ACT government minister Gordon Ramsay could backflip on his decision to delay the adoption of new construction standards, after it emerged bureaucrats didn't fully consult with industry stakeholders before recommending the move.
Mr Ramsay on Friday ordered ACT chief planner Ben Ponton to conduct an urgent review of the advice which led to the minister's decision to hold off on adopting the 2019 Building Code of Australia until September 1.
Mr Ramsay asked for the review by Monday, and it could result in the new construction standards being ushered in earlier.
One peak body has already called for the immediate reversal of the "ad-hoc" change which it said had blindsided the local industry.
The review came as Mr Ponton conceded his directorate did not seek feedback from senior figures at the ACT's peak construction bodies before it advised Mr Ramsay that the sector needed extra time to adjust to the changes.
Mr Ponton took full responsibility for the process, saying "with the benefit of hindsight ... it would have done things different".
The admission is a major embarrassment for Mr Ramsay, who spent Friday morning backing the decision amid criticism from industry stakeholders and consumer advocates.
The Canberra Times revealed on Friday that Mr Ramsay had delayed the adoption of the standards in the ACT, despite all other states and territories signing up to the code on May 1.
Mr Ramsay defended his decision on ABC radio on Friday morning, saying each jurisdiction had a different approach to managing the reforms.
He said the "relatively short time frame" between the code's preliminary release in February and expected adoption date on May 1 meant it was "more difficult to make sure that everyone had the same level of information."
A government statement explaining Mr Ramsay's decision this week said the three-month window had not given owners and practitioners enough time to amend designs for planned projects to ensure they complied with the new standards.
A number of high-profile developments across Canberra are in the planning and assessment phase, meaning they could built under the 2016 standards if approved before September 1 - provided the delay stands. Geocon and Empire Global are due to submit their revised designs for their 282-home development in Gungahlin in May, while Morris Property Group was expected to lodge plans for its 400-home redevelopment of Griffith's Stuart Flats in July.
The 2019 code includes extra requirements for fire sprinklers in apartment buildings four storeys and above, revised energy efficient targets for commercial blocks and added provisions for managing condensation.
Mr Ramsay said initially that the decision had been informed by the industry's views on how best to transition to the new code, which was being updated for the first time in three years.
But that claim was challenged by the Master Builders Association of the ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins, who said he first learned of the delay on April 30, a day before the new code was due to be adopted.
The Australian Institute of Building Surveyors was similarly caught off guard by the government's decision.
The Canberra Times requested an interview with Mr Ramsay, but was told Mr Ponton would instead be fronting up.
Mr Ponton said Mr Ramsay's decision was based on his directorate's advice, for which he was responsible.
He said the advice was based on concerns which had been voiced by industry practitioners at Housing Industry Association-sponsored workshops held in preparation for the introduction of the new standards.
Concerns related to the new provisions relating to fire sprinklers, condensation management and energy efficiency, he said.
"The directorate provided advice to the minister in relation to the feedback and [that] there might be some benefit in delaying those provisions," Mr Ponton said.
He said his directorate had erred by not consulting with the heads of the peak industry bodies, such as Mr Hopkins, to ascertain whether the views aired at the forums were widely held across the industry.
"With the benefit of hindsight, we should have interrogated the feedback that we were receiving from those sessions ... I do acknowledge that," he said.
"We should have [spoken with] some of the more senior representatives of the industry and also a broader cross section of the industry."
Mr Ponton said he was not at the meetings, and could not say which individuals or companies attended or raised concerns.
He said his new advice to Mr Ramsay would canvas the option of delaying the contentious elements of the new code until September 1, but implementing the remainder as soon as possible.
Australian Institute of Building Surveyors' national technical manager, Jeremy Turner, called on the ACT government to immediately reverse its decision to delay the adoption of the new code.
Mr Turner said the government also needed to disclose whose feedback it took into account before making the decision.
"The decision-making process must be transparent, inclusive and robust if apparently ad-hoc changes such as the delayed introduction are to be avoided in future," he said.
Opposition planning spokesman Mark Parton said it "beggared belief" that the ACT government had not adopted the new standards on May 1.
"It's ironic that the ACT is the only jurisdiction with a dedicated building quality minister, and we can't even get this right," Mr Parton said.
"If NSW can roll this out from May 1, why can't we?
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