Builders upbeat but wary of red tape

Last updated 15:12 01/07/2014

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The building boom and increasing compliance requirements were hot topics at the Certified Builders conference in Hamilton at the weekend.

Certified Builders was established in 1998 to recognise and promote qualified builders. A builder must be trade qualified to become a member of the Certified Builders Association.

Chief executive Grant Florence said the conference was held "with a background of much higher building activity to what we've had over the last three or four years".

"There's an overall much stronger optimism that we had around the conference," he said.

Statistics New Zealand figures last month showed construction activity surged 12.5 per cent in the March quarter in both residential and non-residential building.

National accounts manager for Statistics NZ Gary Dunnet said construction was responsible for two-thirds of GDP growth in the March quarter. The increase in construction was the largest in 14 years - the second-highest on record, just behind March 2000.

However, Florence said the construction boom was offset by rising levels of compliance builders faced.

"There's a concern around the balance between the professionalism of the industry and the increased level of compliance that's required.

"We are talking with the regulators and also the politicians all the time.

"It is one of the things we have highlighted to them," he said.

More than 600 people were at the conference, with more than 80 trade stalls, an all-time record for Certified Builders.

Attendance was up 25 per cent on last year, which Florence put down to interest in the building boom, and concern around compliance. .

Membership of the organisation had grown between 5 and 8 per cent in the last 12 months as builders "are now realising that it's a changing environment in the building construction sector, compliance requirements are much higher".

"They are looking to their membership of the association to get value and get guidance around some of the changes that are happening in the industry."

Over the next year the construction pipeline would remain strong, and that growth should start to move into the regions, Florence said.

Regions such as Hawke's Bay and Wellington were still struggling for work, and Christchurch had been slow to get under way.

"There's a lot of large projects in the commercial sector that haven't yet started," he said. "There's been some big growth but there's still a lot to do."

Florence said the "looming skills shortage" would also start to kick in over the next year, with regions like Christchurch, Auckland, and the Waikato and western Bay of Plenty likely to feel it.

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"On the side other side of it apprentice numbers are up at a five maybe six-year high, and that helps, but it doesn't help next week," he said.

 "This time in 12 months [the skills shortage] will really be starting to be felt." 

- Waikato Times

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