Q&A with Barry (Baz) Byrom – Building Surveyor, Oberon Council.
Born and raised in the Central West of NSW, Baz takes us through his journey to becoming a building surveyor, sharing with us what he enjoys the most about his role, and why he loves the pace of living and working in the Central West.
Q. Can you tell us about your career history and what led you to this role at Oberon Council?
A. My family is originally from Bathurst and my parents moved to Oberon where I was born and raised. I attended school in Oberon and then went to Bathurst for high school. When I finished school, I went straight into a plumbing. I spent four years doing my plumbing apprenticeship through TAFE in Orange, then I did a further 2-year post-trade course in plumbing to get a contractor’s license. In total I worked as a sixth-generation plumber for 13 years in our family business in the Central West.
Due to health reasons, I thought it best to seek a career that would better suit my needs. Plumbing can be very physically demanding, often having to crawl under houses, in roofs and digging trenches.
Through my experience in the construction industry, I knew that the building surveyor job existed. I wanted to do something that would use my plumbing knowledge and experience. There was a Building Inspector role available in Oberon at the time, so I applied for it. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to expand my knowledge. I’ve been in the role for six months now.
Q. Congratulations! What type of training and qualifications have you had to undertake to perform this role?
A. I came with a lot of building industry experience, so that was a good start, but it was still a big learning curve. Oberon Council has been very supportive. I work closely with our Planning director who is an experienced building surveyor which is great for me to learn from. Council is also supporting me with formal training through an online college via correspondence. I do Zoom tutorials; we complete assignments and tick off competencies – it’s really interesting.
The course I’m doing at the moment is quite involved, it’s not super hard, you just have to do the work and learn the steps and procedures. It’s easy enough and but requires a lot of time, and the council is fully supportive of it.
Q. What would be the biggest challenge you’ve faced since joining Oberon Council?
A. I have been fortunate to join a very accomplished planning team, with many decades of experience in the industry, all very willing to assist me with anything when I get stuck, so it’s a great environment to learn in. There’s obviously a lot of computer work, like emails and paperwork which is very different to being on the tools. When I was plumbing, I’d be out and about and doing stuff with my hands. Here, there is a lot of computer work which takes some learning. That’s probably the biggest challenge – just getting used to a different way of working.
Q. What does a typical day look like in your role?
A. Overall, it’s about ensuring that developments are compliant with the current legislations, codes and standards. As the certifying authority, we assess development applications. We could be working on a new build where we complete the critical stage inspections such as footing inspections, slab steel inspections, framing, water proofing and final stage inspections. We also do plumbing inspections which is handy because of my experience.
We have a planning portal that everything must come through. Customers lodge their development applications through the planning portal and it’s tracked from there. It’s basically a bridge between us and the applicant.
The role of a building surveyor looks a lot different in a larger council than it does out here in the Central West. We’re only a small council so we cover a lot of different aspects throughout the process. Whereas in Sydney, for example, they have Sydney Water who are the authority for all of the wastewater, the bigger cities also have a lot of private certifiers as well in Sydney. Out here we do the wastewater as well, and we have a very limited number of private certifiers.
We also look after a wide-range of applications in the Central West. There is everything from project builds on new subdivisions, to large scale renovations and extensions, or one-off architecturally designed builds. It’s interesting and rewarding.
Q. What does a successful day look like to you?
A. If I get a bunch of assessments completed, a few inspections ticked off and tie up the loose ends of paperwork, as well as some friendly banter with the team, then that’s a great day. I also like a day where it’s a good mix of inside the office and outside the office. I was used to being out and about for so long, I really enjoy having the ability to break up my time in the office with being out doing inspections.
Q. What would you say to someone considering a career as a building surveyor in local government?
A. There’s a real lack of building surveyors available, so if you want to choose this path, there will be plenty of opportunities. There will be jobs going on the coast, in the cities, and wherever you choose to live, you’ll be able to get work as a building surveyor.
I’ve also found that building surveying is not a mundane repetitive job – it’s diverse in terms of what you’re doing each day. Every day is different and there’s different places to go, different houses to see, different places within the region to experience.
Council is also very flexible. I have three young boys and if I need to go to appointments for school, or to see my boys get awards it’s always encouraged. I can duck out and make up the time somewhere else. I coach my son’s soccer team and we have midweek training which the council allows me the time to do. It’s just never an issue, in fact life outside of work is really encouraged here.
Q. What is it that you love the most about living and working in the Central West?
A. I’ve spent most of my life in the Central West and I love it. The pace of country life is fantastic, no one is in a big rush. It’s a nice easy-going spot to be. I’m regularly take my three boys on adventures, we go spend a day in the bush and go for a fish it’s all on my back door step. I live two minutes from the office so I can walk to work if I want to, there’s no travel time. We have such a great lifestyle here, enjoying life with the kids. That’s what I’m about.
Enjoy interesting work and an unparalleled lifestyle as a building surveyor – check out the opportunities available right now!