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CEO's Report January, 2022

Posted on : Friday, 14 January 2022

Dear members,

 

Welcome back!  May 2022 be happy and prosperous!  

 

The staff at FPA Australia hopes that you had an enjoyable break and are ready for all that the new year promises. 

 

From our perspective, the coming year will be one of both change and stability, led by ongoing regulatory reforms. 

 

The last two years have seen a significant upsurge in reform initiatives, driven in part by the  Building Confidence report, written by Professor Peter Shergold AM and Ms Bronwyn Weir. 

 

This activity has been with one goal in mind - to restore community confidence in the construction sector. 

 

In NSW, FPA Australia has been collaborating with the Government over the reforms and, as you know, has been recognised as an accrediting authority since 1 July, 2020.

 

While it's still early days, these changes have seen accountability return to the design and annual assessment of fire safety systems, as identified in Construct NSW's  Industry Report on reforms to improve fire safety in new and existing buildings, there remains additional work to encapsulate the building lifecycle.  

 

Like fire systems certification and a mandatory standard for maintenance. 

 

With other stakeholders, we were proud to be an active participant in the Steering Committee Advising the NSW Government on Reform of Fire Safety Regulation and Practice in Buildings, (the Steering Committee) chaired by ex-Secretary of the Treasury Michael Lambert. 

 

The Steering Committee spent considerable time looking at various gaps in fire protection and identifying solutions, including: 

 

  • putting in place the fire safety component of a building manual and consistent maintenance standards for fire safety measures;
  • exploring the implementation of a holistic approach to fire safety design and implementation;
  • ensuring a comprehensive and consistent approach to the regulation of fire safety functions and practitioners;
  • improving key fire safety documentation; and
  • enhancing the role of government regulators and bodies responsible for fire-related compliance. 

 

A summary report of its findings was presented to the then Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, the Hon. Kevin Anderson MP, recommending that the Government: 

 

  • establish a new template building manual that provides the owners. corporation and fire practitioners with key information on what is installed, how it should perform and essential maintenance requirements;
  • tighten the regulation of fire safety work, starting with establishing a new category of certifier to verify the performance of installed systems;
  • mandate improved quality and standards for fire safety documentation which is relied on for certification and inspection processes; and
  • enhance the way that the main regulatory authorities work together, with strategies to deliver more consistent and effective approaches to compliance across NSW. 

 

The Department of Customer Service has now created an Implementation Taskforce, on which FPA Australia is represented, that is now developing a plan for further reforms. 

 

From our perspective, the most important changes are:  

 

  • the introduction of a building manual, to ensure that the information available for residential buildings is complete;
  • accreditation of fire systems certifiers, to ensure that those who say that a system has been installed, and is performing, in accordance with a design take responsibility for that declaration; and
  • the introduction of AS 1851 as a mandatory standard for fire systems servicing and maintenance, to bring NSW in line with other states. 

 

These items are on the agenda for the Implementation Taskforce, and we will continue to advocate for reforms that improve our industry and community safety. 

 

We have been fortunate that the presence of a Building Commissioner in NSW, who has an appetite for reform, has led to significant activity - sometimes a bit more than we can handle - designed to improve our industry. 

 

We hope that the lessons learned in that state can be applied throughout Australia to improve community confidence in the fire protection sector.  

 

 

New leadership

 

I'm pleased to advise that our new CEO will start next month. 

 

John Kilgour is currently the head of Civil Contractors Federation (Victoria) with a background in the oil industry, downstream retail, project management, property services, and the not-for-profit sector. 

 

He has developed a 100-day plan, which will help to position FPA Australia well for the future, and deliver better services for our membership. 

 

The team and I are excited about this new stage for the Association and are looking forward to his commencement on 21 February, 2022. 

 

 

All the best! 

 

Leigh Gesthuizen
Interim CEO