Building products certifier CertMark allowed to carry on despite failing reviews

Newly released documents show the country's leading building products certifier failed reviews repeatedly for years but officials let it carry on largely unfettered.

CertMark, of Queensland, went on to issue twice as many New Zealand CodeMarks as any other certifier, many of them during the periods it was under investigation.

Government officials say in internal briefings that certifications have been issued that should not have been, and that "poor certificates have the potential to compromise the safety and durability of buildings".

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's (MBIE) own files show it regularly expressed alarm at the quality of CertMark's work since 2014, but at the same time was advising the public and local councils the company's work could be relied on.

CertMark abruptly pulled out of the scheme in New Zealand in July, leaving in the lurch scores of companies that collectively paid millions of dollars for certificates, but now are being told by the ministry to find a new certifier.

This is revealed in emails, documents and inquiries into the CodeMark scheme that RNZ has obtained through the Official Information Act and other means.

The scheme is touted as providing gold-standard certification that cannot be challenged by councils during building consenting.

Private companies that certify products are only meant to be allowed into and remain in CodeMark if they pass rigorous checks.

Last year the MBIE finally suspended a half-dozen of CertMark's safety-critical certificates that applied to aluminium composite panelsamid fierce scrutiny of the panels worldwide following the fatal 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London.

This disrupted the building industry, including costing the SkyCity International Convention Centre in Auckland $25m to replace its panels.

There was no requirement to tell the industry about its concerns up till those suspensions, the ministry told RNZ.

The ministry has repeatedly told the public that having fully reliable building product assurance programmes is a top priority of the government's largest overhaul of building regulations in 15 years.

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