- Cook Government has introduced reforms to building laws to diminish costly defects and improve consumer confidence.
- The first stage of the reforms are due to begin in 2026.
- Industry responds.
The Cook Government has recently announced reforms to Western Australia’s building laws, which aims to improve the design, construction and certification of buildings and limit the impacts of costly defects.
This Building Better reform package details the most important reforms to WA’s building-related laws in more than a decade.
The first stage of the reforms are due to start in 2026 with mandatory inspections of high rise apartment buildings.
Commerce Minister, Sue Ellery, said these reforms were made in close consultation with industry, local governments, and building professionals.
“These reforms will increase consumer protections, modernise the way buildings are designed, approved and constructed in WA, and provide peace of mind that our buildings are safe and constructed to the required standards.”
Sue Ellery, Commerce Minister
These reforms are based on 39 recommendation in response to the national Building Confidence Report.
Specifics of the reforms
The reforms of this package include the staged implementation of mandatory inspections of new apartments and other commercial buildings at critical stages of construction.
There will also be greater enforcement powers for the Building Commissioner, Building Services Board, and permit authorities.
The Building Commissioner’s increased powers will include the authority to give directions on technical matters, enter any construction site, notify permit authorities of serious non-compliant work, and issue heavier penalties for various offences
Moreover, there will be enhancements to building design documentation, including minimum standards, registration requirements for designers, and third-party review of structural and fire safety designs for complex and significant buildings.
Transparency has been prioritised as well, with building manuals for high-rise apartment buildings and access to information after construction is complete.
“The Cook Government acknowledges the State’s building industry is facing several challenges caused by the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to global trade, labour shortages and increasing inflationary pressures,” said Ellery.
“Significant consideration has been given to ensure the reforms are implemented gradually, are well understood by building professionals and local governments, and cause as little disruption as practicable.”
Sue Ellery, Commerce Minister
“The public will also have an opportunity to review the draft laws and have their say on the details.”
A consultation draft of the laws is set to be released at a future date, in order to give peak bodies, local governments and building professionals the opportunity to comprehend the changes and have their say on the details.
Housing Industry Association WA responds
The HIA WA is supportive of the Cook Government’s approach to the roll out and implementation of the Building Confidence Report in WA as announced today.
HIA WA executive director, Michael McGowan, said HIA congratulates Minister Ellery and the team at Building and Energy on delivering these outcomes after a significant period of consultation.
“Strengthening the powers of the Building Commissioner, clearer documentation and processes, enhancement in documentation, and greater engagement with builders and building surveyors, are all positive measures that seek to put more rigour around building practices in Western Australia,” said McGowan.
“The staged approach to mandatory inspections ensures that the most high-risk construction dwellings are addressed in stage 1 and that there is opportunity for industry and government to work together based on the learning of each stage to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.
“Implementing mandatory inspections on Class 2 – 9 dwellings and class 1 and 10 dwelling are two very different propositions requiring two very significantly different levels of resourcing.
“HIA looks forward to working with Minister Ellery and the State Government over the next five years to find the best solutions possible,” concluded McGowan.
The Property Council responds
The Property Council of Australia (PCA) WA interim executive director, Emily Young, responded positively to the proposed reforms.
“This morning’s decision by the WA Government to adopt industry’s recommendation to empower licensed surveyors to conduct mandatory inspections will help mitigate any delays the requirement may otherwise cause,” she said.
Young added that while there is already confidence in the quality of Western Australia’s construction, the introduction of mandatory building inspections will only boost that confidence.
“The Property Council of Australia has consistently supported the recommendations of the Shergold Weir report — and will continue to support reforms that increase confidence and transparency in the building and construction industry.”