1 Nov 2019

New rules aims to seal flaws in CodeMark scheme

3:51 pm on 1 November 2019

New legislation aimed at improving the government's battered building products quality assurance scheme, CodeMark, comes into force today.

workers with power tools on the building site

Photo: 123rf

From now onwards, any company trying to get a CodeMark must do more to assess its products and the methods for using them against all the relevant parts of the Building Code.

CodeMark certifiers must do the same while also improving their internal quality controls.

It follows years of the powerful scheme being undermined by myriad flaws and by its failure to take prompt action over poor work by leading certifiers, leading to certificates that don't meet the code.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said it "recognises there is room for improvement in the current scheme which is underway".

It has fielded complaints for years but did not disclose the extent of the failings until it was forced to under the Official Information Act.

New Zealand failed to follow suit in 2017 when Australia tightened its CodeMark rules after five years reviewing them.

The scheme has been run jointly since 2005 when it was split into two parts - with New Zealand's rules slacker - although Australia's scheme has also been plagued by problems and complaints.

More amendments will be made to CodeMark laws next year and in 2021.

The ministry is also working to tighten up on major flaws in how it and the scheme administrator Jas-Anz (Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand) work.

According to the ministry's internal documents, these include a conflict between the law, the scheme rules and how Jas-Anz approves certifiers.

For instance, Jas-Anz has a seven-step process for doing this, despite the fact that New Zealand law prescribes what should be a faster four-step process.

The scheme has been very slow to suspend or revoke certificates, or the certifiers themselves.

Once the scheme did begin to take tougher action, in mid-2018, prompted in part by elevated scrutiny following the fatal Grenfell Tower fire, this snowballed into the suspension of the two leading certifiers, CertMark and Beal, which had issued half of all Codemarks in this country.

This led to Beal's eventual revocation, and CertMark pulling out of the scheme in New Zealand.

Other failings in the scheme the law changes seek to address according to ministry documents include:

  • no structured monitoring, reporting or communication
  • no agreed mechanism for providing guidance or knowledge
  • certificates being issued when they shouldn't be, with significant errors and that don't meet the Building Code

"Overall this has led to a lack of confidence in CodeMark," the ministry told staff in a closed-door presentation in June.

But councils must by law accept Codemarks, even though in practice the Auckland Council at least has shown reluctance to in the last two years.

Councils "must be able to have full confidence in the CodeMark product evaluation process and its rigour", the ministry said in June.