Government expert says Opal crisis could have been avoided

Government expert says Opal crisis could have been avoided

“Defects are cheap if they can be fixed before the building is completed,” he said, claiming the costs would be one-tenth of fixing issues after the matter, while avoiding residents having to move out and having their lives disrupted.

“But there needs to be an effective regulatory system,” he added. “There’s a problem with this being in Fair Trading which is very reactive and passive. They don’t have a proactive approach.

“I hoped that the Opal Tower would be a wake-up call for the government but I’m running out of hope now,” he said. “In the three years since I wrote the report, very little has happened.”

‘Wrong target’

However, Better Regulations Minister Matt Kean, whose department takes in Fair Trading, says the Lambert report has since been overtaken by a national review of building regulations that he will be discussing at a federal level.

Residents of Opal Tower have been forced to move out due to damage. 

“The Lambert Review was superseded by the Shergold Weir report that was initiated by the federal Building Ministers’ Forum,” Minister Kean said. “NSW has led the nation in implementing the recommendations from this report.”

Minister Kean said in October he had passed “nation-leading certification reforms, implementing Michael Lambert’s key recommendations, with serious penalties for certifiers who do the wrong thing”.

However, building engineers say that if the government had listened to their pleas to pursue the Lambert Report’s most critical recommendations 18 months ago, the Opal crisis could have been avoided.

“NSW has by far and away the worst regulation in this country. Even Queensland is far better,” said Robert Hart, a member of an Engineers Australia committee looking into problems in the building industry.

“Matt Kean has tabled some changes to the Building Professionals Act but they’re all to do with certifiers. He’s set completely the wrong target.

“The one thing the government has been spectacularly successful at is failing to understand the role of the certifiers and being able to articulate that role to the wider public.”

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