Friday Facts – The History of Untreated Timber

Leaky HomesThere has been a great deal of heat, angst and obfuscation over the years relating to the allowing of untreated framing timber to be introduced. Politicians have pointed fingers, Councils have done similarly. Here are the simple facts and as you will be able to see the reason why not a single court in the land has held any government (Labour or National) responsible for the crisis.

Unfortunately though Helen Clark tried to make it political when she denied any problem existed and labeled it all “a Herald beat-up“, and as late as June 2008 was saying that government wouldn’t help one little bit because it had no liability. Phil Twyford, the opposition spokesman for the homeless, also tried to make it political when he blogged last year.

I have been told by old local government hands that when the 1989 amalgamations took place the new councils in many cases brushed off claims from people that dated back to the old councils.  How can Auckland leaky home owners be sure this won’t happen again?

From the facts listed below you can see that Twyford was being extremely economical with the truth. There simply can’t have been any claims prior to council amalgamation in 1989 because the rules weren’t even passed until 1995.

Labour had their chance, and they showed that they just don’t care. Thankfully Maurice Williamson is a better Minister than Twyford could ever hope to be and Clark ever was and we now at last have a solution with which to move forward.

The History of Untreated Timber

1.  The report of the Building Industry Commission in 1987 called for the establishment of a single national Building Code and an independent regulatory authority.

2. These recommendations were incorporated into the Building Bill introduced to parliament by Hon. Margaret Austin (Labour) on 4 Sep 1990 which was finally implemented as the Building Act 1991 in December of 1991 (the vote in the House on the third reading was unanimous).

3. The Act created the Building Industry Authority.

4. One of the BIA’s functions was to publish Approved Documents (now Compliance Documents), which illustrated one way of complying with the Building Code.

5. In 1995, Standards New Zealand revised NZS 3602, which deals with timber durability and preservative treatment. The relevant committee included representatives of industry and the Building Industry Authority technical staff.

6. Discussion at the committee centred primarily on resistance to borer attack and other advantages that would be provided by a move to untreated, kiln-dried timber. There was little awareness at the time about the role preservative treatment played in also preventing fungal decay.

7. The committee subsequently decided to amend the Standard to allow kiln-dried, untreated timber in buildings.

8. In 1998, the Building Industry Authority decided to reference the 1995 version of NZS 3602 (which allowed untreated, kiln-dried framing) in the B1 (Structure) Approved Document. This was an independent statutory decision by the authority.

9. The responsible Minister of the time (Hon Jack Elder, Minister of Internal Affairs) would have been informed but not consulted.

10. Cabinet did not consider the issue, and no legislation or regulations were passed.

11. By being referenced in the B1 Approved Document, NZS 3602:1995 became one means of compliance with the Building Code. Councils were obliged to accept untreated framing in buildings, where proposed by building consent applicants.

12.  The Standard was again revised in 2003, in response to emerging problems with leaky buildings, to require preservative treatment of most framing.

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