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Canberra Times Report

Canberra's peak construction union boss says property developer licensing needs to be urgently expedited to mandate standards of "ethical behaviour" and ensure developers have the financial capacity to complete promised projects.

In 2019, the ACT government committed to introducing a scheme that would require property developers to hold a licence to build projects in the territory.

ACT Sustainable Building and Construction Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said last year the ACT government was aiming to introduce the new licensing laws in the second half of 2022.

Ms Vassarotti told The Canberra Times work on the scheme had commenced but did not confirm when the legislation would be implemented.

"We are finalising this work in preparation for these extensive conversations with industry and the community in coming months," she said.

"The ACT government remains committed to set up an Australia-first licensing scheme for property developers. This is important to ensure accountability and confidence to the community.

"This is a complex area, and there is a need to ensure that it complements other regulatory requirements in areas such as contract law."

Zach Smith, secretary of the ACT branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, said a licensing scheme should be designed to ensure developers have the financial means to see through a project to completion.

The CFMEU plans to launch a petition next week urging the ACT government to bring forward the introduction of the licensing laws.

Mr Smith said the union would ideally like to see the scheme implemented by mid-2023.

"We understand the option for legislation in 2022 is off the table, but we can't let this drift any further," he said.

"The ACT needs a developer licensing scheme before the end of the current financial year."

Most Canberrans support licensing

The petition will call for a licensing scheme that requires property developers to "have the financial and operational capacity to complete any proposed developments and address any building defects arising" and "demonstrate a commitment to ongoing ethical behaviour".

Mr Smith said a "fit and proper person test" within the scheme would stop unconscionable operators from setting up in the first place.

"There are plenty of developers that do the right thing, there's no need for Canberra to be giving the green light to entities with poor histories of behaviour," he said. "We know from polling that Canberrans are overwhelmingly in favour of the government moving on this now.

"[The ACT government has] been promising and hesitating for years, it's time to pull the trigger before more people get hurt."

A RedBridge phone survey of 985 people in July found 76.6 per cent of respondents supported a licensing regime for ACT property developers.

More than half (56.4 per cent) strongly agreed property developers have too much unrestricted power in Canberra, while one in five (20.8 per cent) agreed with the statement.


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