Poor workmanship in quake repairs

Last year, 14 concerned owners asked the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to check the quality of quake repairs to their properties – 13 displayed poor workmanship, as well as quality and code compliance issues. Noted defects included superficial patching of cracking in foundation walls, inappropriate building materials, and poorly installed exterior brickwork or solid plaster repairs. (To read The Press article, click here)

EQC Canterbury home repair programme general manager Reid Stiven has said that 13 houses were not a representative sample out of ’65,000 completed repairs’. However, MBIE has subsequently launched an independent inspection into quake repairs, utilising a larger sample of 100 houses.  While 13 of the 14 repairs checked by MBIE last year were managed by EQC, the broader inquiry will also consider repairs undertaken through Housing New Zealand and insurers. Inspections will start this month, and are focused on structural building work. Findings are expected at the end of June 2015.

Almost one year ago in our blog ‘Boom or Bust?’ we commented that NZ was coming into one of the busiest and most dynamic periods for the construction industry, and posed the question: will the boom create a new ‘syndrome’ to replace the leaky building era? Further, we noted that ‘…in Christchurch at least, all the ingredients for future disputes are emerging – rising costs, time pressures, shortage of supplies and labour, consumer stress, party insolvency, shortcuts on quality’.

It is important that lessons from the industry’s past are applied – NZ is only now slowly emerging from a leaky building crisis. As Mary Haggie noted in our June 2014 blog regarding the modular housing craze, leaky buildings came about because ‘architects, builders, manufacturers, government, councils and consumers were all persuaded that there was a cheaper, faster and more sustainable way of building homes’.

It appears that MBIE may be heeding previous lessons as it takes steps to address this issue now – construction activity around the rebuild has been building and is expected to peak over the next few years. By taking steps to audit quality now, MBIE may be attempting to mitigate the effects of a ‘bust’ looming on the horizon.

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