Big construction contractors oppose licensing of their builders working on commercial buildings

The country's large building contractors oppose builders on commercial building sites being regulated under a new proposal in the overhaul of the Building Act.

At present only builders and other tradesmen working on houses and small apartments are licensed under the licensed building practitioners scheme.

To do "restricted building work" - work on the structure and effecting the weathertightness of homes and small apartments - builders and tradesman have to become licensed building practitioners.

Now the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) wants to extend the licensing to builders working on more complex commercial buildings. It says this is the way to ensure builders have the right skills and knowledge and are held accountable for their work, not only on residential buildings but also complex commercial buildings.

A summary of submissions show the majority of submitters supported MBIE's proposal but Registered Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly said several large construction companies who were their members did not.

They preferred the association to speak on their behalf.

Licensing of building practitioners was not the solution to raising standards and competency in the commercial building sector, he said.

The types of work and arrangements with subcontractors were much more complex than residential building. A lot of subcontractors were involved and the nature of relationships was different from residential building.

"What they are concerned about is that you'll have people who are not happy to sign off other people's work because it is quite complex and they don't feel they are in a position to do that and they'd be unwilling to do that."

The contract on a commercial building was between the main contractor and the client and that's what governed how the site was run. MBIE's proposal ignored that and the commercial realities of a building site.

The association was talking with large contractors about a voluntary accreditation model rather than licensing, such as an independent audit of companies to say they met minimum standards with regard to their finances, key skills, their processes and their project management.

It would be like a quality mark.

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