Australia

NSW to 'shake up' high-rise laws after Opal Tower saga

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The NSW government says it will shake up the way high-rise residential towers are regulated to rebuild trust in the industry after the Opal Tower debacle.

NSW will have a new high-rise tower watchdog and a registration scheme for engineers and builders under an overhaul of construction activity.

The new scheme is based on 24 recommendations from the Shergold Weir report released in April 2018 that outlined "significant and concerning" problems with the construction industry.

Every party to the construction process, from those drafting a design to the final builder, is registered and qualified.

An apartment in the cracked Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park, that shows the ceiling and flooring removed and propping equipment installed.
An apartment in the cracked Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park, that shows the ceiling and flooring removed and propping equipment installed.
AAP

A Building Commissioner will have responsibility for enforcing the new laws and for licensing and auditing practitioners.

The regulator will also have to approve any changes to a tower's plan after the design stage is complete.

Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean said people buying property in NSW had every right to expect it was safe, structurally sound and free from major defaults.

"Unfortunately that is not always the case," he told reporters on Sunday.

"It's all about making sure building practitioners do the right thing.

"I don't want to see another mum or dad be affected by waterproofing or dodgy property defects."

Some residents of Opal Tower have had their return date delayed again.
Some residents of Opal Tower have had their return date delayed again.
AAP

Master Builders Australia said there were some issues after unprecedented construction in the past five years in NSW.

"This is one of the most important reforms the industry has seen for a very long time," executive director Brian Seidler told reporters.

But Labor has criticised the time it took for the government to respond to the Shergold Weir report and pointed to the issues with Opal Tower in Sydney Olympic Park, where some residents are still in temporary accommodation after cracks were found in the tower on December 24.

Opposition Leader Michael Daley said he had announced a plan to rescue the building industry, including by registering engineers, in November.

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