By Peter Silcock, chief executive, CCNZ.
The 2020 year was strange by any measure. Who could have predicted the global pandemic – a topic I hope we can move on from soon. It has also been a year when people have appreciated the value of CCNZ membership.
We have seen attendance at some of our branch meetings rise to more than 350 people. More than 1300 attended one of our webinars, and we have seen a surge in new memberships, the like of which has not been seen in decades.
I want to thank, once again, the small group of association members for many hours of intense work they did with CCNZ Technical manager Stacy Goldsworthy – providing practical and knowledgeable input into the Covid-19 Construction Protocols.
The association stepped up, providing regular informative updates in a time of massive uncertainty and with ways for people to get back to work quickly after lockdown. Many members told us that simple and safe protocols for the industry to return to work had immense value.
This is all about industry self-determination and taking responsibility for our own future. At its core, it shows when we work together as an organised industry and prove ourselves reasonable and competent, people will listen to us and work with us.
Credit should also go to the Construction Accord, which sets a platform for what’s fair and what’s not. The Accord meant we had direct access to the Government to get protocols agreed and across the line. Construction Health and Safety NZ played a major role in setting these effective standards, implemented with capable support from Site Safe.
Clear, timely guidance on construction contract variations following the pandemic gave a lead for clients across central and local government on how to fairly handle variation claims and contract conditions, for the most part avoiding catastrophic disputes.
I’d also like to thank the team at Dentons Kensington Swan for stepping up to support CCNZ members with webinars and advice at a critical time.
Good relationships come to the fore when it counts, and the pandemic has shown many existing and new members the value of CCNZ membership.
A year of infrastructure promises
As 2020 was also an election year we witnessed a year of massive infrastructure promises from all parties. It was great to see consensus on the importance of infrastructure as part of our pandemic recovery plan.
‘Shovel-ready projects’ were proposed to provide employment for workers displaced by Covid-19. While it looks like the 170 (so far) projects could fill the gap left by cash-strapped local authorities, it’s tricky to say how accurate the estimate of ‘shovel-ready within six months’ will be for many projects, or when much of this near-$5 billion of co-funded work will come to market.
Despite shovel-ready uncertainty, we now have the revived NZ Upgrade Programme, which includes transport projects amounting to $6.8 billion. The work proposed sits outside the existing National Land Transport Programme, and therefore relieves funding pressure, enabling an additional $1.18 billion of road maintenance work over the next five years, something the country’s roads are in dire need of.
Three waters construction is still murky. Awareness of the issues has never been better, but it’s clear the funding structures in place are completely inadequate to maintain the system, let alone catch up with challenges posed by climate change and population growth.
Short-term co-funding from central government is a band-aid, but no long-term fix. Many regions are facing the hard realities of billions of dollars needed to bring networks up to scratch. Hundred-year-old water pipes are bursting, critical water shortages occurring, towns and cities flooding, and wastewater systems full to overflowing.
These challenges need billions of dollars of funding and significant structural and legislative changes. We are starting to see some progress with RMA reform, new funding and financing models and a new water regulator established.
There’s also the newly-created NZ Infrastructure Commission, responsible for publishing the work pipeline ahead and setting a national infrastructure strategy for the next 30 years.
It is now 2021 and time for the tough to get going.