The following is the text of the letter sent by Building Commissoner David Chandler to Fair Trading Department Secretary Emma Hogan on July 7th announcing his decision to resign and providing his reasons for doing so.
Investigation into Allegation made in the Australian Friday 24th June 2022
Thank you for your letter dated the 7th July advising of your findings.
I acknowledge that I have provided details relating to the allegations made in the Australian on the 24th of June 2022 at an interview with you and legal advisors on the 27th of June. I have advised Colleen Dreis that her record of notes of the interview were acceptable on the 3rd of July 2022.
I have not been privy to any of the subsequent interviews or material considered by you.
I am pleased that you have been able to evidence that I had not created a secret list of certifiers and provided these to banks and others involved in the finance sector and as such I have not mis.led Parliament. In regard to your conclusion that I have not acted to the required standard that the department expects of its officers, I note your comments regarding the context.
That said, I do not accept any inference that I have ever acted unethically in performing my role as NSW Building Commissioner. As you are aware, the starting frontier for the introduction of the building reforms and turning around industry culture was a rugged one. Hence the use of the ‘spin and colour’ that I spoke to at my interview. As discussed, it was agreed that given the progress that we have made in introducing reforms and changing culture it is time to tone some of my past language down.
You are aware of several attempts to attack my character during the challenging circumstances that were confronted by me in the early stages of my work. The low point of this were the assertions made by Toplace during the course of dealing with serious defects on the Skyview project at Castlehill. I understand that these assertions were widely circulated with media and politicians.
I note that that the Department investigated these assertions and found that these had no substance. After 50 years in this industry, my character and ethical standing has been beyond reproach. It is my view that the way I have conducted myself since my appointment as NSW Building Commissioner and the progress that has been made, was the basis of my recent appointment extension to the 30th of June 2023. I believe that both the community and industry supported this extension unreservedly.
While the challenges that confronted the NSW residential apartment industry at the time of my appointment where frankly horrific and highly politically charged, the steady manner in which the small team at the Office of Building Commissioner has charted and navigated the course, there is both wide government and crossbench respect for the progress made.
Turning around the brand of the NSW residential apartment market is now at a stage where demonstrable public confidence has lifted. The setting is growing where the increasing identification of trustworthy developers and builders now offers a platform for much needed new supplies of housing to be committed.
The framework for performing the role of NSW Building Commissioner was well described in my position description. This involved clear prioritisation of both advocacy and policy dialogue with the Minister. It is my view that the journey that has been made in navigating complex legislation and bringing all industry stakeholders along was entirely dependent on a functional and trusted relationship with theMinister and his office, whereby the achievement of a forward strategy to embed what is known as CONSTRUCT NSW was achieved in December 2021.
Since that achievement there was a ministerial reshuffle. Alas, the same level of engagement has not been experienced since. My personal experience has been one where engagement with the Minister’s office has been problematic. A similar experience has been reported to me by other officers in the department and important pieces of previously canvassed legislation have now run into serious disruption. This is. having an impact on the confidence in, and momentum of the reforms that had been previously achieved. Matters relating to staging, and BCA are examples. Industry is urgently awaiting these clarifications. I understand that there are background issues within the Minister’s office.
Further to these concerns, I have raised with you concerns that I have with the_advised relationship of the Minister and Coronation Property Group. These concerns crystalised at the time of the Stop Work Orders issued under the Design and Building Practitioner’s Act, Declared Desjgn Audit.
As advised to you I received a call from the Minister’s Office shortly after a draft order was issued on Coronation’s Merrylands Development. Shortly after that call, a message was sent to me by John Barilaro who I was advised had recently joined the Coronation Board. This contact came to me as a message on my personal phone requesting a meeting with me. I copied that message to you. I subsequetly met with Mr Barilaro to answer his questions. A separate record of that meeting exists.
This week I met with crossbenches to advise of the details of the revised CPSP 2 report on flammable cladding. This meeting had been previously sanctioned by the Minister’s office. It is normal for me to answer questions about the subject being briefed. Knowledge of that meeting was briefed to attendees of the Project Remediate Steer Co’s on the 1st of July and previously. The Minister’s office had attendees at that meeting. The episode following the crossbench briefing yesterday is an example of the current issues between me and the Minister’s office.
You should be aware that I had a call from the Minister’s Chief of Staff shortly after the crossbench briefing to enquire how the meeting went. I reported that it went well and that a request had been made for a further briefing on the CONSTRUCT NSW reform progress. I undertook to take direction from the Minister’s Office on this. The Chief of Staff suggested that a meeting with me might be arranged for yesterday afternoon. There was no further advice in this regard.
During my conversation with the Chief of Staff I also mentioned that I was currently dealing with serious defects in a flammable cladding affected building. I advised that our team were currently arranging meetings with owners and Cumberland Council to canvass what may be acceptable protocols that could be put in place to achieve confidence in the building’s continued occupation. I undertook to keep the Minister’s office informed. I was in the midst of those discussions when we spoke yesterday.
Given where all the above matters now rest, I believe my continued role as NSW Building Commissioner is no longer viable. Accordingly, and reluctantly I now tender my intention to step down as NSW Building Commissioner at the end of August 2022. I would like to oversee the first project to commence cladding remediation.
This decision is not negotiable, I am happy to work with you during this period to effect suitable transition arrangements.
I wish to record my appreciation of the privilege of being part of the DCS team and being entrusted to lead the period of major building reforms in NSW. It is pleasing to record the progress.
David Chandler OAM,
NSW Building Commissioner
CC. Elizabeth Stewart