RNZ's broadcasts yesterday and this morning on the subject of shonky, uncertified plumbing products and now other building products (see subsequent articles on its website here, here and here) have reawakened interest in and around the subject of ensuring that building products are fit for purpose.
BIF says it has received "many expressions of concern from its members about the questionable quality of a range of new products and materials entering the country from abroad."
Product and materials sectors that come in for questioning include plumbing, electrical, exterior claddings, roofing, glass and power tools.
Says BIF's Bruce Kohn: “Why have these questions arisen? Primarily because for the past 5 years a policy emphasis has been placed on ministerial encouragement of overseas products and materials to boost competitiveness in the market place during a building boom, especially in Auckland.
“The open door policy has resulted in a host of new entrants to the market through migrants turning to sources of supply in their home countries and fresh entrepreneurs entering the supply chain. BIF has no problem with this - provided that enforcement keeps pace with the new situation," he adds.
“That the policy has been successful in driving down prices cannot be doubted – margins are squeezed throughout the building supply chain and competition is intense."
The road to hell is paved with good intentions
The flipside however is that some substandard products have clearly slipped through the cracks. Bruce Kohn says for example that Auckland Council has encountered problems in this area and is working with industry and Government officials to address it.
“The Commerce Commission and MBIE are also active in addressing complaints which come under Fair Trading law," he says.
"MBIE is also mounting an educational campaign among suppliers to ensure technical information accompanying materials and products is as required to comply with existing standards and the New Zealand Building Code."
That Building Inspectors are also having problems keeping track of new products and materials entering the country is evident, according to BIF.
"The key to ensuring quality for new home buyers is for architects and designers to specify materials and products from reputable suppliers that they trust from past practice and dealings," says Bruce Kohn.
But it also up to the enforcement regime to ensure that there is no product substitution once products and materials have been specified, he says.
"For consumers, the best assurance they can get is to buy from trusted mainstream suppliers, such as the main merchants, with whom they have previously dealt." Better safe than sorry in other words.
Going forward, Bruce Kohn also tells us that BIF, the Construction Strategy Group (CSG) and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) have research into this area, as well as general building work, on their list of priorities "for urgent attention".
Adding fuel to the fire, a good deal of additional attention is likely to be given the issue in Australia this week when the results of a Senate ordered enquiry into questionable building products entering the country is to be made public.
Look for more on this issue in the next edition of NZ Hardware Journal!