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Insurers urge better building code enforcement

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Insurers are calling on the government to make its building code compliance and enforcement system “fit for purpose”, including the establishment of a central body.

The call for action comes after insurers hosted the first of a series of roundtables in Canberra today exploring the role of building standards in national natural disaster resilience.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) and the Master Builders Association are inviting senior leaders to participate in an effort to kickstart development of national property resilience policies.

The roundtable is made up of representatives of the building and insurance industry from across Australia. It was also attended today by members of the property, banking, real estate and architect industries, and all levels of government, to discuss “Family Homes at Risk”.

“The family home is an Australian’s great single economic asset. Insurance is a fundamental protection for that asset,” ICA CEO Andrew Hall said.

“Insurance prices the risk to any asset, and ensuring those risks are mitigated to the best of our ability is key for both protecting the home and protecting their financial wellbeing.”

The Building Stronger Homes Roundtable talks are aimed at improving construction standards and land-use planning and promote cooperation between builders and insurers.

Today’s roundtable recommends the government implement the findings of Building Ministers Forum-commissioned Building Confidence report with a central body responsible for facilitating compliance, audits, information sharing, training and the interpretation of standards and codes.

The government should also implement a Royal Commission recommendation to include resilience as an objective of the National Construction Code, and deliver better guidance on appropriate use of codes, standards, products and services, and enable better access to regulated Australian Standards in the National Construction Code.

Master Builders CEO Denita Wawn commended a willingness to explore practical and effective options enabling the industry to deliver more resilient buildings.

“This must include establishing a better process for providing tools to facilitate compliance, audit, surveillance information sharing, training and interpretation of standards and codes,” she said.

Today’s roundtable covered the need for all sectors and government to work together to build resilience and the importance of data in policy reform, as well as a need to balance risk and affordability.

Neil Savery, CEO of the Australian Building Codes Board, and Andrew Hocking, Deputy Coordinator at the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, provided insights today on bushfire recovery efforts, the key findings of the Royal Commission around resilience, the new disaster recovery agency and the role of the National Construction Code and building standards.

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils Mark Leplastrier and Suncorp EM Government, Industry & Public Policy Joshua Cooney and EM Consumer Product Development Joshua Kelland detailed the role of the insurance industry in mitigation and how the industry communicates risk-based information to consumers.

They discussed the link between risks and premiums, opportunities for the builders and insurers to better share information about risk in the aftermath of natural disasters, and how to incentivise improvements to existing building stock.

Chairman of the James Cook University Cyclone Testing Centre John Galloway provided an overview of work at the centre and talked through practical examples of damage in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The roundtable identified a number of initiatives the insurance and building sectors can pursue, including sharing reliable data, development of best practice guidance and standards for builders and information to assist homeowners mitigate insurance risk and continuing to identify and pursue joint pilot initiatives.

The next roundtable will be held in February.