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Chief Executive's Upfront
Continued Co-Operation Key To Recovery

Thursday, 7 May 2020  
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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a gigantic blow to the New Zealand construction sector and the wider NZ economy, the consequences of which will not be fully understood for many months.

Rob Gaimster, Chief Executive

Yet despite the upheaval there has been reassuring displays of cooperation, particularly as protocols were developed in late April for a safe return to work under Alert Level 3.

This collaborative approach across the construction sector and with government, which has seen information shared, concerns acknowledged and announcements signalled in advance, must be maintained to cushion the downturn and stimulate recovery.

Budget 2020, with its investment in transport and social infrastructure, was a reassuring first step.

In the lead up to a return to work under Alert Level 3 the mutual support shown in developing health & safety protocols was outstanding.

Under the Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) banner, an overarching COVID-19 Standard for construction operations was released along with protocols for horizontal, vertical and residential construction.

These ‘living’ documents, developed by an array of sector organisations and endorsed by the Construction Sector Accord, provided a framework to restart safely and quickly, and to help ensure that the progress achieved during April in terms of controlling the spread of COVID-19 was not undermined.

Concrete NZ also produced a set of protocols to enable the concrete industry to stay safe on and off-site and for builders and contractors to order and manage the delivery of concrete and concrete products.

The Concrete NZ documents supplement the CHASNZ guidance, and will be updated as best practice develops and further industry feedback is received.

Sector developed health & safety guidance has been complemented by the government’s Unite Against COVID-19 initiative, as well as information from the Ministry of Health and the Building Performance branch of MBIE.

Altogether, this advice has enabled construction to restart safely and seamlessly.

While Concrete NZ applauds the Government’s swift action and respects the COVID-19 response, massive economic intervention will be required to ensure that the ‘new-normal’ is not long-term economic chaos.

Yesterday’s Budget was the timely and bold response that the construction sector had been advocating for, in particular its focus on addressing the infrastructure gap and expanding the housing stock.

The $50 billion COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund was pitched by Hon Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance, as "the most significant financial commitment by a New Zealand government in modern history." Its numbers are certainly impressive.

Budget 2020 includes around $6 billion in infrastructure expenditure, of which half has been allocated to shovel-ready projects. A further $1.1 billion has been assigned to upgrade and maintain transport infrastructure.

Capital expenditure on health infrastructure will total $750 million and school capital expenditure $115 million, while Kāinga Ora will receive $5 billion to build 2,000 social houses per annum for the next four years.

Also pleasing was the $1.6 billion Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package, which BCITO has congratulated the Government on as recognising the importance of training, and construction to the New Zealand economy.

Budget 2020 has given the construction sector some assurance to move forward, with the potential for more stimulus in the lead-up to this year’s general election.

The same spirit of collaboration demonstrated in preparing for a safe return to work, and the Government’s willingness to listen to industry calls for capital investment and regulatory adjustment (e.g. the Resource Management Act) must also underpin the next steps towards recovery.

Accounting for future implications of massive debt, we have a unique opportunity to reset our strategic thinking and plan for the medium-to-long-term.

However, the course set for New Zealand’s future direction must be developed through consultation and based on a shared vision.