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Certification Campaign
 

The role of Certifiers, Construction activity and the impact on the Georges River community has been an issue for many years. As a result, Council has been advocating for change to ensure an accountable and responsive process for private certifiers. 

Private certifiers are responsible for managing over 90% of Complying Development Certificates (CDC) and Construction Certificates (CC). They are managing a significant portion of development activity in the Georges River Local Government Area.

The concerns and issues we are hearing from the community are:

  • Lack of information available on development and construction activity. For example, residents/neighbours do not know a development is occurring next door or within their street until the day the building work starts.

  • Private certifiers fail to exercise their duty in relation to:

    • Responding to residents’ complaints.

    • ​Ensuring the development complies with the relevant legislation and planning framework.

    • Ensuring the building complies with the approved plans during the construction process and the site is managed in a safe and lawful way.

  • Frustration that the Council does not automatically “step in“ and manage the builder and the site to address the resident’s complaint.

Council commenced consultation with our community and industry bodies in August 2022 to get a greater understanding of the issues and areas of improvement. The information to date has assisted Council in its campaign for lobbying for change in the Certification industry.

From listening to our community, our experience in dealing with private certifiers and our understanding with the legislation, our Lobbying for Change falls under 3 areas:

  1. Improvement of processes and procedures to improve openness and transparency.

  2. Increase responsiveness and accountability for the certifier in determining certificates, responding to complaints, and managing construction sites.

  3. Delegation to Councils, with a number of legislative provisions to enable the regulation and penalty of certifiers that breach the legislation and processes associated with certification. 

 

Timeline for the Certification Campaign to Lobby for Change

The following is a timeline of action to date:

Date

Action

Monday 22 August 2022

Council considered a Mayoral Minute (MM018-22) on Certification Campaign to Lobby for Change. A copy of the Mayoral Minute can be viewed below:

In summary Council resolved:

  • To commence a campaign to lobby the NSW Government for amendments to the relevant legislation to increase the accountability on development and building sites under the control of private certifiers through greater industry regulation and enforcement; and 

  • Update its website in relation to construction activity and certification to ensure the information is comprehensive, in plain English and clearly outlines the avenues the community member can follow if they have concerns with a site managed by a private certifier. 

Council also resolved to:

  • Request from the Minister the expansion of the penalty notice offence categories and agencies that can issue fines on private certifiers. For example, Council currently cannot issue fines on certifiers who breach DA conditions requiring the payment of fees or the provision of information prior to issuing a Construction Certificate.

  • Request from the Minister that the role of the Office of the Building Commissioner be expanded from just residential apartment buildings to include all types of residential accommodation.

Action taken:

  • Council has updated its Private Certification website.

  • Council wrote in December 2022 to The Hon. Victor Dominello MP Minister for Fair Trading regarding the need to review the certification system to ensure construction activity and the industry is more open, transparent, responsive, and accountable.  Council received a reply dated 6 February 2023.

  • Council commenced the campaign to improve development and building practices on sites, especially sites managed by private certifiers. The objective of the campaign was to address and advocate for change to the legislation, process and procedures to achieve: 

  1. An accountable certification process. 

  2. A complaints framework that guarantees action and resolution for residents, the community and Council.

Wednesday 16 November 2022 – Workshop 1

Thursday 17 November 2022 – Workshop 2

Two workshops were held by Council to assist in understanding the issues raised by the community in relation to certification industry. In particular, development approvals and building activity on sites managed by a private certifier.

These workshops assisted Council to define the messaging and guide the wider engagement with the community.

Wednesday 23 November 2022 and finished on Monday 9 January 2023.

During this period Council collected community stories on private certification through Council’s Your say page. Council placed advertisements in the local paper and interviewed members of the community, if requested. Council received 37 individual stories.

Council also met with the CEO of the Association of Accredited Certifiers, as well as sent letters to relevant Ministers, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) and Regional Organisation of Councils (ROCs). Council also presented to the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) General Managers Meeting.

Monday 19 December 2022

Council considered a Mayoral Minute (MM038-22) on Campaign Progress Report - Working Together for Better Building Certification. A copy of the Mayoral Minute can be viewed below:

Council resolved that the Mayor write to the Local Members, all Councils in the Sydney Metropolitan area and LGNSW seeking their support for change and improvements to the certification system to ensure construction activity and the industry is more open, transparent, responsive, and accountable.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Senior staff of SSROC and Council’s General Manager and Director Environment and Planning met with the Building Commissioner (David Chandler) and his staff. The purpose of the meeting was to outline the concerns and issues faced by councils and the community in relation to developments and building sites managed by certifiers. 

Council’s suggestions to the Commission were:

  • Council will draft a Policy and procedures document that outlines the role of Council in dealing with sites managed by a private certifier. This document could also include/detail the role of Fair Trading. Council suggested that both Council and the Department of Fair Trading develop this Policy and procedure document together as a pilot project. The documents could form a template for use by other councils. 

  • Council suggested that the Planning Portal include:

  1. Documentation on building sites available for the public to access.

  2. A new function relating to complaints inspection procedures and reporting.

  • Councils should be given the ability to fine certifiers for breaching the Act, in relation to issuing CDC, CC & OC that breach conditions of consent or legislation. It was noted that councils do not want to regulate certifiers as this role should remain with Fair Trading.

The Commissioner's response and actions to progress the above suggestions include:

  • That Council and the Department of Fair Trading enter into a joint/pilot project to develop a policy and set of procedures providing information and details on the role of the certifier, Council, and the Department in relation to addressing issues relating to development approvals and the management of building sites managed by a private certifier for Class 1 Buildings.

  • That the Building Commission and Department of Fair Trading explore a coregulatory approach between councils and the Department to regulate certifiers for breaches to provision of the legislation.

  • That the Building Commission and Department of Fair Trading accept Council’s submission requesting improvements to the functions of the Planning Portal to address matters such as greater access of information on CDCs for the public and the action of complaints. 

Monday 24 April 2023

Council considered an update report on the Campaign on Working Together for Better Building Certification. The report provided information on the community engagement that was undertaken to hear stories and understand issues/ experiences that community has on dealing with development and building sites managed by private certifiers. 

Council noted and approved the outcome of the community engagement program undertaken to inform a set of actions and recommendations for the State Government and Council to improve the processes and procedures of the certification sector.

This means that Council will liaise with relevant State Ministers and Partners with the aim to:

  1. Improve the functionality of the NSW Planning Portal regarding lodgements of documents, certificates, plans and complaints.

  2. Request sufficient resources to assist the community with enquiries. 

  3. Create new penalty notice offence categories for a PCA who does not respond appropriately to complaints, or for non-compliance and breaching the provisions of approvals and relevant legislation.

  4. Introduce co-regulator provisions authorising Council staff to fine individual certifiers for issuing a CDC, CC or OC for non-compliance and breaching the provisions of approvals and relevant legislation, and

  5. Request an expansion of the role of the Office of the Building Commissioner to address all building types.

There are also actions that Council will commence to assist our residents being:

  1. The development of a new framework, policy or set of procedures for managing sites controlled by private certifiers in collaboration with the Department of Fair Trading.

  2. Provide redacted CDC, CC and OC plans (and related documents) on Council's website - the Application Tracker – subject to funding approvals.

  3. Improve information regarding the role of private certification and Council on our website.

  4. Explore the creation of a service to assist residents resolve civil disputes.

A copy of the report to the Environment and Planning Committee and the Council resolution can be viewed below:

Action taken:
Council wrote to the NSW Building Commissioner in May 2023 in accordance with the Council resolution of 24 April 2023, which proposed:

  • That Council and the Department of Fair Trading enter into a joint/pilot project to develop a policy and set of procedures providing information and details on the role of the certifier, Council and the Department in regard to development approvals and the management of building sites for Class 1 Buildings. 

  • That the Building Commission and Department of Fair Trading explore a co-regulatory approach between councils and the Department to regulate certifiers for breaches of legislation. 

  • That the Building Commission and Department of Fair Trading accept Council’s submission requesting improvements to the functions of the Planning Portal to address matters such as greater access of information on CDCs for the public and action complaints.

Council received a reply from the Office of the Building Commissioner dated 20 June 2023.

Council has now followed up with the Department of Fair Trading and the Office of the Building Commissioner and is preparing a Private Certifier Complaint Policy. 

Monday 25 September 2023 

Council received a Question with Notice (QWN029-23) on the Certification Campaign. A copy of the QWN can be viewed below:

Council wrote to the Minister for Better Regulation and Fair Trading on 12 October 2023.

November 2023

Council's Director Environment and Planning was invited by LGNSW to participate in the Building Experts Advisory Group.

This group includes Local Government experts that will meet with the NSW Building Commissioner up to 3 times per year to discuss technical and practical building related matters. 

February 2024

Council received a reply from the Building Commission NSW dated 5 February 2024.



 

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