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NSW building inquiry targets insurance

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A NSW Upper House committee has established an inquiry that will look into the adequacy of insurance coverage in the troubled building industry.

Insurance will be one of the key aspects of the Public Accountability Committee’s broad inquiry, which was established yesterday. A final report is expected by February 14 next year.

The inquiry comes as public confidence in the building industry took another blow after defects in a high-rise block in Sydney forced an evacuation of residents over fears the building is structurally unsafe. The Mascot Towers evacuation was the second in six months, following the Opal Tower incident in December.

“Due to widespread public concern, this issue needs to be addressed urgently,” Committee Chairman David Shoebridge said.

“With an increase in high-rise apartments, particularly in the Sydney region, it is extremely important that the NSW Government has adequate regulation and oversight of the building industry, including appropriate consumer protection, and is responding to building defects in a timely and effective manner.”

The extent of insurance coverage and limitations of existing statutory protections, effectiveness and integrity of insurance provisions are part of the inquiry, according to the terms of reference.

Liability for building defects in apartment buildings will also be examined.

Building Collective of Australia President Phil Dwyer, who has pushed for a royal commission into the building industry, says he expects the inquiry – like the many others that have been held in the past – will do little to fix the sector’s problems.

“It’s just terribly disappointing that we keep going down this path,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“We need to fix the industry. We’ve had so many [inquiries] in the past and none of them have done anything.

“We need wholesale reforms to cover all areas. There’s no point in fiddling at the edges.”

Insurance Council of Australia spokesman Campbell Fuller said the group would be engaging in the inquiry process, "making submissions as required and supporting with industry knowledge and advice".

The committee will hold hearings in August and will launch an online questionnaire for community feedback.

Closing date for submission is July 28.

Click here for details.