Michael Collard of Incert Innovative Certifiers. Picture: Evan Morgan
Michael Collard of Incert Innovative Certifiers. Picture: Evan Morgan

1000s of building projects caught in insurance crisis

QUEENSLAND's construction industry is bracing for a standstill on thousands of building projects after one of the State's biggest certifiers has been unable to secure professional indemnity insurance.

GMA Certification Group, which has offices around Queensland including in Townsville, said it had gone into "caretaker mode" because it was no longer covered but was still seeking insurance.

GMA managing director Geoff Mitchell said it was a disaster for the business and its 43 staff.

"I'm in caretaker mode. I've got four-and-a-half-thousand jobs. We don't have insurance so we can't keep our licence (to operate)," Mr Mitchell said.

GMA is one of several firms, including Townsville's Incert, which have been caught.

Incert is involved in the State Government's TAFE college expansion in Pimlico and Honeycombes Property Group's new tax office building in the city.

Incert owner Michael Collard said its policy expired yesterday and the only quote it had been able to obtain was for a policy which did not comply with building regulations.

"After 29 years of being a statutory building certifier and coming to a brick wall - how do you think I feel? I'm shattered," Mr Collard said.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni yesterday was adamant insurance was available and that the State now had more licensed certifiers than in 2012.

But sources say certifiers are restructuring by setting up new smaller operations to overcome the constraints.

Australian Institute of Building Surveyors spokesman Jeremy Turner said that the situation was a catastrophe.

"It is a catastrophe for the firms, the employees of those firms and their families," Mr Turner said.

"It is frustrating to say the least that AIBS's calls made to then prime minister Tony Abbott and all State and territory governments in 2014 about the impending crisis have gone unheeded."

The crisis has been caused by an explosion in claims, including from the 2017 Grenfell tower fire in London, which has led to insurers withdrawing from the market, hiking premiums and excess provisions and introducing policy exclusions.

For projects affected, Mr Turner said inspections and certifications would have to be transferred to a new licensed certifier or the work halted.

Master Builders spokesman Paul Bidwell said a feared industry standstill was yet to be seen but that the position of such a large group like GMA was concerning.

If GMA was unable to secure insurance, it would send a shudder through the industry, Mr Bidwell said.