Building resilience for a stronger future — Constructive 2020 review, and RMBA recommendations to Government

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By Registered Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly

The Registered Master Builders Association’s fifth Constructive Forum was a fantastic opportunity to bring the sector together and to engage with Government.

Now that the new Government has been confirmed and ministerial portfolios announced, we have an indication of what the sector can expect over the next three years.

We are pleased to see the Government continue to prioritise infrastructure, now being led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

There is also good continuity around housing and vocational education with Ministers Woods and Hipkins both retaining these key portfolios.

We are also looking forward to engaging with Poto Williams, the new Minister for Building and Construction.

The Government has announced a substantial work programme in replacing the Resource Management Act. While, in principle, this has cross-party support, it will not be quick or simple, but is crucial for our sector.

The Government has also announced a market study by the Commerce Commission on the cost of building supplies, which will be of interest across the sector.

Supporting apprentices is a key focus, with the $1.6 billion Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package taking us through the next two years.

Off the back of this announcement, since July there has been a record jump in the number of registered carpentry apprentices, up by 17% compared to last year.

At Constructive we were also pleased to hear from Minister Robertson that the Construction Sector Accord will continue to be a focus for the Government, and used as a way to collaborate with the sector.

The Accord will continue to play a role at our Constructive Forum, and we want to hear the industry’s views on what you think should be its next priorities.

This year, the RMBA has also developed a policy paper, Building a better New Zealand, which outlines our recommendations for Government action, including:

1 Improving building regulation systems

Our first priority is to improve building regulation systems. This is about rebalancing the building consent system to make it more efficient, easier to use and to allocate risk more appropriately.

Rebalancing offers opportunities to establish more consistent national regulatory policies and systems, as well as providing greater clarity and certainty to the applicant and the Building Consent Authority (BCA).

The end result would see reduced time and financial costs, and quicker delivery of commercial and residential projects.

2 Improving capability and capacity within the Licensed Building Practitioner scheme

We are also advocating a review of the Licensed Building Practitioners scheme to improve its ability to support the wider building regulatory system. Strengthening the entry and renewal licensing requirements and processes is critical to lift building standards and to improve consistency across the scheme itself.

3 Stimulating residential construction demand

Our final recommendation provides tangible ways to stimulate residential construction demand.

We recognise that the current recession is not predictable. Currently our sector is defying expectations with residential demand still at record levels.

But we are also vulnerable to shocks, and when they come they can be swift and severe. We believe the Government needs to be ready to intervene directly to support the sector if needed, keeping businesses afloat and people in jobs if required.

We need to avoid a repeat of the GFC, where between 2008 and 2011 house building declined by 50%, and the residential construction sector lost 25% of its workforce.

It took seven years for sector employee levels to recover to pre-GFC levels, and contributed to the housing deficit we are still trying to rectify.

• All the Constructive events were recorded and are available to watch at constructive.org.nz.