NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler quits role as watchdog over property developers

The man brought down to tear down NSW’s most dodgy construction companies left so much fear and anger that he discovered some had already pre-purchased champagne to celebrate his impending resignation.

Outgoing NSW Construction Commissioner David Chandler was chosen in 2019 by then Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian to be the state’s construction cop, tasked with punishing dodgy developers.

And while the building commissioner had big plans to hang up his helmet at the end of the year, he decided he could stay a bit longer – at least until April 2023 – when he heard that the promoters were preparing to celebrate his departure.

“I was really ready to go fishing on September 30,” Mr Chandler said at a NSW Property Council event in western Sydney in April, according to property website Urban Developer.

“And then I heard that a whole bunch of these guys here in this corner had already ordered champagne for a party on October 1st.

“And I thought it wouldn’t be fun to give them a reason to put the champagne back in the cupboard.”

But Mr. Chandler’s brazen torture was not to be.

NSW Buildings Commissioner David Chandler addresses state parliament shortly after his appointment to the post in 2019

The extension would have seen Mr Chandler in office until September 2023, but on Monday he announced he would step down in November.

Mr Chandler was recently cleared of any wrongdoing by a ministerial inquiry, which looked into allegations that he misled Parliament.

He told parliament he was not recommending specific certifiers, but an earlier video later surfaced in which Mr Chandler appeared to say he had presented banks with an informal list of certifiers he “wouldn’t not damn to have at work”.

Mr Chandler anticipated that some developers would greet him instead of being the construction watchdog with champagne, but decided to deny them that pleasure for another year.

Mr Chandler anticipated that some developers would greet him instead of being the construction watchdog with champagne, but decided to deny them that pleasure for another year.

The inquiry found that Mr Chandler’s claims of misleading Parliament were unfounded, but his full findings are due to be published next week.

Following the shocking news of her departure, Mr Chandler released a statement.

“I think now is the time to reset and I am firmly committed to working with the secretary, the team and the industry until the end of my term,” he said.

“I don’t want my resignation to distract people from what has been achieved so far and the work that remains to be done.”

NSW Fair Trade Minister Eleni Petinos, who denies recent allegations of bullying made against her by Newscorp, did not directly respond to questions about why Mr Chandler quit.

She posted a short statement of appreciation for her work.

“Mr Chandler has helped the NSW government achieve significant reforms in the homebuilding sector since 2019,” Ms Petinos said.

“He helped develop and implement the Remediate project, ensuring that residential buildings in NSW had safe, non-combustible surfacing.”

The Mascot towers in Sydney's south had to be evacuated in June 2019 when alarming cracks were discovered in the ceiling

The Mascot towers in Sydney’s south had to be evacuated in June 2019 when alarming cracks were discovered in the ceiling

The NSW Building Commissioner was set up to meet building standards after two Sydney apartment buildings, Opal Tower and Mascot Towers, had to be hastily evacuated when alarming cracks appeared.

The Opal Tower in Sydney’s west had to be abandoned on Christmas Eve 2018 after a wall cracked in the new building.

And tenants of Mascot Towers in Sydney’s south were given just four hours to evacuate, fearing the building could collapse after cracks were discovered in its basement on June 16, 2019.

There were also fears that NSW apartment blocks were encased in the same flammable cladding that caused London’s Grenfell Tower inferno and removing it has been a main focus of Mr Chandler’s work.

Considered a tough and no-nonsense veteran of the construction industry, Mr Chandler, on his first day on the job, told builders and developers: “Expect to see me in your construction shed very soon. ”

Residents of Opal Tower in western Sydney had to flee the building when a crack appeared in a wall on Christmas Eve 2018

Residents of Opal Tower in western Sydney had to flee the building when a crack appeared in a wall on Christmas Eve 2018

Mr Chandler was given sweeping powers to enter construction sites and withhold certificates of occupancy if he discovered defects in the work.

He also oversaw the development of a quality assessment program for developers and helped create new laws that strengthened developer liability and required that they have insurance.

“The development industry understands that this legislation is serious. He’s got teeth and he’s going to turn the dial,” Chandler said.

Construction workers repair damage to Mascot Towers which has sparked fears over NSW developers' shonky standards

Construction workers repair damage to Mascot Towers which has sparked fears over NSW developers’ shonky standards

“Our data assets are the second largest outside of the Department of Defense in New South Wales. If you think we don’t know how to find you, if you’re a bad player, we know.

“We now know who provides the money for each job. We know whether it is good money or dirty money. Almost anything you can think of as a question, we probably have the answer.

Mr. Chandler has garnered considerable praise for his construction cleanup efforts following the high-profile Opal and Mascot tower disasters.

Strata Community Association NSW chairman Stephen Brell told the Sydney Morning Herald that Chandler had been key in restoring the confidence of apartment buyers.

“The commissioner has been very effective, particularly in involving Fair Trading in inspecting construction defects and holding builders accountable for the work they have done,” Brell said.

“I think in a very fast turnaround, their risk of buying a dud is greatly reduced.”

The New South Wales government says it will announce who will be the next building commissioner before Mr Chandler leaves in November.

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