Seeing as the race to become the next Speaker of the House is heating up, I thought I would put in a plea for Prime Minister John Key to choose the Hon Maurice Williamson to take over from the Rt Hon Lockwood Smith.
I believe Maurice would make a good Speaker for a number of reasons. He has the skills, experience and speaks good English. These are all good attributes for the Speaker to have.
But the main reason Maurice should be selected as the next Speaker is to give the building sector a fresh start.
Ever since he passed the third reading of the Building Act 1991 he has been (on observation of many others) in the defensive position.
Stakeholders in the building sector have also said that he has run out of ideas as the Building and Construction Minister.
When looking at his Building Act Review it is sad to note that New Zealand has encountered many issues, and the National-ACT Government has not offered answers to any of them:
1: Consumer protection: In the absence of a more genuine reallocation of accountability, as argued by submitters, through mandatory insurance-backed warranties and the introduction of proportionate liability, the consumers are exposed to greater risk. The consumers are suffering and waiting!
2: Product Warranties: Legislation brought in by National has never directly addressed the accountability of manufacturers and suppliers of building materials although they had played a vital role in the leaky building saga.
3: Earthquake-prone buildings: Earthquake-prone buildings need to be strengthened to 33% under the current law. It has been encouraged to get this lifted to 67% after the Christchurch earthquakes but many building-owners cannot afford to bear the cost of strengthening works. Nor would insurers be prepared to offer cover.
It may also be worth considering setting a different strengthening level for different parts of NZ according to the earthquake-risk level that exists in individual regions.
4: Insurance Premiums: This is especially the case in Wellington where insurance premiums have risen to unsustainable levels.
It has been reported in the Listener that building replacement insurance on some heritage buildings has gone from $14,000 a year in 2009 to $52,000 in 2011. And it’s predicted to hit $132,000 this year.
The Dominion-Post also reported this week that some businesses have faced insurance premium increases of up to 200%. Department store Kircaldie and Stains premiums had risen from 78c for every $1000 worth of insurance in 2010 to $8.11 this year, even though the main 1908 building had been strengthened to 100% of the building code.
The list can go on and on.
We need a Building and Construction Minister who is going to show leadership and find solutions to the above issues.
What we got from him for so long was nothing but a tweak to the status-quo.
Worse still, if you ask questions to the Minister about these issues, the competent Minister will have a dozen sound bites ready to reel off without even thinking about the question.
So now the greatest hope for the building sector is to have a new Minister for Building and Construction.
I’m not saying that Williamson doesn’t have the required capability for the role. His hands maybe tied. He may just have had that portfolio for too long. He is probably tired, bored and reluctant to entertain new ideas or simply to challenge the status-quo or himself.