What-the-fackwerk?The saga started in 1991, when the gubblement of the day had the bright idea of unshackling the construction industry from the Gordian Knot of red tape, and cutting the dead hand of over-regulation that was holding back the engine of Hobbit Ingenuity, by revising the Building Act. Builders -- previously constrained in the materials and construction methods they could employ -- could set about constructing houses from memory metal and condemned vat-grown meat if they wanted to, and excavating high-density hobbit holes using techniques borrowed from barrow-wights.
No-one could have foreseen that enough cowboys to populate Montana would set up shop -- mostly Southrons and dubious types from the desolate northlands -- promising prospective customers that soggy weetbix** was a water-resistant cladding material while "spackling over the cracks" was an innovative new weight-bearing element. Post Offal profits surged because the backs of so many envelopes were being used in lieu of normal architectural diagrams. Nor could anyone have predicted that umpteen thousand would-be home-owners would be too gullible to apply the usual rule about "things that sound too good to be true"; or that when the dream homes failed the basic requirement of accommodation (i.e. to keep the rain out), the offending builders would put their companies into liquidation and plead the poor mouth when approached for compensation. The salted pineapple trade comes into this somehow, possibly as a cheap roofing material.
When it's a single home-owner grumbling about the way his cut-price home has become a water-logged fungal mound of oozing mildew akin to a mouldering leprous hulk from a William Hodgson story, it is easy to explain that his plight is a natural consequence of greed and stupidity. When there are enough of them, though, the media and eventually the gubblement join in the search for Someone Else to Blame. It also helps when enough of the out-of-pocket home-owners are moneyed bastriges who had been promised $12-million mansions for only $6 million.
After a number of court hearings and digressions in the Explaining Voice, the "Someone else to blame" turns out to be the city councils, because council-employed Building Inspectors had been tasked with certifying that these buildings had met the ill-defined standards so vaguely adumbrated in the Free-Market-emphasising 1991 Building Act revision. This is why Hobbiton ratepayers are landed with a liability of perhaps $87 million (and a likely 6% rate increase) to compensate about 2115 hard-done-by leaky-burrow owners.
It turns out that one of the people suing the council for not stopping them buying crap buildings is the erstwhile Mayor of Hobbiton, Kerry Prendergast:
Ms Prendergast and property developer husband Rex Nicholls bought their fifth-floor apartment in 2002 for $1.73m. The apartment's current rating value is $2.8m.I am not making this up. Kerry is suing the council for its inaction at a time when she was in charge of it, and when the dangers of leaky burrows was already apparent enough for prudent buyers to check construction quality themselves.
Meanwhile, in another role, Prendergast has been negotiating with central government about how much the latter should pay of the compensation package for the noisy wealthy out-of-pocket people. If she wore any more hats she would look like a totem pole.
Anyway, the answer to this crisis is probably more deregulation.
----------------------------* "This is not my beautiful house" was also considered as a title.
** There is no 'a' in weet