Watchdog wants power to stop builder over unit cracks


QUEENSLAND'S construction watchdog has asked the state's highest court to overturn a judge's ruling that limits its power to impose conditions on a builder's licence which prevented it from carrying out further works until it fixed damage to a neighbouring building.

The Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal on Monday, after builder Groupline Constructions Pty Ltd, won a case last year, blocking the QBCC's bid to slap conditions on owner David Scott Widdicombe's licence.

The conditions required him to stop work on a Coolangatta site until it fixed a neighbouring building to a standard QBCC considered "acceptable".

Cracks at Kirra Vista apartment block, Coolangatta
Cracks at Kirra Vista apartment block, Coolangatta

The QBCC is trying to overturn the decision of Supreme Court Justice Peter Flanagan who ruled on December 16 that the QBCC did not have unlimited powers to impose conditions on a builder's licence.

Groupline Constructions took the QBCC to court on December 4 after the QBCC refused to let it resume construction, arguing QBCC had unfairly imposed seven restrictive conditions on their licence and was exceeding its powers.

Groupline argued it couldn't comply with the conditions that forced it to fix the neighbouring three-storey apartment building, Kirra Vista, because the body corporate for Kirra Vista wouldn't allow Groupline onto their property to fix the cracks.

Groupline is building an eight-storey $10 million apartment building called Maya on Coyne Street in Coolangatta, adjacent to Kirra Beach, for developer Spyre Group.

The Maya development at Coolangatta. Picture: Groupline Constructions
The Maya development at Coolangatta. Picture: Groupline Constructions

While building was on-hold for about seven weeks last year, Groupline had eight full-time staff and had about 50 subcontractors, the court was told.

Three units in the Kirra Vista building were vacated by their occupants in November after cracks appeared.

Construction on the Maya building began in about August last year and the building had not yet reached ground level.

The ground floor slab is set to be poured next Wednesday.

Groupline's lawyer, Alex Tuhtan, from Brisbane firm CDI Lawyers told The Courier-Mail that while the QBCC Act is aimed at protecting property owners, the Supreme Court ruled the QBCC can't exceed its powers when putting conditions on builders' licences.

Mr Widdicombe told The Courier-Mail that taking legal action was a last resort and his business was a small, family company.

Mr Widdicombe said the QBCC had taken an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach with his company and he felt QBCC boss Brett Bassett had "paraded" Groupline as a builder which needed to be brought into line.

The Maya development at Coolangatta. Photo: Groupline Constructions
The Maya development at Coolangatta. Photo: Groupline Constructions

Mr Widdcombe said that surveyors had been monitoring the Kirra Vista since construction resumed last year, and the Kirra Vista, which had been subsiding, had now risen by 3mm and was now stabilised.

He said that the stop work orders had put his company up to seven weeks behind its construction schedule, with damages estimated to be $15,000 a day, and a significant legal bill to fight the case.

No date has been set for the appeal.

The QBCC declined to comment.