Trying times, and moving forward with weathertightness

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At the time of writing this article, the city of Christchurch is trying to recover from a huge natural disaster.
Just when we thought that the recovery from the previous earthquake was progressing well, the city has been damaged again, only this time much more severely, and with a tragic loss of life.

The thoughts of the RMBF go out to all those people who have lost friends and/or family, and who have suffered in other ways.
Clearly, it will take many years for the city to get back to any semblance of normality. When it does, it will be a much different city from the one we have known until now.

In the meantime, buildings, people, businesses and livelihoods will be affected in so many ways.
The RMBF is very aware of the level of effort that will be needed to support people in the building industry.

We are already looking at ways we can strengthen our presence and role in Christchurch as you will see from chief executive Warwick Quinn’s article.
Another hot topic we have been working on has been weathertightness. I have previously mentioned that the RMBF has been leading and co-ordinating two construction sector groups charged with assisting the Government develop solutions going forward.

The two groups were made up of representatives from numerous organisations, and focused on either technical or liability issues. They were extremely beneficial, and we have just completed our summary and forwarded a full report to the Minister.

Positive report
It is a very positive report, and it is pleasing to note that many of the recommendations are already being worked on by the Department of Building and Housing, and that progress is being made.

The technical group accepted the need to move away from a litigious process, and where multiple and often conflicting assessors reports are presented. This group identified the following as essential to address:
• a quality peer review,
• improved identification of “cause”,
• ensuring the scope of works is correct,
• including accurate cost of repairs,
• including high level design solutions based on guides, and
• capability and capacity of assessors.

The liability group started with a couple of “givens” about the government position, ie:
• that it is likely to stay with the current 10-year limitation period, and
• that it wanted to promote getting homes fixed, and move away from litigation.

Therefore, this group identified a number of critical issues to focus on, including:
• the quality of assessors/the assessment that the funding/repair proposal will be based on,
• the statutory immunity granted to assessors,
• the liability of those involved in the original building work and the remediation work, and
• the availability, or lack of, adequate insurance for those involved in remediation work.

We believe that this Government is listening to the construction sector before taking important decisions that affect us all.
These are trying times for our sector, for Christchurch and for the country as a whole.