Building capability – right across the industry

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In the past few weeks the Registered Master Builders’ Federation has decided to increase the depth of its management capability across two key areas in its business — namely around membership services and marketing and communications. 

We need that deeper capability to ensure we are doing the right things for our members on the one hand, and properly marketing/communicating what we do on the other, right throughout the industry. So, we are looking forward to gearing up better as an organisation, in support of our members and local associations throughout the country. 

And that’s a mirror reflection of what I think the industry has been doing, too, over the past three to four years. As the work levels in the construction industry have built up, and as the new requirements of the Building Act 2004 have started to kick in, we have seen the industry build up its own capabilities right across the value chain. 

Some examples include: 

• The building industry has struggled to find the numbers of fully skilled and capable staff it would like to have to optimally keep up with the volumes of work available in the market. While there have been significant and very welcome increases in the number of people undertaking apprenticeships around the country over the past few years, there is still an ongoing gap in the middle tier of higher skilled staff that will take some time to fix. 

• The industry has also changed the way a number of things are done on building sites, to meet the new beefed-up requirements of the Building Act and to ensure they achieve the outcomes their clients are looking for. 

The current experience of most builders is that the building consent process with their local authorities has changed significantly compared to just a year ago, that as builders they have changed their on-site building practices, and they have also started to use different products to better match client expectations. 

• Local authorities have taken on more staff to ensure they are handling the building consent process as efficiently and effectively as possible, while keeping up with the new requirements of the Act. While the industry has seen a notable — and in many cases a “frustrating”! — increase in the time it has taken for building consent authorities to process building consents (though not necessarily a problem entirely of their making — ie, the industry has some responsibility for this when incomplete information is supplied), there’s a general confidence that the processing time will continue to come down, to better meet the Act’s 20 working day requirement. 

• The Department of Building and Housing has also continued to increase the number of staff it employs, to ensure it is best able to meet the policy and operational demands of its statutory functions. I expect it will be some time before we see the Department have all the right people on board to do what it needs to get done, but I have seen it continue to make steady progress over the past six months. 

And, undoubtedly, there will be many other similar examples across the industry. Significant change period I have no doubt we will look back on the five-year period from 2002 to 2007 as one of the most significant change periods within the construction industry in New Zealand’s history — and that we will have set a solid base framework for the industry for many years to come. Hopefully, at the end of this change period, we will have an industry that has the right capability to handle the work volumes to the right level of quality. 

The Department of Building and Housing will be working to ensure an appropriate legislative and regulatory framework for the industry to work in, and local authorities will have a consent process that supports the building process and provides the required level of certainty for the industry and for its clients. 

Alongside the rest of the industry, the Registered Master Builders Federation has started its own process of lifting its capability, so that we can better respond to, and lead the change process we are all going through. 

And I look forward to introducing the new members of the RMBF team in due course.