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Industry bodies could have greater influence on the direction of the NABERS rating system if proposed changes to the governance structure are adopted.

Under current governance arrangements key decision are made by a National Steering Committee comprising solely of state, territory and federal governments, which receives advice from a Stakeholder Advisory Committee made up of industry representatives.

Under the mooted changes, decision-making power would go to a new “Leadership Group”, which would comprise key government representatives though would also introduce industry members.

The Leadership Group would receive input from two advisory bodies – a “Government Forum” made up of representatives from local, state and federal government to advise on government policy and jurisdictional matters, and to decide on major government-funded development projects like new tools; and an “Industry Forum” consisting of industry representatives from a range of sectors to provide “advice and insight” to the Leadership Group in regards to industry developments, opportunities and stakeholder views. The group would not be limited in size to allow “new industry bodies and markets relevant to NABERS”.

The plan would also give the national administrator – the NSW Office of Environment – more power to deal with operational issues, such as approving the content of the annual report, action plan and budget; approving enhancements to training and compliance activities; and approving the final release of new tools or major revisions to existing tools.

Governing bodies to focus on strategy, while OEH focuses on operations

This would free up the governing bodies to focus on the long-term strategic direction. The Technical Working Group, which helps to improve tools, would remain as is.

In a press release, the NSW OEH said the proposed changes were borne out of an 18-month governance review to “determine a future structure that ensures the appropriate strategic and functional support for the long-term success of the program”. The NABERS Governance Consultation Paper, now out for feedback, said there were concerns the program may had “outgrown” its current governance structure.

National program manager Carlos Flores said the changes represented an evolution for NABERS as it grew in size, scope and influence. For example, the Commercial Building Disclosure program will be extended to offices of 1000 square metres or more from July, meaning there will be a whole range of new buildings needing NABERS ratings coming aboard.

“This is an exciting time in the life of our program and we invite all stakeholders of the NABERS program to be involved in this important discussion as we shape the future decision making framework for NABERS,” he said.

“This industry feedback will help us determine to what extent adjustments to the program’s existing governance are needed for NABERS to continue being an agent for sustainable change for years to come.”

At face value it seems the governance changes would work to provide industry with more say in how NABERS is run.

A worthwhile move or a potential conflict of interest?

Some see this as a worthwhile move, as in a fast-developing industry specialised skills may not be held by government representatives, such as experience in new finance products such as climate bonds or sustainability marketing. Industry talent could complement the skills of the government representatives.

On the other hand, industry representatives may be seen as introducing conflicts of interest, for example particular sectors that may like to see looser rather than tighter regulation. Those against may feel that industry is best suited to an advisory position.

Chair of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee Phil Wilkinson said it was the industry committee that had requested a review of governance, a request that was based on industry feedback, including surveys conducted by AIRAH and the Property Council.

“OEH listened and conducted an open, inclusive and rigorous process to arrive at the options presented,” he said. “NABERS really is a world class tool and industry has a lot of ownership of the program – this is a chance to see how it can be improved even more.”

The consultation process will involve a one-hour teleconference on 10 February to discuss the changes and answer questions. Meetings and briefings will also be organised between NABERS, industry bodies and other interested parties following the teleconference.

What do you think? Have your say

Written submissions on the proposed changes are invited from all NABERS stakeholders including Assessors, customers, technical working group members and the broader industry. Submissions are due in writing by 5pm (AEDT) Friday 10 March 2017 when the consultation period closes. Submissions can be sent to nabers@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Read Proposed Changes to NABERS Governance.

Register for the teleconference here.