Chief Executive's Upfront
Tuesday, 7 April 2020
Construction - Let's Get Started
Like many parts of the construction sector, the impacts of the COVID-19 response have been massive on the concrete industry, with activity now minimal under Alert Level 4.
Rob Gaimster, Chief Executive
Although the Wage Subsidy Scheme has offered some relief, many companies are struggling, and will continue to do so if Alert Level 4 measures remain beyond the current 4-week lockdown.
Concrete NZ applauds the Government’s swift action and fully respects the COVID-19 response but believes it can be accommodated on a number of construction projects at the end of the 4-week lockdown, particularly large-scale infrastructure projects, even if Alert Level 4 measures remain in place.
The concrete industry and construction sector are accustomed to implementing rigorous health and safety measures as part of business as usual operations. Therefore, ensuring that social distancing and stringent adherence to hygiene requirements are applied should not be a barrier to resuming work.
I have expressed this view to the Prime Minister along with the Building and Construction, Infrastructure and Transport Ministers. I have also conveyed the need, where conditions indicate there are no widespread outbreaks in specific parts of New Zealand, to reintroduce Alert Level 3 on a regional basis. This would enable construction activity to recommence promptly in these regions, with all the positive downstream results.
It is noted that New Zealand has been unique in effectively shutting down its construction sector, except where deemed an ‘essential service’. In other jurisdictions construction, albeit reduced in some cases, has carried on.
CONSTRUCTION SECTOR ACCORD
The Concrete NZ position broadly aligns with the Construction Sector Accord’s COVID-19 Construction Sector Response Plan.
The Construction Sector Accord is a collaboration that began in April 2019 between government and industry to create a high performing construction sector for a better New Zealand. The Accord had been focussed on its Construction Sector Transformation Plan up until the threat of COVID-19 emerged.
Rapidly shifting its priorities, the Accord developed its Response Plan to concentrate on maintaining jobs and businesses during the shutdown and on getting ready to successfully restart work once restrictions are lifted. The Response Plan focuses on several key areas:
- Maintaining and accelerating the pipeline of work and removing barriers to restarting works
- Keeping cash flowing in the sector
- Ensuring a fair and consistent approach to how contractor costs are covered and/or reimbursed during the shutdown
- Additional financial and other support that could be available for employees and business owners
- Health and safety guidelines to ensure the safe return to work
The Government has signalled its support for the direction of the Response Plan and will continue to engage regularly with the Accord to advance actions.
Initial progress has seen Ministers direct agencies to pay construction contractors promptly to maintain cash flow, and issue Government Contract Guidelines to Support Industry.
While these are extremely challenging times for the concrete industry and the wider construction sector, we can make every effort to increase resilience and position ourselves for a more rapid recovery.
On behalf of Concrete NZ I wish you all the best in these difficult and unprecedented times.