MaximusMay 11, 2009
GBH and the DBH
Do we have too much bureaucracy in NZ, or not enough? Is it too easy to get a building designed and built in our shiny happy little country, or is it really the solid chore and back-breaking task that the Nats would have you believe? While our building standards in NZ may be set at a fairly low point, asking only that we barely scrape past the minimum, at least we have a reasonably responsible to matters where there is an actual risk of loss of life. And we have that RMA thing to safeguard our birds and bees and trees. Or do we? The Key government, with its now usual lack of due process for the law, is pushing through yet more legislation including a bill to water down the Resource Management Act. The Green Party says that the RMA needs to be upheld, and strengthened, while the Blue and Yellow Party says that it is a burden and needs to be drastically reduced: so, they’re cutting out the easy bits, the bits that involve the public – they’re reducing the sections where it says that you, the public, have a right to voice your opinion.
Seems fair enough I guess: why do we need opinions when we have a Government that clearly knows better than we do what is good for us. Yes, the previous Government, the Red one, was getting to be far too much of a Nanny, but why does this new Government believe in stripping away some of the few meagre rights that our public have? Some of this may have been driven by the recent success of pressure groups such as the Wellington Civic Trust and Waterfront Watch, who banded together and succeeded in getting a judicial review on the Hilton Hotel, and eventually, getting it stopped. That must have really riled some people: too late for the main promoter however, who died before he could see his dream get smashed to the ground. And now we’ve got an ex-All Black, Anton Oliver, one of the clever ones who could actually walk and chew gum at the same time, trying to stop windfarms being built all over the deserted plains of Central Otago. How dare he? say the politicians, but worse: what if he’s right, and succeeds? What then? He must be stopped. We must change the law so that individuals like Anton Oliver and Pauline Swann (an unlikely couple) never get to cast a vote on matters like these.
But this is what happens when you get idiots in charge. We had idiots in the last Government, and we’ve got them in this one too. In fact, we’ve got our Ministries full of them. Our bureaucracy in NZ is far from perfect. We have a relatively recently formed Department of Building and Housing, which even to those within their walls is running somewhat out of control. Once the preserve of learned and practical people in the Building Industry Association, including a fair amount of Architects, the DBH now appears to be full of an army of Bureaucrats: policy-makers and policy analysts, busy making policy and then analysing it. So far they have made some policy, and then analysed it. That’s about it really. Except for a new coloured newsletter, which has nice graphics, and the occasional picture of someone important shaking hands with someone less so. But that’s about it.
Oh no, I’m wrong, they’ve done something else. They’ve instigated a policy that all practitioners in the Building game must be licensed. That means, all the Designers, the Builders, the Plumbers, the Block Layers, the Electricians etc. There was a time limit, but that went out the window fairly soon after. The Architects and the Engineers said no thanks, we can organise our own licensing scheme thank you. And so they did: one each, to which there was a lot of grumbling, but by now everyone seems to be used to, and there are now 1500 registered architects and lots of registered engineers. The rest of the building trade is meant to be getting tied into the scheme for Builders, Plumbers etc, but that’s hit a snag. Kind of a large one. Its already had a year or two as an extension, but they’ve actually got Plumbers to sit the exam recently. Problem solved? No, not quite: 14 out of 15 Plumbers failed the exam, that’s all. So that’s it: in the whole of NZ, there is only one registered plumber out of every 15. She’s going to be busy. Therefore all the rest of the Plumbing work in NZ is currently being carried out by unqualified Plumbers?
Its illegal?! Pull it down! “An academic nightmare has unnecessarily been visited upon a very practical industry. It is the apprentices who are suffering badly,” Waikanae-based Mr Thomas said. But the Architects who’ve had to sit the NZRAB’s exams will be spitting tacks at the costs involved: $300 for the Plumbers. At last call, it was about $2100 for the Architectural exam. Of course, if you want to not be an Architect, but just a Designer Class 3, then you could apply to the DBH to be one of those too. At last count, there were just 11 for the whole country. Oh yes, the system is working just fine…