Commerce Minister media statement – Landmark reforms to WA building laws revealed

Media statement from Commerce Minister Sue Ellery 

  • Most significant reforms to Western Australia's building laws in over a decade
  • Initial focus on improvements to design and construction of high-rise buildings, including apartments
  • Strengthened laws to protect consumers and ensure a high-quality construction

The Cook Government has announced landmark reforms to the State's building laws and will draft new legislation to improve the way buildings are designed, certified and constructed.

The Building Better reform package outlines the most significant reforms to the State's building-related laws in more than a decade, with the aim of providing greater consumer confidence, avoiding the impacts of costly defects and improving construction quality.

The wide-ranging reforms are based on 39 recommendations in response to the national Building Confidence Report, which considered improvements to building regulatory frameworks and compliance with building standards across Australia.

Reforms in Western Australia will include:

  • the staged implementation of mandatory inspections of new apartment and other commercial buildings at critical stages of construction;
  • improved enforcement powers for the Building Commissioner, Building Services Board and permit authorities;
  • tiered registration of builders and other improvements to requirements for building professionals;
  • improvements to the engagement of building surveyors;
  • enhancements to building design documentation, including minimum standards, registration requirements for designers, and third-party review of structural and fire safety designs for complex and significant buildings;
  • clearer processes for documenting design changes during construction;
  • building manuals for high-rise apartment buildings to enhance transparency and access to information after construction is complete; and
  • increases to fine penalties.

These reforms will build on the State Government's registration scheme for building engineers in Western Australia which commences on 1 July 2024 and was also in response to the national Building Confidence Report.

A consultation draft of the laws will be released at a future date to provide peak bodies, local governments and building professionals the opportunity to understand the changes and have their say on the technical details. An Action Plan will be released at the same time setting out the implementation stages and timeline. At least 12 months will be allowed between the stages of implementation.

Mandatory inspections will initially be focused on apartment buildings four storeys or higher and commercial buildings. A review of the rollout will be undertaken before the requirements are applied to residential housing construction.

This will provide sufficient opportunity for industry participants and local governments to understand the changes and build the necessary capacity. The first stage of the reforms are due to start in 2026 with mandatory inspections of high rise apartment buildings.

Increased powers for the Building Commissioner will include the authority to issue directions on technical matters, enter any construction site, notify permit authorities of serious non-compliant work and issue greater penalties for various offences under the legislation.

The full Building Better reform report can be found here.

Comments attributed to Commerce Minister Sue Ellery:

"These important reforms to WA's building laws involved close consultation with industry, local governments and building professionals. I would like to thank the many Western Australians and peak bodies who provided feedback during this process.

"The reforms will increase consumer protections, modernise the way buildings are designed, approved and constructed in WA, and provide peace of mind that our buildings are safe and constructed to the required standards.

"The Cook Government acknowledges the State's building industry is facing several challenges caused by the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to global trade, labour shortages and increasing inflationary pressures.

"Significant consideration has been given to ensure the reforms are implemented gradually, are well understood by building professionals and local governments, and cause as little disruption as is practicable.

"The public will also have an opportunity to review the draft laws and have their say on the details."


Building and Energy
Media release
20 Dec 2023

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