‘I’m just here to stand the frame up, mate.’

These are certainly words to terrify any homeowner, tradesperson or building inspector – particularly when this frame is about to be installed onto a clearly faulty concrete foundation, which would compromise the structural strength of the resulting wall.

The Auckland Council cited this story, and has reported that fragmented, under-skilled and under-supervised workmanship is proving a real challenge in the current building boom. Around one third of building inspections in Auckland are failing, and a frightening number of non-compliant practices are being spotted.

The Auckland Council is working on a new strategy with groups including Registered Master Builders and Certified Builders to address industry-wide practices. Further training opportunities and better quality assurance tools are in development, but this will still not deal with sub-standard independent contractors.

For principals, this reiterates the importance of engaging skilled tradespeople, but also the importance of the project’s management and chains of responsibility in ensuring that a quality outcome is reached. For contractors, we stress that the “I’m just here to stand the frame up, mate” approach will not get you off the hook. Liability in negligence is joint and several – meaning that if a defective building results, every negligent party in the piece could be liable to pay the entire loss, even if it wasn’t solely caused by them. It would then be up to them to take action against the other negligent parties.

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