take the Least Worst Option with Repair Bill of $53M

Image may contain: sky, tree, cloud and outdoor
CAAN Photo: Mascot Towers

Amy Greenbank writes in ‘Mascot Towers repair bill to hit $53 million prompting owners to consider selling’

Ongoing problems with the troubled Mascot Towers apartment building could see the repair bill blow out to more than $50 million, leaked emails reveal.

Key points:

  • Initial estimates put the repair bill at $7 million but that’s blown out to $32 million plus
  • An extra $21.5 million in interest on a 15-year loan will bring the final bill to $53.5 million
  • One apartment owner says the developer has gone into liquidation and can’t be held responsible for the bill

Mascot Towers, in Sydney’s south, has been plagued by structural issues and cracking since the complex was evacuated almost a year ago.

Now, owners are considering selling the beleaguered development.’

$10M more than previous estimates; an average of $400,000 for each owner (132 units)

‘Treacy Sheehan owns a three-bedroom penthouse in the complex and expects to pay an additional $5,000 a month towards the repairs.’

-in addition to strata fees, mortgages, utilities

‘A confidential email, obtained by the ABC, was sent to the building’s owners on Wednesday night by the Strata Committee.’

-the increased costs are due to problems with the facade

-a total of $3,880,000 allocated for the facade repair

WHAT have these home owners paid insurance for?

WHY isn’t the insurance industry demanding higher standards, restoration of regulations and standards to prevent these dire consequences?

-defective construction is widespread throughout the housing industry; not confined to apartment development

WHY isn’t the NSW Government going after the assets of the developer and builder?

WHAT is stopping them?

WHAT of the damage it is believed that has occurred due to the neighbouring construction of Peak Towers?

WHY should home owners be put in this predicament whereby they lose to benefit another developer who can buy this property at its land value to render Mascot Towers owners either homeless or to take on greater debt?

File:Johnny-automatic-scales-of-justice.svg - Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Johnny-automatic-scales-of-justice.svg From Wikimedia Commons

HOMEOWNERS are being forced to take the least-worst option … meanwhile the developer is free of responsibility through the ‘get out of gaol free card’ of liquidation … how convenient is that? Have these grubs got it all sewn up?

THE NSW Government it appears is doing the least it can do in covering rent for the displaced owners and residents while rectification work is being carried out. Simultaneously the government has launched yet another inquiry into building standards headed up by a Commissioner with limited powers …



Image may contain: sky, tree and outdoor
CAAN Photo: Mascot Towers 2019


THE brother of the very well-known developer Jean Nassif … Sarkis Nassif … ‘if there is one thing Sarkis Nassif hates, it’s being compared with his brother!’

Sarkis is richer … hasn’t been busted for cocaine possession … nor the subject of spoof online videos about a yellow Lamborghini …

Sarkis Nassif tarted working as a form worker for $60 a day in the 1980ss. He is now one of the state’s most successful developers.
Sarkis Nassif tarted working as a form worker for $60 a day in the 1980ss. He is now one of the state’s most successful developers; Daily Telegraph;

‘He’s gone on to make a hell of a lot of money turning Parramatta, MEADOWBANK, Burwood and Auburn into high-density neighbourhoods.’

Within the industry insiders say “he’s very well regarded and seen as decent to do business with”.

HOWEVER in July 2019 two Ryde apartment blocks built by Holdmark were issued with orders over concerns they had combustible cladding.

Read more: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/concrete-kings-of-sydney-leaving-their-footprints-across-the-suburbs/news-story/ca28985fac5bfcd931acf0490df9a3e7

AND now as reported by Ben Pike in ‘Holdmark Property Group’s Meadowbank apartment “defective” ‘ the Holdmark Property Group is accused of failing to fix significant defects at its 250 apartment Meadowbank development project 14 months after residents moved in …

Rod Jackson and fellow owners fear they could face enormous repair bills despite only having moved in a little over 12 months and a warranty period of six years!

Mr Jackson in 2018 bought a two-bedroom apartment off the plan for $970,000 claims Holdmark has failed to fix rotting gyprock walls, leaking lifts, glue bleeding out of the external stairs, crumbling sandstone walls and a central water fountain that remains closed.

‘The defects are so bad NSW Builder Commissioner David Chandler has personally stepped in to try and help desperate residents get the problems fixed.

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper and outdoor

CAAN Photo from our ‘Godzillas with execessive Footprints’ report: Holdmark’s Nancarrow Avenue, Meadowbank development.

“These defects are a direct consequence of poor tradesmanship and shoddy building practice,” Mr Jackson said.

Further, a 10m wall on Nancarrow Ave will soon collapse without some serious rectification.

-a staircase with its wall collapsing with movement

WHY is it that the home owners believe they will have to wear the cost of demolition and reconstruction of the wall?

Thing sandstone tiles falling off the walls.
Thing sandstone tiles falling off the walls. Daily Teleraph Photo
The wall next to 6 Nancarrow Ave, Meadowbank. Picture: Christian Gilles
The wall next to 6 Nancarrow Ave, Meadowbank. Picture: Christian Gilles

‘A structural engineer, who did not want to be named, said “there might be some localised risk of dislodgement of small pieces of block or render — which even small pieces can be very dangerous falling from a height”.’

The Sunday Telegraph obtained a copy of the strata committee’s annual general meeting held in January which reveals the owners have had to engage lawyers to get Holdmark to fix the defects with a 20% strata fee increase to initiate legal proceedings

Image may contain: sky, skyscraper, tree and outdoor

CAAN Photo: the wall referred to above is next to this apartment development at 6 Nancarrow Avenue, Meadowbank.

Meanwhile the NSW Fair Trading Commissioner has assigned a case manager for the matter to assist these home owners. The Building Commissioner, David Chandler has got a commitment from Mr Nassif to attend to the concerns

Holdmark was provided with a list of questions including why so many Harvard building apartments owned by the company remain empty.

PERHAPS CAAN can answer that question … because it is a consequence, no doubt, of the FIRB Ruling allowing developers like Holdmark to sell up to 100% of ‘new homes’ to foreign buyers who can park their money in Australia’s domestic real estate, and leave them vacant

Foreign buyers can also launder ‘black money’ in residential property because the Real Estate Gatekeepers are exempt from Anti-Money Laundering Laws (Morrison Govt October 2018)

*WHY not share to let others know? SEARCH CAAN Website for reports on these matters … *

The Harvard Building Apartment Owners were fobbed off with the reply:

“As the building you refer to has been handed over to the Body Corporate Association, your questions should be sent directly to them for comment,” the spokeswoman said.

“Holdmark is absolutely committed to maintaining an ongoing association with the body corporate for the building during the statutory warranty period.

The external stairwell has been closed for more than a year and is next to a wall owner Rod Jackson claims could collapse within two years.
The external stairwell has been closed for more than a year and is next to a wall owner Rod Jackson claims could collapse within two years.

AND that Holdmark would continue to work with the body corporate and strata manager to resolve any issue brought to their attention.

IS that good enough? WHY should owners not only at Holdmark’s Meadowbank development but home owners across the board ‘face financial ruin’ from defective work? For two-bed homes close on $1M?

ASK why are the Building Commissioner’s powers are so limited? Cough … cough …

2012 study by City Futures surveyed 1,020 strata owners across NSW, and found 72% of all respondents (85% in buildings built since 2000) knew of at least one significant defect in their complex.

damning 2015 report from Engineers Australia found that 85% of new strata units were defective on completion and the certification system in NSW had “broken down”.

In 2017 a City of Sydney survey identified defects and maintenance as the top concern of owner occupiers of apartments, along with short-term letting through organisations such as Airbnb.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said:

“The extent of defects in high rise apartments are so widespread that I would find it difficult to believe any apartment constructed in the last decade is free of them,” he said.

“The most common, and often the most expensive, problem that keeps being identified is the failure of waterproofing.”





Virus to exacerbate building construction bust


Photo: TUD

AUSTRALIA used to make ‘everything’ … will business learn from the CV? We are hearing that there will be changes! A return to onshore manufacturing … do we hear that?

AND so much of what is imported now is of a lesser quality, and we wonder why we have a landfill problem?

Virus to exacerbate building construction bust

Leith van Onselen

By Leith van Onselen in Australian EconomyAustralian Property

March 10, 2020 | 4 comments

2020 was already shaping as a tough year for Australia’s construction industry.

According to the ABS, dwelling approvals collapsed in the 2019 calendar year, down 28% from peak, with commencements following close behind:

*Now, (the) picture has worsened with Australian Shop & Office Fitting Industry Association CEO, Gerard Ryan, claiming its members are looking at delays to projects of up to six weeks because the corona­virus outbreak is delaying the supply of products from overseas:

Major building projects involving shops, offices, airports and hotels are set to be delayed by at least a month because of the corona­virus

Australian Shop and Office Fitting Industry Association CEO Gerard Ryan said his members were preparing for delays to projects of between four and six weeks, but the longer the outbreak went on, “the worse that will get”.

About 98 per cent of lighting comes from overseas, while marble, tiles, and bathroom and door products are often sourced from Europe.

“Any delay potentially stops the whole project. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle — everything needs to ­follow something else,” Mr Ryan said.

“If you can’t get your tiles or flooring down, that’s going to ­affect something else. If you can’t get your electrical work, cabling and lighting finished then that also affects something else”

Bob Richardson, chairman of the Australian Construction Industry Forum’s research council, said materials for building ­facades, components and finishes were affected as contractors sought extensions for projects.

Australian construction jobs hit a record high 1.2 million in the August quarter of 2019, in spite of the dwelling construction bust:

Now it is facing an epic bust as sites across the nation shutdown.

Leith Van OnselenLeith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

SOURCE: https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2020/03/virus-to-exacerbate-building-construction-bust/


Insurers pull pin after flammable cladding fiasco

London insurer quits PI market

Another insurer has withdrawn from construction’s professional indemnity market. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Photo: Dominic Lorrimer


-I tell you what – make Directors of building firms criminally liable, then let’s talk. The problem with making the taxpayer liable is that you never end up eradicating the bad behaviour – you just encourage more of it.REPLY

-Stop shiitсvnts erecting shiit buildings (many of them can be deported, too). Everything that remains will be insurable.

Or well capitalised and not need insurance in the first place. Those are the free market solutions!

-The solution here has already been done for decades and produced high quality buildings. Get rid of the privatised regulation of the past 20 years. Give regulation back to local government where it belongs, was done efficiently with certifiers employed by Councils and where there is no need for PI insurers for this work. The privatisation model has failed.


Related Article: Foxes in Charge of the Hen House New Building Law has a Fatal Flaw!


Insurers pull pin after flammable cladding fiasco

By Leith van Onselen in Australian Property

at 1:20 pm on March 10, 2020 | 6 comments

Insurers pull pin after flammable cladding fiasco

Last year, the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors (AIBS) released a member communique warning that “the situation around Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance has reached crisis point” with “a real possibility that without government intervention… private building surveyors may be forced out of work and the construction industry across Australia will be significantly impacted”.

The situation arose after some surveyors had failed to gain PI because of risks surrounding flammable cladding, which has been widely used across Australia’s high-rise, unless cladding-related claims are excluded.

Today, The AFR reports that UK-based insurer HDI Speciality is quitting Australia’s professional indemnity insurance sector. Consequently, broker Bovill Risk & Insurance Consultants (BRIC) is trying to find an alternative provider for one fifth of its clients who are building surveyors and certifiers.

According to PwC research, the construction sector has not been profitable for PI insurers since 2011. And the Insurance Council of Australia is calling for a national solution:

“There’s no certainty in the industry about the longevity of availability of insurance,” [Pat Beaumont, BRIC’s manager of professional risk] told The Australian Financial Review.

“You’re fighting tooth and nail to get renewals done, just for every renewal. And the costs and excesses… are not sustainable for many businesses”…

“Because the current PI insurance model is not sustainable, the latest white knight has galloped away, leaving the current unsatisfactory model yet another step closer to collapse,” Australian Institute of Building Surveyors chief executive Brett Mace said.

“Governments can no longer continue to ignore the warning signs of the last two to three years.”

The Insurance Council of Australia said the dilemma facing building industry consultants was no closer to being resolved than when building ministers met last month

“The federal government must implement the Shergold-Weir [report’s] recommendations as a matter of urgency.”

I’m not sure what the answer is. But clearly a national solution is required and the federal government must step up (to) the plate.

Leith Van OnselenLeith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

SOURCE: https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2020/03/insurers-pull-pin-after-flammable-cladding-fiasco/

Foxes in charge of the hen house: new building law has a fatal flaw

Professionals other than Elizabeth Farrelly too have called for a return to a system akin to the former Architect/Engineer/CLERK OF WORKS approach as the way to go to ensure well constructed, safe, serviceable and durable buildings.

The Earth’s resources are finite! Including Sand and Water to make concrete …

YET the Cowboys have been building defective towers with demolition in mind 20, 30 years down the track …

The Earth is being choked with Waste! We are running out of landfill sites!

DEVELOPERS with their Population/Housing Ponzi have enticed foreign buyers to leave their dwellings behind them for duplication here in Australia … the Population Ponzi created the need for the supply that could not meet the foreign demand …


Foxes in charge of the hen house: new building law has a fatal flaw

Elizabeth Farrelly
Elizabeth Farrelly

Columnist, author, architecture critic and essayist

March 7, 2020

View all comments

NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler muses wistfully, in an interview, about “when I get my powers.”

Suddenly I’m seeing capes and catsuits. It makes me want to lob in the word kryptonite, see what happens. But Chandler does have the grace to add, “it’s not about me”. Further, in his defence, it is about powers.

Fixing our broken building system will involve serious, inviolable regulatory powers. Very old school.

So intensely, in fact, does Chandler’s task pivot on re-regulating what has been gleefully, over 30 years, deregulated, that the other lurking presence is a word even scarier than kryptonite. A word even Bernie Sanders scarcely dares breathe. Socialism.

From the top: Erskineville apartment development, Zetland, Homebush Opal Towers and Mascot towers.
From the top: Erskineville apartment development, Zetland, Homebush Opal Towers and Mascot towers.CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY, NICK MOIR, BROOK MITCHELL

Most of the last three decades’ system-demolition has been ideologically driven. Now, perhaps, they’re starting to see sense. Triggered by catastrophe, the new Design and Building Professionals Bill is expected to clear Parliament by month’s end and become fully fledged law, regulations and all, by January 2021.

Most of us have been surprised to find we live in a supposedly first-world state where your building can crack and fall, your balcony collapse, your cladding erupt in flame and your living room flood, rain or no.

Compounding that nasty surprise, hundreds uncertain about the safety or saleability of their homes, is the minuteness of our redress. Just as our apartment-dwelling numbers have soared, our legal protections have become vanishingly small.

This is no coincidence. You ride a bike, nanny says wear a helmet.

But you want to develop a flood plain, import dodgy materials, water-down concrete, masquerade as an engineer, flaunt the height limit, build a slum and vanish into bankruptcy, chances are you’ll get away with it. Where there are profit-gods to appease, deregulation rules.

Perhaps the “Millennials” now in charge can’t be expected to grasp backstory. Anyone who, like the Treasurer, practices Thatcherism while dismissing discussion of it as “outdated”, anyone who says “heritage is of no value if we can’t experience it”, is probably too young to know that regulation for public wellbeing is the core function of government.

Perhaps they really think government exists to make the rich richer. Trickle down, etc.

Illustration: Simon Letch
Illustration: Simon LetchCREDIT:

But for those with eyes to see, watching the Libs (and before them new Labor) wreck our old-growth institutions has been like watching the weasels destroy Toad Hall.

Egged on by developer lobby groups, neo-liberal governments have frantically attacked red tape as though its nominal colour were some kind of political stance.

In this way, all civilising constraints on our building system have been deliberately and progressively weakened. Planning controls, import restrictions, site supervision, contractual protocols, certification, licensing, liability provisions and vocational training – all debilitated to make building easier, cheaper, faster. But even to a Millennial, it can be no surprise that easier, cheaper, faster equals shoddier, tackier, worse.

This is huge. It’s cultural. So what is Chandler’s solution, and will it work?


A vivid city blending old and new ... Circular Quay during the Vivid festival.

Sydney’s seven deadly sins of development? No, I call it a symphony

Chandler offers six pillars. (Yes, you’ll need to step around the ubiquitous construction metaphors).

The new act is Pillar One.

Pillar Two is a risk-rating tool designed to let the commissioner identify the likely dodgy buildings and developers, and conduct special on-site audits complete with stop-work powers.

Pillar Three is educational. This involves working with the Master Builders Association and others to rebuild systems and standards trashed along with our once-excellent TAFE system, leaving responsibility all-too-often with semi-literate sub-contractors.

Pillar Four is about better contracts; Pillar Five mandates digitisation of information and Pillar Six is about nurturing quality research – including, one can only hope, some intense post-occupancy evaluation.

*Once some trust has been, ahem, rebuilt, Chandler also wants to negotiate the insurance industry towards mandatory decennial insurance giving affected apartment-owners 10 years of cover for structural defects, as in Britain and France.*

But it all turns on the new bill. This is a complex and technical piece of legislation, but its essence is dramatic.

First, it requires the building as-built to match the design.

Second, it establishes a duty of care from the builder to the end owner (but not to renters). *

Both sound so obvious most of us probably presumed they already pertained. Not so. Not in any way that matters.

Closing the huge gap between the intention and the deed between the building as-designed and as-built – will be the new act’s biggest test. The bill proposes to nominate “design practitioners”, generally architects or engineers, who must declare that the design complies with the Building Code of Australia and other regulatory instruments and standards. These, electronically lodged, are the declared drawings.

At the other end of the process the builder must declare that the building has been built accordingly. These as-builts are also lodged electronically, and both sets must match. For any deviation, including possibly thousands of on-site variations, the builder is responsible. Then, and only then, may the certifier issue the occupation certificate.

Failure to make such declarations carries a penalty up to $165,000. Making fraudulent declarations, up to two years in jail.

NSW building commissioner David Chandler addresses a parliamentary inquiry.
NSW building commissioner David Chandler addresses a parliamentary inquiry.CREDIT:AAP

All good, as far as it goes. But is that far enough?

Chandler believes these mechanisms, combined with the industry’s dawning awareness of shattered public confidence, will change behaviour. Sticks, carrots.

But hmmm. It’s not just behaviour. This transformation of cowboy-land represents huge cultural change. Can it work?

Call me old fashioned, but the sensible way to build, if you give a damn about the result, is how it used to be done. The architect – who alone knows the building holistically and who alone must be fully educated, regulated, registered and insured – designs the building, does full working drawings, lets the contract, supervises the work.

A variant on this is the clerk of works system, where an independent on-site specialist scrutinises all shonks, shortcuts and discrepancies.


Sydney is a sin city in so many ways.

Sydney and the Seven Deadly Sins of City-Making

*Little of that pertains now. Under the now-normal D&C (design and construct) contract, both the design practitioner and certifier are employed by the developer/builder.

Chandler insists that the bill makes the developer responsible and the certifier a “public official”, and that this will be transformative.

Thing is, the person in charge is still the person incentivised to skimp. I’d like to be wrong, but I reckon any fox running a hen-house gonna be bearded in blood and feathers.

Elizabeth Farrelly

Elizabeth Farrelly is a Sydney-based columnist and author who holds a PhD in architecture and several international writing awards. She is a former editor and Sydney City Councilor. Her books include ‘Glenn Murcutt: Three Houses’, ‘Blubberland; the dangers of happiness’ and ‘Caro Was Here’, crime fiction for children (2014).

SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/national/foxes-in-charge-of-the-hen-house-new-building-law-has-a-fatal-flaw-20200305-p5478x.html