2 Nov 2019

CodeMark lifts suspension on building products certifier with poor record

9:00 pm on 2 November 2019

A leading building products certifier has had its suspension lifted, despite the company's poor track record.

construction worker on construction site

Photo: 123rf.com

The National Party says the problems with the CodeMark assurance scheme show the government is doing too little to protect consumers.

CertMark had failed multiple reviews since 2014 but carried on issuing certifications, including for safety-critical products such as aluminium composite panel used to clad high-rises.

The Queensland company was suspended in July for a series of breaches.

CodeMark administrator JAS-ANZ said its rigorous checks - including on-site assessments "in line with international best practice" - showed the certifier had now improved.

In lifting the suspension, a "number of additional conditions" were placed on CertMark, said the Australian-based accreditation agency, which oversees numerous certification schemes.

CertMark breached the scheme four years ago, and had extra surveillance and other conditions imposed on it for a year. Soon after these were lifted, serious faults with its certification re-emerged, leading to the suspension this year.

But JAS-ANZ defended the strength and speed of its sanctioning of CertMark.

"Across the period, the actions taken ... in relation to concerns about CMI [CertMark] were proportional to the problems identified at the time, so as to appropriately manage risk," it said.

But documents released to RNZ show the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - which owns CodeMark here - wanted more done sooner.

In mid-2018 it objected to JAS-ANZ giving CertMark more time to appeal against reviews that found faults, while CertMark kept issuing many certifications in New Zealand and Australia.

CertMark pulled out of New Zealand after its suspension in July 2019 and is now only active in the scheme in Australia.

The National Party said the case showed the government's regulation of the building industry was flawed.

"Clearly, we have a product assurance system that is broken, that urgently needs an overhaul," said building spokesperson Andrew Bayly.

Shonky building products cost building and home owners more than $100 million a year to fix "so it's is extremely worrying to learn CertMark's suspension has been lifted when it has been found to be so obviously wanting and not up to the job", he said.

The government's reform attempts were inadequate, he said.

Legislative changes aimed at tightening CodeMark came in yesterday, and more will follow over the next two years.

A whole new assurance programme was needed, starting with independent third-party certification for the most critical high-risk products, Mr Bayly said.

"But most of all we need ministerial oversight on what is so obviously a broken system. Many in the industry don't have faith that the Minister is in charge on this."

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