Courtney Trenwith July 04, 2012
Figures show there was a 25 per cent increase in approvals processed in May compared to April.
The state government could face a barrage of compensation claims from businesses and residents affected by a severe backlog in building approvals following new legislation.
The number of residential building approvals is still about 30 per cent below the recent average, three months after the government introduced its controversial Building Act on April 2.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday show there was a 25 per cent increase in approvals processed in May compared to April - when approvals slumped to their lowest level since the 1980s.
But Housing Industry Association WA director John Dastlik said it would be several more months before the number of approvals returned to normal, let alone caught up with the backlog.
Unofficial June figures indicated there was minimal further improvement.
Mr Dastlik said builders, manufacturers and suppliers had been commercially affected through no fault of their own, suffering cash flow problems and reduced profits while some were temporarily out of work, making compensation a real possibility.
"It's certainly something that the government needs to be cognisant of," Mr Dastlik said.
"There are a lot of people out there in the market who have suffered, whether that be builders, manufacturers or suppliers as a result of this dysfunctional legislation.
"I think people might be starting to consider whether they have options for claims against the government. That includes clients who are being held up and having to pay additional rent costs."
WA's largest builder, Dale Alcock, called on the government to acknowledge its culpability in the debacle that threatened the financial books of numerous businesses.
"We want acknowledgement from the government that this is their mistake and [to explain] what assistance they're going to provide to various sections of this industry," he said.
"Why should all the stakeholders have to pay for the government's incompetence?"
Mr Alcock said the problems experienced in the past few months proved the need for a fully privatised certification system.
The new Building Act, which came into effect on April 2, represented the most comprehensive overhaul of the approvals system in at least half a century and cause mass confusion among developers and council workers.
The changes now require each component of the approval process to be carried out consecutively rather than concurrently.
Minister for Finance Simon O'Brien said he expected the number of approvals to again improve in June.
"However, I recognize that we are not out of the woods yet and we are working very hard to deal with this issue," he said.
Mr Alcock said approvals needed to lift even higher than the level experienced prior to the new legislation to help cope with the backlog.
Mr O'Brien said an action plan to speed up building approvals was being implemented, with 25 private building surveyors hired to assist local governments.
Information kits containing a simple checklist and a single processing procedure manual would be distributed to local governments.
"This will assist those involved in and approving building permit applications to make quick decisions to kick-start the industry," Mr Obrien said.
A helpline is due to open today.
However an announcement last month that construction could start on projects caught up in the backlog was dismissed by the industry because they were unable to access finance from banks and were reluctant to make themselves legally liable if something went wrong with the approval application.
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