Friday, 13 August 2010

More red tape for builders, not less

It’s astonishing how much spin and how little real improvement one ridiculously incompetent and ill-informed Building Minister can make.

Yesterday’s press release from the Pakuranga Clown Maurice Wimpianson led with talk of “reducing red tape,” “red tape being snipped out of the $5.7 billion house building sector,” “cutting the red tape associated with building a house,” and other promising noises.

Unfortunately, all these “noises” about cutting red tape are bullshit, yet since they’ve been embraced by the industry’s noisiest cheerleaders and lapped up like mana by the ignorati in the press, I’ll need to explain why.

It’s all about the small print.

“Reducing red tape?”  The only red tape that’s been reduced is “allowing” you, yourself, in your capacity as home-owner and D.I.Yer, to erect a small porch, a fence or a small retaining wall on your own land, or add a heat pump or shade sail to your house. Isn’t that nice of nanny? (Make sure you tug your forelock appropriately as you nail home that last fence paling.)

But when all’s said and done this is something you can do already, and have quite properly been allowed to do since Adam was a lad. (Whose bloody land is it anyway, for Galt’s sake?!)  All that’s changed today is that the government’s thrice-announced plans to take that right away have been changed.  Slightly. For the moment.

Oh, and if you do want to “do it yourself,” even to the small extent allowed by Nanny, you might just need your D.I.Y signed off by a builder. Ahem, by a “licensed building practitioner.” To whom you will need to tug your forelock, because (whether you like it or not) the law will require them to take responsibility for what you have just done.

So much for making the chain of responsibility clearer.  That’s as much a lie as Labour’s new brochure claiming that all 15% of the Government Slavery Tax is due to National
(Q: Does the new announcement take councils out of the chain of responsibility? A: No.
Q: So that still leaves ratepayers responsible for the failures of building inspectors required by law to take responsibility for things in which they have no ability? A: Yes.
Q: So if you’re relying on insurers to protect home-owners for some parts of the building process, why not remove ratepayers’ risk altogether and allow insurers to cover it all?  A: ? )

And so much for “reducing” red tape. Because not only is this not a real relaxation, what was also “announced” yesterday was a new requirement adding a whole new truckload of paperwork to “every job over $20,000” (which, these days, means every job) requiring that every home-owner and home-builder use Nanny’s contracts to have their homes built or renovated. Because Nanny knows best.

And with it too was announced yet again, just to remind us all, the same announcement that’s already been made several dozen times before over the last five years: that everyone from plumbers to builders to house designers will have to become a “licensed building practitioner” by 2012 or be forced out of the industry—a “license” being a proxy for quality and reliability that has and will fail abjectly to achieve either. (If you doubt this, just look how many leaky homes were designed by registered architects and built by master builders.) 

A “license” has no more ability to guarantee quality than a stop sign has to stop a speeding car (or a ban on drugs has to keep drugs out of prisons).  Nonetheless, every current practitioner will soon be forced to bend their current practices and methods to fit those of the people who were, by and large, most responsible for designing and building those leaky homes—to either change their ways, conform, or get out.

“Reducing red tape?” Sounds more like anti-competitive regulation to me, so it’s no surprise that everyone from the Master Builders Association to the Certified Builders Association came out of their woodwork to throw up their hands in celebration.  Can you think why that was?  If you answered: “For the same reason that large taxi companies were celebrating the compulsory requirement for security cameras in cabs,” then give yourself a large tick. It’s because these rent-seekers understand that this anti-competitive move will help to exclude their smaller more nimble competitors from the market, and probably send many more of them offshore. Simply put, by enforcing the flaccid practices of behemoth organisations on everybody, registration of builders and designers is a great way of preventing competition from new rivals.

So much for either “raising standards” or “reducing red tape.”

It’s a pity that none of the media commentators realise that.  But they don’t.  Instead, they’re busy selling this already oft-announced announcement as both a “new” announcement and a reduction of red tape, which tells you once again just how little these commentators bother to do anything other than repeat the self-serving press releases that get sent to them.

As I listened to all the nonsense and all the “practices” of all the dinosaurs that we will all soon be required to follow (either follow or leave the industry), I couldn’t help thinking of this observation by Frank Lloyd Wright (who was never “licensed” anywhere, nor even “qualified,” and under this current regime wouldn’t be allowed near a hammer, let alone a drawing board):

_QuoteThe building codes of the democracies embody, of course, only what the previous generation knew, or thought they knew, about building...

The codification in law of fluid and ever-changing practices is the first step in their calcification, and to the inevitable exclusion of innovation and new competition.  Not that anything of that would bother either the people collecting their members’ dues at the Master Builders Association and the Certified Builders Association, or this Minister of Building--whose only relationship to the industry is being milked quite happily by the current team rebuilding his home at his great expense in Farm Cove, Pakuranga.

But as I listened to all the nonsense, and to all the new restrictions being announced as a removal of red tape, I thought back to a simpler time when regulations were simpler, home-owners actually had rights, and men who would one day become Prime Ministers would happily and without any hindrance from Nanny erect their own houses right from right down to making their own concrete blocks. I thought, in other words, of the house that Big Norm built could no longer build, and of the National Party Minister who only four years ago opposed, in the name of Big Norm, what has just been announced by his colleague:

_Quote Has the Minister visited the Kaiapoi home of former Labour Prime Minister Norm Kirk—in the Minister’s electorate—that he built with his own sweat and toil, including making his own blocks, a feat now outlawed by the Minister’s complex licensed building practitioner regime, which would have required Norm to have a licence for concrete work, a licence for blocklaying, a licence for roofing, a licence for carpentry, and a licence for external plastering; why does the Minister want to destroy with his politically correct red tape the proud New Zealand tradition of Kiwi battlers being able to build their own homes, when there is no evidence that the leaky homes problem was caused by DIY builders?

That’s the measure of how much real “red tape is relaxed” today. Answer: None.

By the way, it won’t surprise you to know that the surname of the National Party Minister with the forked tongue is Smith, and his first name is Nick.  The dick.


1 comment:

  1. Recently I applied for a building consent for a single level home and included in the fees were charges for BRANZ $380, DBH levy $748.60.
    What will those fees accelerate to once thiese proposals are foistered on us? As you has so clearly shown, BRANZ and the DBH's predecessor the BIA, are the clowns whose regulations allowed faulty building practices and materials to become the normal.Yet, does any of the charges inflicted by DBH or BRANZ protect the consumer, or indeed insure the consure for any negligence on DBH or BRANZ's behalf?
    I do take issue with your statement "The building codes of the democracies embody, of course, only what the previous generation knew, or thought they knew, about building... The codification in law of fluid and ever-changing practices is the first step in their calcification, and to the inevitable exclusion of innovation and new competition", because it was the trust engendered into faulty JHH, CHH and FFP products along with the plasticoat industry that resulted in leaky houses in the first place. It was the misplaced trust and acceptance of a new product standards and ignorance of prior examples of failure (Canada circa 1990)in production and building techniques that lead us to today's situation, thus denigrating previous building styles for a spray on instahome. Sometimes the new whiz bang ain't all thatand more. Sometimes it is the tried and true which in the long run is shown to be the safest option.
    For innovation to occur the proponents of that innovation must be prepared to stand by their product. this codification will merely protect those shonky new products more.
    That the BIA so readily accepted the words of JHH ( a knowingly dodgy organisation at the best of times- e.g. becoming a Dutch company to minimise their potential downside when faced with the full extent of Asbestos claims), goes to heart of how inept they are to handle any regulatory regime.


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