Leak report disappointing say homeowners

A lawyer representing 600 Auckland owners of leaky homes is disappointed a new report into the crisis does not address the Building Industry Authority's inaction on the issue.

The third part of the Overview Group on the Weathertightness of Buildings report, released yesterday, found more regulation of the building industry was needed and the Building Industry Authority's (BIA) role should be overhauled.

Paul Grimshaw, who represents homeowners at an 85-unit site in Grafton, told National Radio today he was frustrated the report did not address the BIA's handling of the problem.

"It calls for reviewing the (building) code, reviewing the Building Act, reviewing the documents, but it leaves aside the obvious issue that they have known since about 1998 of the problem and these reviews ought to have been carried out by now," he said.

He said legal proceedings against the BIA on behalf of Greenwich Park residents over the authority's failure to stop leaks at site would be lodged today.

Mr Grimshaw has also said he is also suing the industry-run Building Research Association (Branz) for approving a cladding system used on the site.

In an apology letter from BIA chairman Barry Brown to Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins, also released yesterday, Mr Brown accepted the Government should have been told earlier about the problem but said the department did have some information from previous meetings.

There have been calls for resignations over the crisis, with Mr Brown and BIA chief executive Bill Porteous in the gun.

Mr Grimshaw said it was irrelevant whether any BIA officials were sacked or not.

"From the owners' point of view they won't really care whether heads roll at the BIA because the damage has been done."

Mr Grimshaw believed Mr Brown's apology was inadequate.

"Obviously it was a bit of a half-hearted apology but ...from the owners' point of view, it's quite good because apologising like that in my view is tantamount to admitting they were wrong in the first place."

Phil O'Sullivan, company director of building inspection company Prendos, who has campaigned for four years to stop the problem, said Dr Porteous had not provided leadership on the problem.

"He's known about this for a long time and has simply avoided the issue or walked around it.

"We repeatedly asked for the size of this problem to be determined."

Dr Porteous told National Radio the authority wanted power to enforce the Building Act and to have control of local authorities which held the power to give projects the go ahead.

The BIA would like more power to see that all the parts of the Building Code including the administration of the code -- which was very much in the hands of the territorial authorities -- to be audited and watched over more closely.

He said many buildings did not meet BIA recommendations but had been approved by local authorities.

But Mr O'Sullivan said that was the only area where the BIA lacked power but it did have power over other areas, including over building certifiers.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said yesterday the BIA needed to prove itself.

"I am phrasing my answer very carefully. I think the BIA has got a responsibility to show that they can change."

MPs questioned Mr Brown and Dr Porteous at a select committee hearing yesterday.

They asked why the BIA had been so slow to act when it should have been aware of the problem since at least 1997.

Dr Porteous said while there had been indications of problems, it had not been corroborated from a range of sources.

Many problems were reported to the BIA and weathertightness was just one of them.

Territorial authorities, which oversee building inspections, did not raise the issue with the BIA.