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Looking after the industry

by PETER SILCOCK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CCNZ

The need for a strong organisation and a powerful voice for contractors remains as important today as it was when Civil Contractors New Zealand’s predecessor the Contractors’ Federation advocated for more work to be tendered on the open market in the days of the Ministry of Works and council works departments.

The core platform of CCNZ advocacy is around having a healthy construction industry. While we’re passionate about health and safety, a healthy industry means so much more.

It’s about having a financially viable industry that is progressive and adopts new technology. An industry that invests in plant, systems and people. And an industry where there are opportunities for companies of all sizes and types to compete for work on a level playing field.

CCNZ has a proud history of representing the whole contracting industry. As an example, we advocated for and strongly supported changes to the Construction Contracts Act protecting retentions which came into force on 3 March 2017.

Protecting retentions

The high-profile collapse of Ebert Construction in August is the first real test of those changes, which required principals and head contractors to hold retentions in payments in trust. At this point it appears not all retentions have been protected, but while 21 subcontractors may have to wait in line as unsecured creditors, the additional protections we advocated for mean 131 will receive their retentions.

The new regime has meant $3.69 million of retentions will be paid back to subcontractors. Although we may need to advocate for further changes to cover off the loophole(s) that left 21 subcontractors out in the cold, without the law change there would be little likelihood of any of these subcontractors being paid, so it is a major step forward.

Voidable transactions

When a company goes into liquidation, the liquidator is often able to claw back payments made to contractors whilst the company was insolvent, or otherwise unable to pay debts. CCNZ has been successful in limiting the exercise of that power to certain circumstances. Last year we supported further changes emphasising that contractors must be able to rely on the payments they receive in the normal course of their business to operate an ongoing business.

A level playing field

The ability to compete for work on a level playing field is a key part of our advocacy. That does not mean a free-for-all. What it means is that companies meeting clear, fair and well understood criteria can compete for a contract or to be on a panel. We support professional contractors and opportunities for large, medium and small contractors.

A whole-of-industry approach

CCNZ is very focused on its responsibility to represent the whole industry. We have a range of contractors sitting around our Executive Council table from large tier one contractors to smaller family businesses. We have people involved in a wide range of work including roading, three waters, earthmoving, forestry, rural, commercial and residential work. We also have a major associate at the table to recognise the support they give to contractors.

It is that diversity and the fact our Executive Council members take their company hats off at the door that enables CCNZ to take a wider industry view balancing the needs of the whole civil construction industry.

FINDING COMMON GROUND THROUGH CCNZ

CCNZ has a wide range of members, but there are many common issues we need to provide a range of services for to support a healthy industry. Our work includes:

• Advocacy – CCNZ has a wide membership base, enabling it to provide perspective on a wide range of topics. Over the past year, we have advocated to reduce local government procurement costs. Clients are starting to wake up and recognise the financial and project outcome benefits of working with contractors, and we’re seeing more engagement from councils nationwide.

• Supplying standard documents – keeping standard legal documents up-to-date can be costly and time consuming. CCNZ has a range of standard documents available to members at no cost.

• A centre of technical excellence – CCNZ’s cross-industry technical committees mean we can help the industry self-regulate. We produce a wide range of technical documents.

• Networking – CCNZ branches provide a great network. By engaging with each other at branch meetings and national conference, contractors can gain valuable insights, connections and introductions that can make a massive difference to you and your business. Just look at New Zealand’s history of joint ventures.

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