Building Act Reform for Building Users




Building Act, private dwellings, disability design, population health, safety, wealth, shower, institutions, law reform


The Building Act 1991 established the New Zealand government’s role in ensuring the safety, health, independence and well-being of building users. To this end, the 1991 Act and subsequent iterations recognise that people with disabilities need buildings that meet disability design standards. However, these standards are not required for the design of private dwellings. This article uncovers the historical practices that made such exclusion acceptable, and challenges policymakers to rethink the relationship between government, private dwellings and the health and wealth of the nation. The purpose is to highlight flaws in the framing of the review of the current Building Act, identify critical questions that need to be addressed by policy analysts, and call for a full review of the Act’s failure to achieve its stated purposes.


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Author Biographies

Stephanie Cox, Auckland University of Technology

Stephanie Cox is a PhD candidate at Auckland University of Technology.

Clare Hocking, Auckland University of Technology

Clare Hocking is a professor of occupational science and therapy at Auckland University of Technology. She is the executive editor of the Journal of Occupational Science and recently contributed to the revision of the World Federation of Occupational Therapy’s position statement on human rights.

Deborah Payne, Auckland University of Technology

Deborah Payne is an associate professor at Auckland University of Technology, in the area of disability and health.



2022-02-23 — Updated on 2022-02-23