Leaky homes crisis – Hyde/Joyce won’t waste an opportunity

So the leaky houses fiasco could cost $11billion dollars to fix, or more.

The leaky houses debacle was caused by the National Party Government with their 1991 Building Act, an act which basically said “whatever” when it came to building regulation. National in 1991 is the political equivalent to National/Act now or Joyce/Hyde.

Even, the NZ Herald this week had to admit:

Thousands of homes were built in the 1990s with inadequate weather-proofing because the principle of deregulation was taken too far. It really is as simple as that.

It is actually as simple as that. Read the Hunn report if you don’t believe me. Ruthless right deregulation caused the leaky homes crisis.

So now the National/Act Party, that gave the taxpayer an $11billion liability and made life a misery for tens of thousands of people trapped in decaying ruthless right houses, says that they are willing to kick in $0.8 billion of our money by 2024 to help out. This would cover 10% of the cost for some homeowners, leaving a quarter for councils and two thirds for homeowners.

This is sick and wrong as many homeowners can’t afford their two thirds share of the cost and it doesn’t acknowledge that central govt was the cause.

But it also has a more sinister dimension. The ruthless right wanted to use the recession to advance their no-brain ideas – “don’t waste a good recession” was their slogan – and, in a similar vein, why waste the leaky houses crisis. For them it is an opportunity.

Remember that the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hyde, wants to privatise everything possible, and that many in National (especially Stephen Joyce) share this ambition but realised that they needed to have a more moderate policy if they were to be elected. But there is an elegant solution….

So, what if, Auckland’s share of the leaky houses bill is, say, $5 billion.

And, what if, the Auckland supercity is forced to come up with a good proportion of that cost – maybe a quarter or more so anywhere from $1.25billion to $2.5billion.

And, what if, when it’s formed, the Auckland supercity has a series of Council Controlled Organisations that hold a few billion in assets in the form of water, transport, airport share holding companies, port company etc etc in a form that is very easy to sell as it’s already separated from council as a commercial enterprise with a board with a large proportion of central govt appointees.

Then there is a great opportunity to load up the supercity with the leaky houses liability while setting the CCOs up for easy sell-off to pay the leaky houses bill without pushing up rates. The ruthless right can come across as the angels of compassion – “we feel for those poor leaky houses people but we don’t want to lumber the poor people of Auckland with big rates increases so we must reluctantly sell off the assets of Auckland to our friends and donors.”

If you think it’s far fetched, remember this is exactly what National did in the 90s when they established the Auckland Regional Services Trust by an act of parliament and gave it the Auckland Regional Council’s assets (primarily the Port of Auckland) and liabilities. It appeared the only way out was for the ARST to sell the assets to pay the debt. Of course they didn’t figure that the Alliance and Bruce Jesson would win four of the six elected positions on the ARST under a three word campaign slogan “We won’t sell”. Bruce then figured out how to pay the debt without selling the Port of Auckland – an asset that just keeps on giving to the people of Auckland (we remember and love you Bruce).

So we all need to take responsiblity for a serious chunk of the leaky houses debt, because we can’t stand by while our fellow citizens live in misery and it was central govt that enabled the leaky houses. But we also need to take on a good proportion of the debt because otherwise Hyde and Joyce will use the debt to force privatisation of local government assets.

39 Comments Posted

  1. dont tell me we cant afford it! the solution is so easy it’s a joke!
    you make a law just like the law for earthquake proofing buildings..
    or a warrant of fitness on a car..

    meaning.. all owners of properties must comply with the new rules by ….. date, and isolate, paint, rebuild, and repair.
    all those who don’t comply with the new rules and regulations will be fined! landlords buy houses and rent them out as it, because they can.
    so the tenants are forced to live in 3rd world conditions.. because the owner doesnt want to spend a dime on the place..
    the government needs to force him to do it..

    we can set up borrow programs, HP so to speak where you buy the materials from the government and you pay monthly..
    dont tell me the brightest minds int he country who we VOTED into leadership positions and give them 100K a year and a great pension can’t solve problems!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. bliss
    Maybe you should pass on your superior wisdom to the Privy Council.
    They pointed out (in 1995 in the Invercargill case) that we are the only jurisdiction in the western world that puts so much liability on council for such a long time.
    In the UK and elsewhere council liability expires after a certain time or the first on sale. At that point building surveyors can be used (just as we use marine surveyors for buying boats and the AA for buying cars) who will inspect a building and report on it for a fee. The fee is negotiable and is determined by how much comfort you seek and the perceived risk.
    An important part of the report is the report on the guarantees and the insurance. These reports help set the price. No guarantees and no insurance reduces the price dramatically. The fees are far far less than we now have to pay for building permits and certainly take less time.
    We have set up a system which is a cash cow to be milked by consultants and council staff and as we now know offers no comfort to anyone.
    OUr balance between state regulation and market disciplines is totally out of wack.
    Probably the most effective way to build yourself a comfortable house is to build a boat in the yard and then just live on it.

  3. “He’s held responsible by contract law. ”

    Like builders are here, except on the advice of their lawyers they voluntarily liquidated themselves, formed a new company and escaped liability because one of the contracting parties is deemed to no longer exist…

    This is happening on a larger scale with guys like Mr Blue Chip.

    It’s not hard to see who did the lobbying when some of these “white collar” regulations came in.

    There will always be cowboys and people will get stung, but this leaky building thing is about more than cowboys after a quicky buck, it cuts across several industries and professionals the Council and Government de regulation

  4. Note the CYA in there for the inspector is to report everything he can possibly find or suspect. If he reports it, he can’t be sued for missing it. He isn’t working for the builder or the Architect or the seller at all (unless the seller hires one to make sure his products will actually pass). These guys have VERY sharp eyes and they do poke into every part of your house.


  5. Well, the inspector is liable if there’s a problem and he should have seen it and didn’t. He IS licensed. He’s held responsible by contract law. His customers include several entities, not just the homebuyer, but also the bankers, real-estate agents and insurers.

    So if he does a cr@p job he’s out of business and into bankruptcy court pretty damned fast. My experience was that about $200 covered it, as all this guy does is inspect and report… and no, he doesn’t stop cr@p building. The liability of the builder does that.

    See, the builder can’t SELL cr@p in the first place, because an independent inspector WILL catch it and will bust him. There is another level where it has to do with the license that the builder has, and the responsibility to use proper materials (which CAN be hidden until they fail)… but the inspectors check the in-wall moisture… among other things. If a builder falsifies the materials it may not get spotted… I didn’t go through a build process, just a buy, but if he does and gets caught he’s gone. I mean, his personal bankruptcy is assured and he’ll have trouble getting another builders license anywhere.

    The point I’m making is that the people who have skin in the game are the most likely to pay attention. With the system here, the council is taking the responsibility off the home buyer. This can only work while the council is actually shouldering the real responsibility and it has no natural reason to do so.

    If the bank is taking a risk and an insurer is taking a risk, they’re going to be real careful that the house is built right and the inspections get DONE, not gundecked. If the homeowner is aware of the actual risk, he’s going to be looking for that same assurance. Trust me, it DOES work.


  6. In the USA the “housing inspector” is a separate independent entity.

    How is the person buying a house, which they do maybe once in 10 years, able to distinguish a “separate independent entity” from a charlatan in the pay of the slightly secret society of rip off merchants?

    And if they do they need to be expensive to do a good job.

    And all they can do is describe, they cannot stop shonky stuff being built in the first place.

    What ever solution you propose is going to add to the cost and the better it solves the problem the more expensive it will be.

    Which is my point, we need to get use to that.


  7. The steel frame is fine. Its masonry and tile roofs that cause the weight problem.

    So in New Zealand both our temperature profiles and earthquake and wind loads make well insulted light timber frames a good bet. Keep down the thermal mass and the mass mass.

  8. In a recent TV show “building green” where a straw bale house was constructed, they used steel beams (In California).

  9. All of which assumes that the government changes the rules and dis-establishes the investment premium on housing so I can actually build something I want. 🙂


  10. The light steel that replaces light timber is IMHO, an even better bet. I have seen the results of the Northridge quake up close and personal. Stuff that broke and stuff that didn’t… and I am not planning to have gas reticulation into the house either. 🙂

    I expect it to flex just fine… and it will take a higher compression load. Not to mention the other advantages.


  11. The light timber frame is the best means of construction in earthquake zones like New Zealand.
    More weight means more load.

    IN the famous Alaskan earthquake a light timber frame house ( which looked just like a New Zealand bungalow) was jolted off its foundations and rolled down a hill to settle on some flat land below.
    Not a single pane of glass was broken.
    The hundreds of nails act as “energy absorbers” and absorb much of kinetic energy of the quake.

  12. I am not a very good Green… I’d likely use steel framing and/or heavily reinforced light masonry construction…. there’s this thing I have about earthquakes you see 😉


  13. Buyer beware is useful except in societies where the seller invests millions of dollars in “marketing” to dupe the buyer.

    The same comment applies to the food industry and has even more validity when easily-duped children are the market.

  14. BJ

    Interesting comments. I can see the value of that way of doing things indeed. People in the industry occassionally talk about the cost added to the process if we do this or that…

    I have had probes installed by MDC Moisture and for 1800 I can fully monitor moisture levels in my house. Knowing what I know now, and had it been available at the time, for a mere additional 1800 bucks I would have told my Builder and architect and developer that these were going in…I bet they would have paid very close attention tot heir systems then.

    This company MDC, explains instances where people now building have told the builder they are installing probes and he has very carefully checked wood arriving on site and in some instances more than a third is sent back as being too moist before construction begins.

  15. Gerrit

    I appreciate your comments.

    Buyer beware is useful except in societies where the seller invests millions of dollars in “marketing” to dupe the buyer.

  16. Bliss… The “buyer beware” thing is very real and it works very well in fact. I know because it is the nature of the market in the US to employ this system and I have experienced it.

    You are correct, the buyer is almost certainly NOT an engineer or qualified inspector, and has no way to know whether he/she is buying good work.

    In the USA the “housing inspector” is a separate independent entity. His/Her reports are the basis on which the house is able to be marketed. The “council” and the feds, have rules and regulations which provide much of his checklist, but he has the responsibility to find problems before they become big. An inspection typically costs a few hundred $. It provides the insurance company a basis for issuing a home warranty, and a bank a basis for being confident of its lending against something that is in fact resellable if there is a default. Both entities have an interest in the result… and of course the prospective home buyer does as well.

    The builder has to have his own inspections in self-defense. Just to be sure.

    The difference between this system and letting the council take the responsibility is obvious. The council doesn’t have skin in the game.. at least it didn’t think so until the leaky-homes litigators wound up looking to councils to provide the damages.

    The agency already existed. It WAS the council’s responsibility. They blew it.

    The fact that it will add costs to the industry is irrelevant. Private or public it will add costs. The question is whether the appropriate agency is an agency of the state… and I don’t see a compelling argument that makes it so, and I have the experience of seeing the alternative system working well… because the people who were doing it had skin in the game.


  17. merlinnz,

    Totally agree. If the system is applied properly (and with Hitec, Nuplec, etc. running their own assurance programmes today,m they are) there are no problems.

    The problems as I see it, back in the day when the majority of these buildings were constructed, rest purely and simply with the specifiers, builders and their negligence to get the systems applied and signed off that it met the suppliers specifications.

    They knew within a short period of time that there was problems with incorrect installation yet the developers and builders were so keen to get it signed off that the specifiers simply prostrated themselves before the almigthty dollar available from the next building being planned by the owner/developer that common sense and all their training went out the door.

    Most never did. Hence the big push by architects to lay the blame at BRANZ when the specifiers (architects) should have had clerk of works on site to make sure the building (not just the cladding) was buld as per their specs.

    That is the point I’m trying to make. Specifiers abandoned their responsibility to ensure their specifications were adhered to and left it to the council inspectors.

  18. Stop the “buyer beware” bull.

    A person buying a house will do so a few times in their life. They are not equiped to judge the claims of the builders, and are trying to get the best value for money.

    The builder of the house has an incentive to do the absolute minimum to get the house up and sold.

    So to protect the buyer there needs to be an agency that certifies the work of the builders and holds them to account. Otherwise crooks will prosper, honest builders will struggle to compete and buyers will unwittingly buy crap houses. (As happened)

    This agency needs to be empowered by the state and it will add costs to the building industry. It is unavoidable. Get over it.


  19. Gerrit the monolithic cladding system is not the problem per say, that is the cladding is good as gold. The system is faulty. There are homes which first led the leaky building crisis which have been reclad and now are in need of recladding because they replaced rotten wood and the cladding in the same way.

    It is infinitely possible to use the monolithic cladding and be weathertight.

    http://www.hitec.co.nz is a company which all leaky building owners and parties to any civil action should visit. We are using them and the potential to save the ratepayers money on full reclads is enormous.

  20. Please can we stop referring tot he Government kicking in anything. They are not, they are prepared to “loan” out a pittance.

    The one thing that is pretty clear in this crisis (and yes I am a leaky home owner) is that the home owner bears the smallest responsibility for the debacle but shoulders the greatest cost.

    Many builders were advised by lawyers to voluntarily liquidate, set up a new company and thereby avoid any liability.

    I purchased my home while it was being bought in October 2001. The “crisis” was just beginning to rear its head. The house had frame, slab and roof.

    We brought up leaky building concerns via the agent. he took us to another home to show us how ours would be differemt. The developer/owner advised us that it was different and wouldn’t leak, the builder advised the same, and we purchased the house. In March 2002 the Council (fully aware of all the impending leaky building issues) signed off our house.

    We have just been advised (well April this year) that the repair cost will be 340k.

    At best Council will settle for about 30% although their privately stated strategy is to drag it out to push home owners hard to get the best settlement. I am also an Auckland ratepayer and can sympathise with ratepayers footing the entire bill. Rightly or wrongly Councils DID hold themselves out as being the one to certify a building as worthy for purpose. Houses do not begin rotting in 5 or 6 years and be regarded as merchanitible quality.

    Those who lobbied the Government hard in the late 80’s including Fletchers and Carter Holt, and also BRANZ have escaped entirely.

    It is also worth noting that even if you do get a 30% settlement fro council it is on the basis you relinquish rights to sue the other parties and they seek to recover their own money from them.

    That sucks.

    Council 25-30%
    NZ Govt 30-50%
    Builders 25-30 ( for stupidly relying on BRANZ and GOVT)
    Let the Government sue the architects, developers etc…. I bet we’d see some quicker settlements witht he Govt bank rolling the law suits!

  21. Owen, I see where you are coming from as your system is very similar to standard weatherboard but with the laps in a vertical? direction.

    And yes that would be weatherproof. Much like a very similar system using plywood panels.

    We used to use 2 pot polysulphite jointing compounds with fibropanels so did not need the flashings or stainless screws. What was critical though was the need to prime the back of all the sheets prior to fixing.

    The systems the Bernard Denton and the leaky homes people are talking about is the monolithic system which was always going to fail.

  22. Gerrit
    We are talking at cross purposes. The IBS panel systems and the regular frame system many of us have been using since did not use plaster at all. We are just cladding stud frames with hardiflex panels but without battens and clumsy horizontal metal flashings.

  23. Gerrit.
    There were no cracks because this was an engineered system and has never cracked.
    The panles of hardiflex were first ground off along the edges and the “bottom” corners were ground to a round corner. Then we has specially extruded sealer strips that were like a dumbbell in cross section.
    These were about 20 ml wide. They were laid up along the studs were the panels would meet but without touching, usually leaving an 8 ml gap between. The walls had been lined with building paper of course.
    Then the panels were fastened to the studs using as assembly of a self drilling stainless steel screw, with its head sitting on a cadmium dish washer backed up by a neoprene round washer. The screw would be power driven home then backed off half a turn. Along the eaves or verge lines we did not use metal flashiing but packed out the panels with a thickness of hardiflex and lapped over the lower panels. Then the joinery flashing were laid up between the two skins. Ivan Juriss of the Group Architects new what he was doing and I still use the system today.
    The acrylic paint we used was specified by Resene who also developed a special floor skin which could be laid onto the prefabricated ribcell floors we used. IBS was a world leader in manufactured housing and prefab building techniques and won international awards. Unfortunately this was pre web days so it is hard to find anything about the team.
    This was in the seventies. The world is now beginning to catch up but sadly we were ahead of our time.
    kahikatea you are right to some extent but the trouble is that the use of untreated timber allowed the rot to spread through the whole frame carried by funghal spores. So it was a combined effect.
    But leaks occur in roofs from storms etc and I would be loathe to use untreated pine in a truss or any other member that could be exposed to even temporary moisture.

  24. “And the “sustainablility crowd” has to take some of the blame for promoting untreated timber as part of a campaign for “sustainable housing.””

    untreated timber was never the main issue. The main issue was that water was leaking into the walls, and was ponding there rather than draining out. The sort of timber treatment usually used for wall framing would not be sufficient to stop the timber rotting in this case. And even if you did use timber that was sufficiently treated to cope with this, the ponding water would just cause other problems. It would seep through the interior linings, causing mould, and make the inhabitants of the house sick.

  25. Wat wrote: “It was caused by the state getting involved in the house guarantee business; something that should be a purely private business.”

    maybe the state shouldn’t be involved in house guarantees, but the leaky homes problem didn’t start when the state got involved. It started many years later, when the state deregulated the system.

  26. Who is to blame for the leaky homes fiasco is a trivial issue compared to Russel’s other concern, privatizing Aucklands public utilities. The likely methods to be used in achieving this intent was clearly evident several months ago. Here is a letter I had published in March 2009:

    “One item on the hidden agenda of National-ACT is now visible: privatizing NZ ports, hence the cuts to public transport expenditure and scrapping the regional fuel tax. I use Ports of Auckland to show how it works.

    The Auckland Regional Council has identified as “critical” the investment in ferry terminals, bus and train stations, integrated ticketing, and real time information systems. Without them, planned increases in annual passenger numbers are unlikely to meet the projected 100 million boardings by 2016. Now these critical projects must compete for public transport money from the Land Transport Fund reduced over the next three years to approximately $244 million.

    To secure funding, Auckland must contribute around half the required moneys and it’s leaders will be wondering how to fund the massive shortfall left by the Government. One source will be to raise rates, which is politically difficult in a recession, another will be to use Ports of Auckland as collateral for a massive loan.

    Once the Ports are in hock it will be easy to manipulate things so that some sophisticated financial jiggery-pokery will allow the argument that There Is No Alternative to selling them. We can expect some comparable sequence of events to happen to our own Lyttelton Port.”

  27. BJ,

    Totally correct about not trusting a membrane coating alone. However the membrane coating at least gave some protection, ordinary acrylic paint none at all.

    Dings and damage were easily rectified PLUS any leaks in the coating that did not penetrate into the plaster substrate or framing could be easily spotted as the membrane coating would form very characteristic water filled blisters (tits).

    The whole cladding system was wrong (including the use of paints and coatings to “hide” (or hyde, russel and greenfly?) problems with the plaster matrix.

    First indications we had that the whole cladding system design was suspect, when the aluminium wondow installer had to put flashing around the windows to try and seal the interface between the plaster and the window. Those flashings were grossly inadequate and the industry knew it.

    I well remember a meeting with one company that promoted insulation and cladding in one system where they demanded that the paint company I worked for guarenteed for 30 years the coating system to prevent water ingress. Without that guarentee they would specify the companies coating systems.

    We did not offer the guarentee as we would have been liable for any water ingress due to faulty instalation workmanship, short or missing flashings, faulty application of expansion joint sealers, faulty applcation of the solid joint overlays, etc. On some jobs I saw the plaster barely covered the polystyrene or fibrolite underlay. Without the membrane coating the leaks would have been seen from day one.

    Just as well I had considerable water proofing experience (looking back I have have a lot of jobs!! must be getting old.)

    Having said all that I see the modern plastering systems are much more proficient at how they control moisture and create weather tightness.


    Looking at the details of the construction methods I would be happy to build in that manner TODAY.

    We know so much much more now then we did then.

    A very very expensive learning curve.

    First thing I notice witht the modern systems is the quality of material is much improved. No more polystyrene. The plaster is now 4 times thicker then the original stuff. And to follow Owens arguments, the acrylic paints on the market today are far better at coating that plaster then the acrylic paints we had back then.

    Secondly the engineering is much improved. Water seals around openings are incorporated into the cladding system, fastenings are specifically designed for the applications.

    Thirdly, warranty (15 years) is assured by a applicator licensing agreement where instalation standards are maintained by the guarantor. Much changed from the early days when every back yard builder was throwing polystyrene and plaster around.

    Mind you back in those days there were 43 building cranes on the Auckland skyline plus many more building suites using mobile cranes.

    So getting the building boom completed was always going to bring the cowboy developers and builders into the industry.

  28. If you have a decent engineer working around the cladding he’d have spotted the total inadequacy of the fallback position. Should have. I don’t know what sort of training was common then, but it is pretty basic. You do NOT trust a film or membrane to perfectly prevent water ingress, It can be cut with a knife, damaged by claws, crushed by impact of something harder,..

    So what happens when the water does get behind it had to be considered, and it wasn’t. That isn’t unique to NZ… there are moldy houses in the USA too. The builders and architects took a beating on that, but the quality problems never got as bad and and the practice stopped much much faster. Something about having lawyers pursuing them for the rest of their lives rather put the industry right fairly quickly.

    This is one of those places where the market would work better than the government does. Regulatory guidelines being useful but compliance being enforced by contract law. We don’t have that. When we gave up regulation as well we just completely. lost control.


  29. Owen,

    No cracks, no expansion joints? No allowance for movement?

    No wonder it cracked later.

    Problem was often the test pieces where too small while on site pieces could be 10 or more square meters. Test pieces would not crack, larger insitu pieces would. Hence the need for a high build coating system

    Jointing compounds in expansion joints were often incorrectly applied. Simply squirted in and tooled off. But all joints will fail if a bond breaker on the bottom edge of the joint had not been installed.

    A lot of the water proofing we were doing was to either install longer flashing over the cladding or fibreglassing the flashing to the cladding. Mosts flashings had on averhang of around 50 to 70mm long. Far to short to prevent wind driven rain from going up under the flashing and into the cladding.

    Flashings should be at least 120mm to 150mm long but that would be unsightly. Wind driven rain travels up a long way, far further then the regulators thought, tested for or wanted to acknowledge.

    Claddings were also very susceptable to ponding water seepage. If they were unflashed in a horizon plane they would fail. Many butresses were left unflashed for that particular monolithic look but often cracked on the sharp vertical/horizontal interface due to building movement, heat expansion and contraction, bird droppings causing damage to the cladding/paintwork, etc.

    Rounded top corners would have been helpful but more expensive to construct.

    Sorry Owen but whatever system you were involved with, it would have leaked without proper flashings, expansion joints and an efficient coating system.

  30. Chemophobes Owen… I am trying to work out what sort of music a Chemophone would make… 🙂

    ..and you’re right. They do have a problem with the reality of treated wood being part of building houses that last.

    Leaky boats? The Tongan ferry thing? That story about the First Mate not waking the skipper until just before the capsize is scary. Clearly a lack of understanding of what a free-surface in a liquid filled tank, does to the stability of a ship. Which is normally taught to anyone taking any sort of training in things that float.

    I’m not going to disagree with much of anything here. The truth is that the NZ building industry, government, customers and banks have locket themselves into one of the most evil, contorted, distorted, distended mess that any market has ever been in. Possibly in the history of markets. Markets have bubbled more (tulips), but that is sort of one-dimensional. The mess we’ve got has so many moving parts it needs to be torn down and restarted from scratch… much as ought to be done with most of the damned houses.


  31. RE the acrylic paint. Our design system had no cracks. No flashing penetrated the cladding.
    And the “sustainablility crowd” has to take some of the blame for promoting untreated timber as part of a campaign for “sustainable housing.”
    Remarkably, if you go to the Waitakere Council web site and find their policy documents on sustainable housing they are still advocating the use of untreated timber.
    It became an unholy alliance between the chemophones and the timber merchants who wanted to sell cheaper timber.
    But the Privy Council back in 1995 warned us that our whole approach to building regulation was balmy and left too much liability on councils. In every other modern jurisdiction council’s liability expires after say seven years or the first sale. Then it is up to buyers to have the building assessed and people tend to use builders who offer guarantees and have solid insurance.
    You cannot regulate perfection unless you are prepared to see permit and construction costs go through the roof. Oops, they already have!
    Of course most of these jurisdictions have little choice in the matter because you can hardly sue your council for failures in a house built 250 years ago. However, the Privy Council found it had no choice but to allow an Invercargill family to sue council for a failure in a foundation of a house built seventeen years ago.
    Makes you worry about the leaky boat syndrome doesn’t it. And the leaky car syndrome.

  32. I’m in partial agreement with everyone on this.

    Wat is correct. Local government has no business being in the business of building guarantees. This is not a necessary government function unless government is building the houses or government is buying the houses.

    Government can inspect them for safety and whether they meet standards for connecting to the sewers, electrical grid, gas, water… whatever is appropriate, but the responsibility for the construction quality has to be held by the builder and the purchaser and the bank that holds the mortgage. The notion that local councils hold this responsibility, which was apparently inherited from some prehistoric era, is flawed.

    Russel is correct, We absolutely screwed up by allowing the industry to dictate standards and failing to regulate even though we still held the liability. There are a few more notable f–k-ups by governments in history… but this one is definitely punching-above-our-weight. Clearly the government at that time had no ability to see any value to actually thinking things through… and that characteristic is no less marked in the present flavour of misrule.

    Owen is correct, that in spite of the above we can’t solely blame the politicians. Everyone got in on the act. The Homeowners did not take appropriate levels of interest in the building process. The Architects abrogated their responsibility to their clients to supervise the quality… and I note that they SHOULD have been the first people to spot the potential problems with the cladding systems being used. Theirs is the technical background, including theory, that would naturally equip them to see what was coming. They are the ones who discuss solutions with Engineers… and Engineers involved in this process should have seen it even sooner. The Builders have to take a large chunk of responsibility for the lack of quality at many levels. Not understanding some of the theory, they get let off a bit, but anyone with experience would have to have SOME questions about the cladding systems on offer.

    Finally we can’t avoid responsibility for THIS mess because earlier governments got it so horribly wrong that they allowed the mess to develop, and we cannot leave our fellow citizens so utterly and hopelessly “holding the bag” because it is inconvenient. The only issue I have with this process is that the Engineers and Architects and Builders who built the damned things are (so far as I can tell) skating out of a large part of their part of it… but I don’t think it can be helped.


  33. I can understand the Greens launching a political campaign against National on this issue but to solely blame the politicians is plainly wrong.

    Suggest you have a read here to either reinforce your opinion that big business had taken over the building industry or to refute the government had any involvement.


    Now the above blog writer Bernard Denton, an architect who is sheeting home the responsibility purely to the suppliers of the materials used in leaky homes.

    However I add to those responsible the very architects he represents.

    My comment on his blog here


    “and the whole sheet pained with two coats of acrylic paint.”

    And therin lies another story. Worked for a paint company back in those heady days and we worked with the plaster model to formulate correct paints for use on the cladding you describe.

    The specifications (and the Branz regulation) called for two coats of HIGH BUILD Acrylic paint over a special sealer (containing PVA type glue resins for binders).

    Not just acrylic paint.

    High Build acrylic paint is a membrane type flexible coating system. Whereas ordinary acrylic paint cannot bridge any cracks.

    One instance that stands out from memory was a building that the fly by night contractor painted with interior acrylic wall paint. All he wanted was to get past the 30 day period to sign off on a completed building.

    So yes, sheet home to problem to the manufacturers but lets not shirk the responsibility away from the builders PLUS the architects who specified the systems and who in most cases did not have clerk of works on site to ensure the buildings were build to specification (and the plaster cladding plus coating was correctly applied).

    Do architects still employ clerk of works?

    So yes the politicians were partly to blame. But equally so were many others in the building industry. Not the least the architects who SPECIFIED the building systems and failed to ensure they were build according to specification.

    Architects could quite easily have specified a more robust weatherproof system, they did not.

    PS, to echo James comment – for one who got upset when his name was written with two L’s instead of one, I would have thought would take greater care in spelling other peoples names correctly.

  34. Thae mans name is spelt ‘Hide” Russel….jeez if you don’t know that after all this time in the house with him then the Greens are truly lead by dropkicks.Makes you claims re climate change suspect too….

  35. – “The leaky houses debacle was caused by the National Party Government with their 1991 Building Act, an act which basically said “whatever” when it came to building regulation”

    No, it wasn’t.

    It was caused by the state getting involved in the house guarantee business; something that should be a purely private business.

    Next time just keep out of it an you won’t end up putting innocent rate-payers on the hook for billions.

Comments are closed.