EXCLUSIVEHOME OWNERS wishing to supervise or do their own renovations will be forced to pay hundreds more dollars for a building permit and complete a 700-page course because the NSW government is ”overreacting” to health and safety concerns.From September, owner-builders will have to complete the course to get an owner-builder permit from the Office of Fair Trading for all jobs valued at $12,000 and over.The current threshold is $5000 but the course takes only a few hours and costs between $100 and $200. A permit application is $148.Experienced renovators and course providers argue the size and additional assessment criteria in the new compliance course will significantly increase the cost of a permit.They are also angry the government is introducing more red tape for renovators when it has deregulated other parts of the industry.Dominic Ogburn, of ABE Education, offers an online course that takes renovators about four hours to complete. He expects the new course to cost up to $600 and take at least two days.”It’s quite onerous, particularly for smaller projects which make up the vast majority [of renovations] … It will put many owner-builders off.”He said the state government had ”overreacted” to the number of deaths on owner-builder worksites.”If the problem … was inadequate occupational health and safety training then an easy solution would have been a requirement to undertake an OHS course.”A spokesman for WorkCover NSW said there had been three owner-builder deaths in 2008 and one last year.Brian Seidler, the Master Builders Association NSW’s executive director, welcomed the tougher regulations. ”If you look at the statistics that show collapses of verandahs, nearly 70 per cent of them have been constructed by owner-builders or ‘weekend warriors’,” he said.Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge said the new course was ”essential to make training more rigorous and ensure the safety of both owner-builders and subcontractors”.”Compliance operations have found that many owner-builders are unaware of their obligations to their subcontractors and for the worksite,” she said.Kevin McAndrew, an owner-builder and former construction teacher from Cronulla, said the courses should be tailored to people’s knowledge and experience.”Are they trying to make it hard for people? I don’t think they are going to cover more that’s going to help people. The course is about occupational health and safety and the pitfalls in contracting,” he said.”They’re training people to be builders, they’re not training people to be tradesmen.”[Previously] you just went to the Office of Fair Trading and showed your plans and they were stamped, but with the rise of occupational health and safety I can see why there’s been a call for some kind of training.”Mr Ogburn said it took his business seven months and more than $8000 to become a registered training organisation, a requirement to teach the new course.
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