David Kelly Update: COVID-19 Update

25 March 2020

New Zealand is now in a state of national emergency and will be at COVID-19 Level 4 from 11.59pm tonight. From then, all building and construction work must cease, other than essential construction and building work.

Building and construction sector essential services
The Government has issued further guidance for our sector as to who may remain open during the duration of New Zealand being at Alert Level 4. We will update you should this guidance change for our sector. In the meantime, essential services for our sector is only:

  • Work that is required immediately to maintain human health and safety at home or work 
  • Work to enable the continuation of other essential services, such as hospitals, supermarkets, or utilities
  • Building and resource consenting and supply chains for essential construction and building work.


Essential construction and building work do not include new work, renovations, maintenance, or any other work unless it fits the criteria above. The government has set the bar high and there are no loopholes. We must restrict the amount of people who are not isolated to the maximum extent possible, while also maintaining reasonable standards of public health and safety.

Please be aware, that for plumbers and electricians and other sub-contractors essential work is that which has a direct human health and safety aspect to it, such as blocked sanitary drains, electrical faults likely to lead to electrocution. Any other jobs are non-essential and must wait. 

MBIE has established a phone number, 0508 377 388, and an email address if you have specific questions about what this guidance means for your business: essential@mbie.govt.nz

You may hear that Bunnings, Placemakers, Mitre 10 and other retailers are staying open. They can only stay open to trade customers for essential purposes only, not to the wider public.

What we are doing
As you all know, our sector is a critical part of the New Zealand economy. We build not only the homes for New Zealanders, but the commercial, industrial, and retail buildings that house businesses and jobs. Despite our critical importance, as a sector, we are vulnerable to changes in workload that could negatively impact our businesses. 

Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 and the vulnerable nature of our sector, I’m actively working with our members, commercial construction companies, and other leading sector organisations to develop support package ideas for the Government to use. Helping with this is the Residential Working Group and the Vertical Commercial Leaders Group; both of whom are providing expert advice. Tailored residential and commercial support package ideas, will be critical, not just when the pandemic eases, but also during the next couple of years while we get back on our feet. We’ll be back in touch with you once we’ve developed these in more detail. 

Recent Government announcements 
Yesterday the Government announced another support package; this time for homeowners and businesses affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19. The Government and banks will implement a $6.25 billion Business Finance Guarantee Scheme for small and medium-sized businesses, to protect jobs and support the economy. The Scheme will enable businesses with a turnover of between $250,000 and $80 million per annum to access short-term credit of up to $500,000 for a maximum of 3 years. The Government will underwrite the Scheme and the banks will run it. 

The Government also announced a six-month principal and interest payment holiday for SME customers and mortgage holders whose incomes have been affected by COVID-19. I’ll send out further information to members once the details of the Scheme and the mortgage payment holiday are public. 

What you can be doing
Think about our people and how we can support each other preparing for isolation. This will be a massive disruption and can be incredibly stressful situation for all of us. Be mindful and look out for each other by giving people a call or you could even have a Friday after work beer by video conferencing! We’d like to remind you that we have the EWP counselling service, which is entirely confidential, for you to access. Their contact details are available below. CHASNZ has also done a great guide on how to have a conversation about mental health, you can find it here

You can also use this time to do work planning and utilise courses through Elevate – our online learning platform. You can access a range of Elevate courses and information here.

We’re currently working with Site Safe on a Health and Safety portal for our members. This will be launched within the next week on Offsite and will be another training tool available to you.

Update from our insurance broking partners Aon
The shutdown does NOT need to be disclosed to insurers as it is in the public domain. What we do need to ensure is that as an Insured that you put in place standard precautions/protection measures to protect BOTH your project sites and your existing buildings/ warehouses/ vehicles etc.

General Insurers will not extend policies / or waive any cessation clauses on a blanket basis. As such you will need to advise your insurers of any extensions in cover required as policies fall due to expire.

Many policies contain cessation of works (stoppage of works) clauses that effectively mean cover stops or changes if work does not continue for a period. This will be in your Policy Wording. 

Master Builders services update
In the meantime, Master Builders is still open for business, our staff are working from home and have full access to all our systems and are here to help however we can. As an FYI, we have cancelled all branch events through to the 1 June.

We understand that the Guarantee is important to our residential members and our team is continuing to process Guarantee applications as quickly as possible and are available by phone and email as usual.

The contact details for member services available are:

  • Member counselling service: 0800 800 397
  • Legal advice: Hazelton Law 04 472 7570
  • Legal advice re employment matters: 027 292 6071
  • Financial Advice: PWC 03 374 3003
  • Insurance matters: AON 0800 266 7622 or rmba@aon.co.nz

I encourage you to reach out if we can help you through this time. 

Kind regards
David Kelly