Queensland regulator under scrutiny amid wave of building defects


Queensland’s building industry watchdog is set to be investigated by the state government, as apartment buyers in the Sunshine State face a crisis of building defects and allegations of inaction against the developers responsible.

Queensland’s building industry watchdog is set to be investigated by the state government, as apartment buyers in the Sunshine State face a crisis of building defects and allegations of inaction against the developers responsible. 

Minister for Public Works and Procurement Mick de Brenni told Parliament this week that a review of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission would soon be launched amid allegations of a poor culture and widespread questions regarding its decision-making processes.

At the same time, the Queensland government will also examine the role of property developers as part of a review into its building industry fairness reforms.

Mr de Brenni said the state government’s Parliamentary Transport and Public Works Committee had recommended further scrutiny of developers’ financial and operational capacity, ethical behaviour and work practices.

The reviews come as advocacy groups mount a campaign for action to remedy what they are describing as a crisis in the Queensland construction industry, with thousands of apartment owners bearing the costs of buying and living in defective apartments.

The newly-formed Queensland Apartment Defects Advocacy Group said issues apartment owners were having to deal with including building failures, apartments being built without proper engineering considerations and problems with waterproofing, cladding and fire protection.

A survey conducted by Australian Apartment Advocacy earlier this year showed 49 per cent of Queensland respondents said they had experienced defects, with 36 per cent saying they had not been fixed.

QADAG member Samantha Reece, also the founding director of Australian Apartment Advocacy, said there had been a lack of action by the QBCC to address these defects, despite legislation being introduced in 2018 to protect apartment buyers.

“When this legislation was introduced, they were looking at the chain of supply, double-checking to see if building materials were Australian-compliant, looking at the financials for all building companies to make sure they had adequate cash to sustain them and all that kind of thing,” Ms Reece told Australian Property Investor Magazine.

“But I feel there was too much pushback from union members that sit within the QBCC and there has been a huge churn within the QBCC. 

“Basically, it’s gone into a loop – every time they try and do something that’s innovative and new it gets kicked back from the old guard in the system and then it gets flicked away.

“It’s a continual loop and it’s not moving forward, it’s just going in a circular motion.”

Ms Reece said QADAG had contacted the executive director for public works in Queensland, Ainsley Barron, regarding the issues with the QBCC and had made no progress.

“When we were telling her about all of these issues and defects that we were seeing, she was saying to us ‘tell QBCC’,” Ms Reece said.

“But we had told QBCC and they had taken no action, so for Ms Barron to tell us to tell the QBCC, what she was actually saying to us was that the department no longer cared and no longer thought it was possible to take any action, and that is not acceptable.”

Ms Reece said several apartment buyers who had contacted QADAG had waited up to 18 months for no action from the QBCC and were having to take on costly repair jobs themselves.

And while Ms Reece said she welcomed the announcement of an inquiry into the QBCC, saying it was an acknowledgement of the issues in Queensland construction, but what apartment buyers needed was direct action.

“There’s a part of me that’s highly cynical because we see all of these inquiries occur, they produce a report that’s about 400 pages long, but it’s about the culture of QBCC,” she said.

“Unless you get rid of the old guard from the QBCC and overhaul the department, that report is going to be worthless.

“Personally, I would like to see the Queensland government appoint an independent consumer protection service provider.

“We feel that if there were an independent consumer protection service provider that was an arm’s length away from the government then people would then start to see what’s actually going on in Queensland apartment development. 

“It would need to be independent from the union movement to ensure transparency and accuracy of reporting and it would indicate that the government is serious about consumer protection.”


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