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New change to Tasmanian Building Act

Article written by Guy Barnett on The Mercury website

TASMANIANS planning to build or renovate in 2017 can look forward to saving time and money when it comes to gaining approvals.

The Liberal Government’s nation-leading building reforms came into effect on New Year’s Day this year with the commencement of the new Building Act.

Our reforms are about making it faster, fairer, simpler and cheaper to gain approval to build in Tasmania.

This will create jobs — which is our number one priority — by encouraging investment in building projects, big and small.

Our new risk-based approach means licensed builders and plumbers will no longer need council building permits for a range of works, up to and including two-storey homes.

The building and construction industry, which employs close to 20,000 Tasmanians, will benefit through practitioners having to spend less time and money gaining approvals.

 

The savings will be passed on to their customers — Tasmanians building or renovating their own homes — and flow through the economy.

The new Act will also provide certainty for the growing home renovation sector, with homeowners able to continue to undertake works classified as low risk.

This would include, for example, maintenance or repairs on a home using similar materials as those replaced, or building a garage or carport up to 18 square metres.

Similarly, they could build a porch up to nine square metres or a deck of any size, provided it is less than one metre above the ground.

A homeowner, or competent person working for the owner, may carry out this work without the need to be registered as an “owner builder”, engage a building surveyor, apply for a building permit or fill in application forms or pay approval fees.

For licensed builders, there is appropriately a greater scope of low-risk works that can be undertaken without a building permit or any other approval process.

These include interior alterations to homes, such as the removal or installation of non-load-bearing walls, and building sheds or garages up to 36 square metres.

For work classified as being medium risk, a licensed building surveyor will be required to assess and certify the plans and may inspect the works, but the owner would still not need to obtain a building permit.

The surveyor acts as an independent regulator of building standards and notifies the relevant council of the works.

Projects would include new houses or units, adding new rooms or a new storey to an existing home, and the construction of outbuildings of any size.

The full permit process remains for works classed as high risk, which would include most commercial work or residential projects in hazardous areas.

Licensed plumbers too will operate under the risk model, and again there are some low-risk plumbing works that a homeowner would be able to undertake themselves.

Demolition work will also be assessed under low, middle or high risk categories.

Only for high-risk demolition, such as a multistorey building, would a full council permit be required.

More information on the type of work in each risk category can be found in the Director’s Determinations at http://www.justice.tas.gov.au/building/building2016

 

Together with the Government’s planning reforms and our $20,000 first-home builder grants, the new Building Act will help to create jobs by encouraging investment.

Our building reforms are also a great example of how we are taking a whole-of-government approach to cutting red tape.

We committed before the last election to be a government that reduces regulation that is inefficient, duplicative or heavy-handed, and we are doing exactly that.

Often unnecessary regulation does more than frustrate individuals and businesses — it can cause projects to be shelved altogether due to the added costs and time delays. This in turn can cost investment and jobs. Cutting red tape is one way we are opening Tasmania up for business, boosting the economy, and securing jobs into the future.

By delivering on our building reforms, we are demonstrating our commitment to reducing red tape, and with the Building Act now coming into force, building practitioners and their customers will enjoy the benefits.

Guy Barnett is Tasmanian Minister for Building and Construction.