This issue of Building Today marks my two year anniversary with the Registered Master Builders Federation — and, heck, it’s been a super fast couple of years!
There’s certainly been a thumping lot of work that’s been done in that time, thanks to a great RMBF network and a superb team of staff. Having said that, there is still a considerable amount of work to do to get us where we need to be as an organisation, so there are plenty of exciting challenges ahead.
A key reflection I have over those two years is that, slowly but surely, the industry is stepping up to exercise better leadership on its own behalf — but it needs to do so, I suggest, at a much faster pace.
When the leaky buildings issue first broke in the early 2000s, the industry was in a fragmented place, coming off the back of 10 years of economic reform which targeted the lowest common denominator and encouraged insular thinking, and there was a measure of a “head in the sand” response.
That left a vacuum, and the larger the vacuum became, the more likely it was that the Government would step in to resolve things, which is exactly how it panned out.
The trouble, of course, with Government-driven solutions, is that they get developed by departments and policy staff that don’t have the level of industry knowledge and insight that would ensure things will actually work on the ground.
They — ministers, departments and policy staff — will certainly have the best intent to get things right, but no matter how hard they might try, things just won’t get there.
That doesn’t mean the Government shouldn’t be part of the solution mix, because it certainly should be. The Government has a core role in ensuring the right overarching statutory framework is in place, and that’s certainly what the Building Act 2004 aims for.
But the industry must be the one that steps up and exercises leadership to influence the design of the statutory framework on the one hand, and on the other drive the more detailed outcomes — and also to have the core role of designing the underpinning regulatory framework so that it will actually work in practice.
The RMBF has certainly been part of that stepping up process, as have a number of other industry organisations, which has been great to see.
In our own case, our leadership is exemplified across a whole bunch of different levels and areas.
We have an energised regional network that’s abuzz about the value they are offering members. We have national boards and committees that have great people on them, exercising leadership on their peer’s and their industry’s behalf.
And the RMBF is speaking with a louder and more unified voice. It’s all great stuff, but there’s much more to do!
The Building Act reflects the swinging of the pendulum to the higher regulatory side, with the intent of ensuring higher levels of consumer protection to try and avoid the industry building leaky buildings in future.
But, as well as delivering that protection, perhaps, the Building Act and its implementation is driving too high a compliance level, without the requisite benefit/gain.
As an industry, therefore, we continue to suffer from the consequences of that higher regulation, be that through inconsistent and uncertain consenting procedures and associated time frames, through higher compliance costs or through conflicting rules and requirements.
All that means for the person at the end of the line — the consumer — is they pay more for their building work. And, hence, in part, there is a housing affordability crisis as a result.
As the whole industry, we need to get better at ensuring the pendulum swings more to the middle, still ensuring the right levels of consumer protection, all the while freeing up the unnecessary and unproductive compliance stuff so that building work can be done more efficiently and effectively.
That will involve reaching out to a broad cross-section of the industry, caucusing around an agreed industry platform, and influencing and driving the implementation of that framework in coming years.
The RMBF will certainly be exercising that leadership on behalf of its members, such that, in two years’ time, perhaps, we can say that we are, in fact, building affordable quality homes right first time, and that the industry is truly in charge of its own destiny.