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Govt loosens rules on overseas building materials

The government has unveiled a strategy aimed at streamlining and reducing costs for builders seeking to utilize foreign construction materials by relaxing regulations. Building and Construction Minister Chris Penk announced on Thursday that instead of adhering strictly to local standards, builders could now rely on trusted overseas jurisdictions' building codes.

Penk highlighted the significant cost disparity, noting that constructing a standalone house in New Zealand was currently about 50 percent more expensive than in Australia.

The key changes proposed include:

- Acknowledging building product standards from reputable foreign jurisdictions, eliminating the necessity for designers or builders to individually validate these standards, which is both time-consuming and expensive.

- Mandating building consent authorities to accept products meeting specific overseas standards that are either equivalent to or exceed those in New Zealand.

- Sanctioning the use of building materials certified through well-regarded international certification schemes. For instance, the approval of Australia's WaterMark scheme alone could grant access to 200,000 products for New Zealanders.

Penk expressed the government's intent to enact legislation facilitating these changes by the end of 2024.

While initially focusing on Australian products, Penk stated that the government would also consider materials from nations renowned for their engineering prowess.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon emphasized that other countries with comparable or superior standards to New Zealand were successfully constructing excellent homes, advocating for the importation of these international products.

Since 2019, Penk noted a 41 percent increase in the cost of building a house in New Zealand. He asserted that this overhaul would significantly lower construction expenses while maintaining quality, thereby enhancing affordability for homebuilding or renovation projects.

Additionally, Penk emphasized the benefits of enhancing the country's resilience to supply chain disruptions and reducing barriers for local businesses seeking alternative approval pathways domestically and abroad.

Luxon recently outlined an "action plan" comprising 36 objectives to be accomplished by June 30, 2024. This includes releasing a preliminary plan to ease restrictions on foreign building materials for public feedback.

Furthermore, in March, the government requested councils to publicly disclose their building consent data. Despite the existing requirement for processing applications within 20 days, Penk acknowledged feedback from the sector suggesting that this timeline was frequently not met.

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