To echo a phrase, we are probably all sick of hearing, “we are living and working through unprecedented times”. While we won’t know the lasting impact of COVID-19 on our businesses and wider sector and economy for some time, the short-term disruptions have forced us to change how we work. When I look back over the last 3 months, we started lockdown with our crystal ball and tried to make assumptions about what the lockdown would mean for our members and New Zealand Inc. Looking back, with 20/20 vision, I appreciate the commentary about the merits of Level 4, especially in light of the approach Australia took to keeping construction sites open. However, I prefer to focus on what the learnings we can take from the lockdown are in case we need to move back up the levels in the future. I’m especially heartened by the sector picking up and using the different sets of health and safety protocols.
What has struck me through lockdown is the sector’s willingness to come together. Prior to lockdown, through the Accord and our own working groups, we’ve been championing a collaborative approach in addressing issues within our sector. COVID-19 has accelerated this and shown that it is possible, at short notice, to deliver leadership and guidance on specific issues for the sector.
It is not just the sector who has stepped up, the Government has come to the table and realised the importance of the construction sector to New Zealand’s economy through delivering initiatives like the “shovel ready projects”, the $1.6 billion investment into vocational training, and reforms to the building and resource consenting systems.
While COVID-19 is causing disruption for members, there’s also potential to use it as an opportunity to pivot how we work. Through lockdown, we’ve continued our work with the Vertical Leaders about industry benchmarking and with the Accord about improving procurement understanding and behaviours. We are also working on our election advocacy programme which is focussing on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the building consent system, overhauling and strengthening the Licensed Building Practitioners Scheme and using the Reform of Vocational Education as an opportunity to advocate for better quality education outcomes for building and construction learners. This programme runs parallel to the work that both the Commercial Working Group and the Vertical Leaders are delivering.