What are the measures proposed to improve the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service?
Following a thorough review, the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service will be overhauled to stop gaming of the system, to hold building industry professionals to account, and to get leaky homes fixed faster. In particular, the measures will provide more comprehensive assessment of damage, improved information and case management for claimants, a broadened definition of damage to include probable as well as actual damage, faster and more effective dispute resolution, a class action approach to multi-unit claims, and a pilot financial assistance scheme targeted to help those in the very worst circumstances.
I have seen a number of reports, including reports from David Russell of the Consumers Institute, who said: “I think it’s a big step in the right direction.”; from Leaky Homes Action Group Chairman, John Gray, who said: “The review outcomes are very positive for leaky-home owners.”; and from the Registered Master Builders Federation, which called the Government’s measures: “A common-sense approach to dealing with how the programme needs to be run.” I have also seen reports that owners were given false information by one individual who, in respect of his views on this issue, was yesterday named “loser of the week” by the Dominion Post. That person was the National Party spokesperson on building issues, the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Does the Minister agree with the statement made by the Prime Minister that the leaky homes problem was “a media beat-up”, now that his own ministry states that 15,000 homes are affected and that it will cost over $1 billion to fix the problem; and can the Minister also explain how a loan scheme involving only $7 million over 2 years—or less than 1 percent of the problem—will leave homeowners in anything other than the mess they have had from this Government over the last 4 years?
In relation to the Prime Minister’s comments—which are right—the media tends to beat up issues a lot of the time, except that it seems to have got certain things about the Opposition right. I can say that the leaky homes issue was the result of shonky work done by some developers, designers, builders, “subbies”, inspectors, and others. But they did have help. The deregulation of the building industry, the deliberate destruction of the apprenticeship system, the introduction of private certification, and the allowing of untreated timber framing to be used are all significant factors in this issue. Who legislated for this mess? It was the previous National Government, and we are cleaning it up.
Given the last part of that answer, what advice would the Minister give to a person who has bought a home only to find some time later that it has been patched up to disguise a significant weathertightness problem?
I would invite those people to call on the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service, because under that service they will get dedicated case management and beefed-up assessment reports. They will be guided through the system and the existing investigative powers that adjudicators have now will push claims through. I say to the member that many of the people who do not like this move will, I suspect, be in the legal fraternity, because they will not get nearly as much money in the future as they have already received from the victims because the victims will be supported through the assessment process.
How often has it been the case that an amount settled under the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service, and a payment made to a house owner, has not actually been used to rectify the leak; and in how many of those cases was the house sold subsequently to another individual who then brought another case to the same service in respect of the same leaky home situation?
I do not have the exact number, but I can say to the member that that situation will be remedied, too. We will work with local authorities to ensure that that information is put on the land information memorandum. So, for instance, if a homeowner goes through the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service, gains a claim, and decides—as is the homeowner’s right—not to fix up a leaky home, then the owner will be required to place that information on the land information memorandum so that future purchasers will have full visibility. If future purchasers want to buy the home, they will go in with their eyes open.