The Opal Tower conflict of interest


I thought I had a rough Christmas and New Years on account of stomach fun, but at least my apartment building wasn’t in danger. Biwa Kwan summarised the situation for SBS News:

Frustrated residents of Sydney’s Opal Tower have demanded answers after they were evacuated for the second time in four days over the building’s structural instability.

Three thousand people were evacuated from the surrounding area on Christmas Eve after residents reported “cracking” noises on the tenth floor of the building.

It’s the inevitable and completely predictable conclusion of privatising building approval and industry self-regulation. From Smart Property Investment, a name that itself may not be fiscally prudent right now:

The robustness of NSW’s quality and safety checks for new builds across the board have now been called into question. The Opal Tower was only opened in August, and was given the green light by building certifiers, who administer quality and safety regulations.

An immediate audit of private building certifiers will be launched by the NSW government in response to the Opal Tower fiasco.

They quoted the Institute of Architects, emphasis added:

“The Institute is aware of the potential for conflicts of interest to arise between private certifiers’ regulatory responsibilities and their commercial interests, and the impact this may have upon the integrity of their work,” the Institute said.

It reminded me of this warning tale from the United Kingdom half a century ago, to say nothing of the more recent Grenfell Tower disaster:

Ronan Point was a 22-storey tower block in Canning Town in Newham, East London, which partly collapsed on 16 May 1968, only two months after it had opened. A gas explosion blew out some load-bearing walls, causing the collapse of one entire corner of the building, which killed four people and injured 17. Although there were few casualties the spectacular nature of the failure, caused by both poor design and poor construction, led to a loss of public confidence in high-rise residential buildings, and major changes in UK building regulations resulted.

I understand government regulation can be a burden in these industries. But before trumpeting overreach next time, consider: why was the regulation put into place in the first place?

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