Building standards declining - experts

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 18/07/2014
Debbie Mora
Dean Kozanic/Fairfax NZ

SPURRED INTO ACTION: Debbie Mora, unhappy with the repairs at her Hillmorton home, is keen to set up a register for contractor reviews.

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A skilled labour shortage, under-resourced building firms and rebuild deadline pressures are contributing to a decline in Christchurch building standards, industry experts warn.

Registered Master Builders Association chief executive Warwick Quinn said yesterday a collision between the commercial and residential rebuild peaks was putting pressure on an already "acute" shortage of skilled tradespeople in the city.

Growth in Auckland and other areas was drawing resources away from Christchurch also, he said.

"The next two or three years are going to be the biggest for residential activity and, at the same time, we're getting increased activity in the commercial sector," he said.

"The Government's got its plans for all of the rebuild work they're doing and the private sector's got its act together and, as a result, the competition for skills is heating up."

Complaints about delays and shoddy work the association received were within "statistical norms" but could grow if the issue was not addressed, Quinn said.

The poor work highlighted in the media was "terrible" but not a reflection of the work being done overall, he said.

Complaints were mainly about finishing and slowness in remedying problems.

"That's not an excuse for not doing the job properly because [contractors] have an obligation to the homeowner to meet a certain standard."

The expected completion of the Earthquake Commission's home repair programme at the end of the year would free "potentially hundreds" of contractors, Quinn said.

The need to finish homes quickly because of people's temporary living circumstances was an added pressure, he said.

Riccarton-Wigram Community Board member Debbie Mora said an experience with poor workmanship had prompted her to lobby the city council to set up a register for contractor reviews.

Her quake repairs had cost $35,000, while a quote she sought from a separate firm to fix the paintwork, damaged floors and other problems came back at $12,000.

Bill Horncastle, owner and managing director of Christchurch's Horncastle Homes, said the quality and reliability of some building companies was becoming an issue.

Some were taking on too much work without the systems, experience and resources in place, he said.

"We believe that there are companies out there that are under-capitalised, and potential buyers should take the time to research companies before they decide who to build with."

Quinn said contractors needed to "not just be better tradespeople, they need to be better business people".

"A company might have been building half a dozen houses a year and they had that under control really well. They're suddenly building 20 . . . [and] they need to ensure they've got the quality control systems and management in place in order to cope with that growth."

IAG spokeswoman Renee Walker said insurer-led rebuilds were guaranteed by "multiple" quality control systems.

"There'll always be the odd case [of poor work], but in the majority of cases we shouldn't have because we've got so many opportunities to pick them up," she said.

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IAG's project manager, Hawkins, had raised few concerns about skilled worker shortages within its group of preferred contractors, Walker said.

However, shortages would be more keenly felt now the rebuild programme had ramped up.

- The Press

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