The government will consider the scope of a registration scheme for a broader range of engineers only after regulations for the Design and Building Practitioners Act come into force next July.
Deputy NSW Labor leader Yasmin Catley accused the government of flouting its new legal obligations and thumbing its nose at the Parliament.
“It’s not good enough for the Minister to pick and choose which parts of the law he wants to follow. If he won’t implement a full engineers registration scheme, the Premier should appoint a new Minister who will,” she said.
Queensland has had a registration system in place for years, while Victoria will begin to phase in a scheme covering structural, civil, electrical, mechanical and fire-safety engineering next July.
Professional Engineers Australia said the government’s decision to ignore the passage of a broad registration law that covers all engineers was a “blatant betrayal” of the community.
The union’s state director, Gordon Brock, said it meant a “very dangerous loophole” in NSW would remain that allowed anyone to call themselves an engineer. “It’s not just unqualified and unregistered engineers working on residential apartment buildings that we have to worry about,” he said. “With the huge pipeline of infrastructure projects being brought forward to stimulate the economy … a failure to fix this issue now is a recipe for disaster.”
The vast majority of engineers would not be covered by the registration scheme in the form proposed by the government and due to come into effect next July, he said.
While electricians, architects and plumbers must be licenced, Mr Brock said it was absurd that those who design and build road, rail, water and electricity networks did not have to be in NSW.
Mr Anderson said the decision to prioritise engineers working on apartment buildings was in direct response to recommendations of the Shergold Weir report into the building industry in 2018, and followed consultation across the wider engineering profession. “There have been no reported engineering failures on civil construction projects like roads and bridges in recent times,” he said.
The building reforms that were passed in Parliament in June were aimed at avoiding repeats of Sydney’s Mascot and Opal towers debacles, which sparked a NSW parliamentary inquiry into construction standards.
Mr Anderson said the government would look to identify and agree upon the scope of a broader registration scheme and a timeframe for implementation. “This may need to be staged depending on the size of the new scheme,” he said.
Greens MP David Shoebridge, who chaired the inquiry into building standards, said NSW continued to lag Queensland and Victoria in acting to register a broad range of engineers.
“It makes no sense for a subset of the profession being registered, and the balance remaining in the wild west,” he said. “Surely the Minister is not proposing we want for a number of incidents or failure in the civil construction sector before he acts.”
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Matt O’Sullivan is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.