Tasmanian building jobs to be passed on as Launceston surveyor exits industry amid construction industry insurance crisis

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Building and Construction Minister Elise Archer. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

BUILDING jobs under the supervision of a collapsed surveying firm will be outsourced, as the State Government scrambles to cope with an insurance crisis threatening the industry.

Launceston building surveyor Protek closed its doors on Friday, about two weeks after it was informed its professional indemnity insurance premium would rise by 320 per cent.

The business’ insurance excess also skyrocketed by 1000 per cent to $50,000 — a figure Protek director Phillip Connors described as “untenable”.

Building and Construction Minister Elise Archer said the Department of Justice had been in contact with Protek, councils in Northern Tasmania and other surveyors to ensure its jobs could be transferred “with minimal disruption to the building sector”.

“I am informed a majority of these files are related to residential and smaller commercial projects,” Ms Archer said.

“As a result of the Government’s intervention, there is a preliminary agreement for a number of businesses to take on existing Protek files. The Department will continue to work to ensure all of Protek’s files are transferred.”

But the building sector has warned Protek’s reluctant closure may not be the last blow caused by the insurance crisis, sparked largely by the use of combustible cladding in the major cities which has forced insurers to pay out millions of dollars for rectification works.

Many surveyors in the South are yet to receive their renewal quotes, and at least one other Launceston firm has expressed concern about its own viability.

Metrics Group surveyor Gabriel Barnes this month said lawyers viewed surveyors as “cash cows”, exposing them to rising premiums.

He said changes in 2016 that allowed lower risk building work to go ahead without surveyors had cut private firms’ income by about 30 per cent, making it harder for them to afford to take on higher risk projects.

Ms Archer said a national agreement to address quality control issues in the building sector would boost confidence, “thereby helping to bring down insurance costs for Tasmanian businesses”.

Opposition building spokeswoman Jen Butler said the government “should have been working on a solution well before [Thursday’s] talkfest”.

“The warning signs have been ignored for five years. If [Ms Archer] allows this uncertainty to drag on, she risks thousands of Tasmanian construction jobs,” Ms Butler said.

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