Construction industry groups including Master Builders Association’s ACT Branch have called for a complete overhaul of the ACT’s contractor licensing regime.
Industry groups have blamed rogue tradies for Canberra’s building quality issues, saying unqualified and unlicensed contractors are undercutting legitimate tradespeople and are to blame for the shoddy work on new developments across Canberra.
In The ACT several trades do not require a license, including waterproofers, carpenters, painters, concreters and architects (however they are registered under the Architects Act 2004).
In a submission to the ACT Assembly’s building quality inquiry, the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union’s ACT branch secretary, Jason O’Mara, said license requirements for more trades would improve building quality and should be introduced in The ACT.
He said that unlicensed trades were an obvious cause of so many issues plaguing building quality in the ACT.
“It creates inherent problems for the quality of the job being completed, as it allows an individual without the necessary skills to complete building works which require a level of expertise that can only be developed through becoming licensed.”
He said builders and developers were hiring unlicensed contractors and undercutting skilled tradespeople to cut their costs.
One industry he highlighted was the standard of waterproofing in new developments which he said had been sacrificed due to the lack of mandatory trade licensing.
Master Builders Association of the ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins also expressed concerns, highlighting the waterproofing trade which he said needed more regulation as it does in NSW and Queensland where a license is needed to undertake waterproofing work.
“Ultimately licensing provides an accountability mechanism for government to mandate a minimum regulatory standard and take enforcement action if required. This is necessary to restore the community’s confidence in the ACT building regulatory system.”
Another industry group expressing its concerns was Engineers Australia in a submission to the parliamentary inquiry, also highlighting inadequate waterproofing.
The group said the supervision of waterproofing by builders was either poor or non-existent and the materials used were often not adequate for the Canberra climate particularly the Canberra winter. It also mentioned the lack of specification in contracts for seals, which is why rogue contractors often go for the cheapest option.
“Some products used for balcony membranes are unsuitable, poorly applied or impossible to cure during a Canberra winter,” the submission stated. “The contract documents often contain no specification for seals or membranes, so the cheapest products are often used.”