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Where will the extra construction workers come from?

By Paul Lochore FREINZ

How can we build more houses when there aren’t enough builders and materials for this extra work?

How long can politicians be blind to reality? It’s my view that Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford hasn’t a hope in hell of achieving his Kiwibuild 100,000 houses programme. I wish he could, I really do, it’s a fantastic goal and much needed. But it can’t be done with the current resources available. So the government is fundamentally misleading the public – unless it’s prepared to make big changes in the construction sector to support its goal.

It was reported in February this year that a Reserve Bank discussion paper estimated that we’re around 9000 construction workers short in the Auckland region. If we import more tradespeople, where would we accommodate them? With a shortfall of 40-45,000 houses in Auckland, we’re already not keeping up with population and immigration growth.

And then there’s the Middlemore Hospital rebuild. Again, where will the materials and labour come from? We’re already stretched.

Try getting concrete today. There’s been a three-month wait for this fundamental building material for a couple of years now.  If you miss your scheduled day because of weather or other delays you’re bounced back onto the waiting list again.

So why aren’t there enough building materials? Is it because of a small number of large companies having a monopoly on the supply of particular products? Or is it because the process of getting new products tested here to achieve compliance with the NZ Building Code takes too long? New products do need to be tested and certified, and this can take time.

It seems that substandard and non-compliant products are flooding into the market as construction companies and tradies search for substitute products online. These products are coming in from Asia, mainly China. We’ve already had low-quality subsidised steel products being dumped in our market. In fact as recently as December 2017 it was reported in the NBR that NZ Steel was suing the government over the previous Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean’s decision not to take action regarding Chinese steel dumping. There have been many complaints over the past few years about sub-standard steel being imported and sold here. It undercuts our own steel industry. And how is that a good thing?

Homeowners and future owners wouldn’t have a clue if cheap, shoddy products are being installed into their houses or if their builders are taking short cuts in the construction process. It’s the wild west out there with cowboys desperate to find ways of circumventing the labour and materials shortage. But cutting corners is not worth it.

Products used in building our new homes must meet the NZ Building Code, because if they don’t, the construction sector is creating a ticking time bomb that will make the leaky building scandal seem like a picnic in comparison.

People don’t always realise they must get their builder to ensure only certified products have been used in the construction of their new home.

It’s crucial.

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