The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) has called on the government to pass the National Building Code Bill, which aims to standardize and regulate the building and construction sector in the country. The bill, which was drafted by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID), is awaiting the approval of the Parliament, which was dissolved last year ahead of the elections.
According to SICCI, the bill is important for several reasons:
- It will ensure that all buildings are designed and constructed according to safety and quality standards, which will protect the lives and properties of the people.
- It will create a level playing field for all local building and construction businesses, which will foster fair competition and innovation.
- It will support the development of the infrastructure sector, which is vital for the economic growth and social welfare of the country.
SICCI’s Building and Construction Working Group (BCWG), which represents the interests of the private sector in the industry, has been advocating for the bill for several years. The group has been working closely with MID and other stakeholders to provide inputs and feedbacks on the draft bill and the existing National Building Code (NBC).
What the bill entails
The bill, which is also known as the Infrastructure Management Bill (IMB), will provide the legal framework for the creation and enforcement of the NBC. The NBC is a set of guidelines and standards that cover various aspects of building and construction, such as design, materials, methods, inspection, and maintenance.
The bill will also establish the necessary powers and functions for the application and enforcement of the NBC, such as:
- The appointment of a Building Commissioner, who will be responsible for overseeing and regulating the building and construction industry.
- The establishment of a Building Advisory Committee, which will advise the Building Commissioner on matters relating to the NBC.
- The creation of a Building Register, which will record and store information on all buildings in the country.
- The issuance of building permits, certificates, and notices, which will ensure compliance with the NBC.
- The imposition of penalties and sanctions, which will deter and punish violations of the NBC.
What the stakeholders say
The BCWG, on behalf of SICCI, has expressed its support for the bill and urged the government to pass it as soon as possible. The group has also suggested some improvements to the bill, such as:
- Linking the NBC to the Planning and Development Act, which already has a process of applying for and getting approval for developments. This will avoid duplication and confusion, and ensure consistency and coordination.
- Involving the private sector and other relevant stakeholders in the development and review of the NBC, which will ensure that the code reflects the needs and realities of the industry.
- Providing adequate resources and capacity for the implementation and enforcement of the NBC, which will ensure its effectiveness and sustainability.
The MID, which is the lead ministry for the bill, has welcomed the inputs and feedbacks from the BCWG and other stakeholders. The Deputy Secretary of MID, Mr. Jimmy Nuake, said that the bill will improve the safety and suitability of buildings in the country, in line with the international best practices. He also said that the bill will complement the government’s efforts to improve the infrastructure sector, which is one of the key priorities of the National Development Strategy.
The Commissioner of Lands, Mr. Alan McNeil, who also attended a consultation meeting hosted by the BCWG, agreed with the need to link the NBC to the Planning and Development Act. He said that the Ministry of Lands has the Physical Planning Division, which looks after the town planning in the country, and that the Planning and Development Boards, which exist in Honiara and all the provinces, make decisions on development applications. He said that the NBC should be integrated into this process, to ensure that all developments comply with the code.