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Cladding discipline delays not a “bungle”

03 Sep 2019

Cladding discipline delays not a “bungle” Image

The state government’s disciplinary proceedings over the Lacrosse cladding fire are far from resolution.

While a civil dispute over the fire was settled this year after a prolonged Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) case between apartment owners and responsible bodies, the state government can’t finalise its case due to a lack of resources.

The Herald Sun reported last month that the government’s case against fire safety engineer Con Nicholas and building surveyor Anastasios Galanos had been delayed indefinitely because there was no one available to hear it.

The case is being trialled under the Building Practitioners Board, which was dissolved in 2016 and had its functions and powers transferred to the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).

The board was meant to finalise the cases left at the time, including the Lacrosse case.

The Herald Sun reported this has not been possible due to a “bureaucratic bungle”.

“Most members who sat on the board have resigned, or their terms have been expired and they have not been replaced,” it reported.

But strata lawyer Tom Bacon said the delays were due to under-funding.

“I wouldn’t call it a bureaucratic bungle. In truth, the ‘old body’ doesn’t have enough members on it anymore because they haven’t had their contracts renewed, and this is because of systemic under-funding over a number of years,” he said.

“What’s most interesting about this story is the fact the VBA is under-resourced and under-funded and cannot allocate enough people to hear cases.”

Mr Bacon said that under-funding by successive state governments had contributed to situations like the cladding crisis in Victoria because “if the watchdog isn’t watching, then builders, developers, surveyors and engineers can act with impunity”.

“These highly-trained and -qualified professionals that could sit on the Building Practitioners Board can earn far more in the private sector, rather than taking up a part-time contract to sit on the board,” Mr Bacon said.

“The state government should prioritise this and increase funding to attract the best-qualified professionals in the Industry.”

A spokesperson from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) said the department was “working to consolidate the membership of the Building Practitioners Board to ensure it is well-placed to finalise outstanding disciplinary cases as soon as possible”.

“Cases before the Building Practitioners Board can only be finalised when all parties are available for the hearings to proceed and there is a variety of reasons why delays have occurred in relation to the outstanding matters,” the spokesperson said.

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