There’s an old saying – do it once and do it well. This approach may take a bit longer, but it can lead to better outcomes. The same thing holds true for consultation. By Alan Pollard, chief executive, Civil Contractors NZ.
Rarely in the past decades has so much major legislative change been attempted so quickly. At present, we are dealing with Fair Pay Agreements, immigration rebalances, reforms of the Resource Management Act, public income insurance campaigns, Road User Charges restructures, major reforms of health, education, and local government, three waters, climate action of all sorts and much more.
When it’s done well, consultation provides for those most likely to be impacted by some policy change to legitimately influence its development, thereby realising the most benefit with the smallest amount of risk. When it goes poorly, it can result in endless and intractable debate. Or even worse – to important change being driven by the wrong stakeholders and based on the wrong assumptions.
We are starting to see increasingly “quick-fire” consultations from the Government. This much change leads to a storm of consultation, sometimes with very short response timeframes, or only high-level abstract views of what change looks like. I also suspect consultation under unreasonable time constraints reflects an element of predetermination of outcomes from officials. Sometimes, we don’t even get to see a draft of the proposed policy commitments until time is almost up for a response.
Reform is an important role of any government, but there is always a balance. The risk with a majority government is that it will try to push too much change through without ensuring that it is fit for purpose, or without necessary checks and balances in place to hold government to account. I suspect that’s what’s happening at present and will continue in the leadup to next year’s election, and it creates risk economically, commercially, and socially.
Yet Civil Contractors New Zealand takes responsibility for providing industry perspective in these consultations and makes many submissions each year as the representative organisation for civil contractors.
In the past month, we have made submissions on Immigration, the Draft National Adaptation Plan, the Road User Charges review, the Fair Pay Agreements Bill, the government’s proposed NZ Income Insurance Scheme, the Draft National Adaptation Plan and engaged with government agencies and decision makers on many more issues. And we have many more significant conversations and consultations coming up, including the Three Waters Reform consultation and the resolution of the review of standard 3910 contracts.
We work by consulting with members on the major issues the industry is facing, because it’s important we understand the significance of change for members and what it could mean in practice. We have a united voice on behalf of the industry at a regional and national level. If contractors don’t take that leadership position through CCNZ, there are others who will happily do it, without understanding the true nature of the industry.
What we also provide through our branches, regional managers, national representation, events and technical committees is a good avenue for clients looking to engage with contractors, as contractors simply can’t spend every minute of the day repeating feedback.
We recognise members are trying to run businesses and may not have a lot of time to complete a survey or attend a workshop while they are managing the latest water pipeline replacement or road rehab. We are always working building our knowledge and understanding within the sector without asking for too much of members’ time, which is always appreciated when it is given, whether this be on-site, through our technical committees, in a survey response, through discussion or at a branch meeting.
CCNZ will continue to work on behalf of the civil construction industry to hold government and officials to account, to make industry’s voice heard, to ensure consultation is authentic, and to achieve better outcomes for the industry.