The ACT government has issued a new rectification order against developer Michael Koundouris, this time for an apartment building in Canberra Avenue – but acting Work Safety Commissioner Fiona Barbaro said she expected to settle the dispute without having to go to court.
As Mr Koundouris vowed to appeal a tribunal decision this week requiring him to fix defects in a Turner apartment building, Ms Barbaro confirmed a new rectification order had been issued for defects in the Aureus apartments in Manuka.
The formal order was issued because the legal time limit was due to run out in November, but the government was already negotiating to resolve the problems, she said.
The government has taken on Sydney consultant Ross Taylor, an expert in waterproofing, to work with builders and owners to settle disputes and get buildings fixed.
Mr Taylor said he had already found and tested a solution for water problems in the Manhattan building in Turner. Mr Koundouris had been fully co-operative and he expected that dispute to be resolved.
"In the majority of cases builders and developers are interested in using the money they'd otherwise use on lawyers and the legal process on carrying out the actual repairs if only they can be party to what they perceive as a fair and reasonable scope of work," he said.
He had worked on Canberra cases for some years, including one involving a major developer, who had agreed to $18 million of repairs, he said, but declined to name the case. The government had now formalised collaboration as the first port of call.
Mr Taylor said while the builder often wore the blame and in some cases workmanship was an issue, in many cases the fault began with the original design and engineering work. He was working with the government on legislation to ensure attention to waterproofing at the approval stage.
Mr Koundouris is facing battles on three fronts – the Manhattan case where the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal found against him after a long-running case this week and ordered him to fix a string of waterproofing defects, a Braddon apartment block where residents have taken Mr Koundouris to the Supreme Court over waterproofing and other issues, with a decision pending, and the Aureus case.
The government issued its first notice of intention in the 48-apartment Aureus case in March, pointing to a lack of waterproofing membranes on balconies of a number of apartments and other faults allowing water to enter apartments through wall cladding and sliding doors. It also alleged fire defects.
But Ms Barbaro said Mr Taylor had already reached agreement on some of the defects and she expected agreement on the rest very soon.
Since the establishment of Access Canberra a year ago, the government's strong preference had been to avoid legal avenues and instead help owners and builders reach agreement, she said.
"We still see legal process as one aspect but our strong preference is to secure compliance through collaboration. We will always have the rectification order option there but it will be far higher up in the escalation scale," she said.
"The legal processes are convoluted and protracted and it's not getting the outcome we need. We've got the evidence now that the collaborative process gets the outcome for the owners, which is swift and speedy resolution of the building defects."
Ms Barbaro said Mr Koundouris was working co-operatively in both cases. She would not jeopardise that by releasing details of the Aureus rectification order.