Building Today’s Covid-19 information finder

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As the country carefully climbs its way out of the lockdown, accurate and relevant information is more important than ever. Below is what we consider some of the more informative links about COVID-19, the pandemic and the lockdown, particularly as it relates to the construction sector.

Despite the withdrawal of the level four alert, the current situation will continue to be fluid, and things can change with very little notice. But all businesses, and individuals, need to keep themselves up to date on an ongoing basis. We aim to revise our information regularly. Here is the latest iteration:

The Stats NZ document Impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on the March 2020 quarter CPI and March 2020 FPI summarises the impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on the methodology used for the March 2020 quarter consumer price index (CPI) and the monthly food price index (FPI). 

It also has work underway to look at measures to speed up consents for development and infrastructure projects during the recovery from COVID 19, to provide jobs and stimulate the economy.

And the Construction Sector Accord has a wealth of information on the pandemic including a response plan.

This page on the MBIE website is the portal for news and updates from government about COVID-19 and how it may affect your business. 

The construction industry is tooling up to get back to work as soon as possible, drafting a health and safety framework which will help keep workers and the public safe from COVID-19.

This is the Worksafe page relating to workplace preparedness and health and safety issues in relation to COVID-19

Infometrics says that the New Zealand economy faces up to two years of consolidation following the pandemic: even with all the government initiatives.

Businesses will be welcoming ACC’s decision to delay invoicing by three months to help businesses cope with the impact of Covid-19. 

‍The New Zealand COVID-19 Construction Protocols provide a “how to” guidance which sit below the COVID-19 Standard for New Zealand Construction Operations. These protocols are a living document which will be kept updated by a working party of health and safety practitioners from across industry and can be adapted on a site by site basis.

The Treasury has published seven different scenarios on the possible economic impacts of COVID-19. It has also started weekly publication of an expanded weekly economic update,  accompanied by a new COVID-19 Economic Dashboard.

NZTE has a guide intended to help businesses get a better grasp of their current cash position, so they can identify what decisions are most appropriate and have informed conversations with funders and advisors.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association has a range of resources, news and advice to help continue doing business in unprecedented times.

Details are coming out on a ‘hibernation’ option for businesses hit by Covid-19. Business Desk has done a wrap of what details are known so far, including the conditions by which it might be taken up. The key point for businesses who want it appears to be the agreement of their creditors – they won’t simply be able to choose to do so without running it by others who might be affected by the decision.

Tax man shows empathy: Inland Revenue will write-off any penalties and interest for businesses unable to pay taxes on time due to the impact of COVID-19. They advise not to contact them now. “Get in touch with us when you can. To help get correct payments to people we would like employers to still file their returns as normal. This helps us work out the right amounts for people and helps the Government continue to respond to what is happening in the economy.”

During the lockdown IR phone services are limited, and the most effective way to contact them will be online and through myIR. All IR front office services are closed with staff working from home.

NZIER: Business confidence plummets

The latest NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion captured responses received up to March 20, prior to the announcement of the alert level 4 lockdown across the country. It thus gives us at least a partial glimpse into how firms think COVID-19 will impact them and the economy. The survey shows a sharp decline in business confidence, with a net 67% of businesses expecting deterioration in general economic conditions.

When it comes to demand in their own business, the weakness was most apparent in firms’ expectations for the next quarter. A net 11% reported weaker demand in their business in the March quarter, but a net 13% expected weaker demand in the next quarter – a marked turnaround from the 5% of businesses who had expected an improvement in demand in the previous quarter.

The much weaker tone of expectations for the next quarter relative to what firms experienced in the March quarter suggests that whilst activity held up reasonably well in the weeks leading up to the lockdown, businesses were looking to pare back operations in anticipation of weaker demand ahead. Prospects for the building sector are mixed, with the measure of activity in architects’ own office pointing to a soft pipeline of residential and commercial construction, but a still-solid pipeline of Government construction work. The Government is expected to play a greater role in construction work as private investment weakens, and has indicated its intention to accelerate any “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that can start within the next 180 days.

Stats NZ reports that the annual number of new homes consented was 37,882 for the year ended February 2020, the highest since the mid-1970s, Stats NZ said. The number of new homes consented was up 3620 from the same period in 2019, a rise of 11%. Nationally, there were many more higher-density style homes consented, such as townhouses, flats, and units.

“Building consent statistics may be affected in the coming months by the current lockdown because of COVID-19. However, any delay to or cancellation of already consented building plans would be seen in the quarterly value of building work put in place, not in monthly consent statistics,” Stats said.

Experts say stimulus package not enough

In the latest Finder RBNZ Official Cash Rate Survey, nine experts and economists weighed in on fiscal stimulus measures put in place by the Government and Reserve Bank in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While they believe a recession is looming, more than half anticipate it to be sharp yet short lived, saying that it won’t last beyond 2020. Around a third predict it to last until mid to late 2021. More details here. The Finder website also has a host of advice and resources around navigating the pandemic.

As people around the world face the realities of self isolation, Ukrainian architect Sergey Makhno predicts how our homes will change once the pandemic is over.

Got a “shovel ready” infrastructure project? These guys would like to know more…

The next in the series of Timber Design Guides are due to be released later this year. The website is here…

Stark warnings from the International Monetary Fund.

The Reserve Bank is proposing to remove LVR restrictions.