22 April 2020

Building industry call for government boost as confidence collapses

| Ian Bushnell
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Construction industry

The construction industry will be crucial to the economic recovery, says the MBA and Property Council. Photo: Region Media.

With confidence in the property industry collapsing due to the COVID-19 crisis, there have been calls for the ACT Government to do more to support local builders and construction projects.

The latest ANZ/Property Council Survey has put industry confidence at an all-time low, with the index halving from 127 to 64 over the quarter. A score of 100 is considered neutral.

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said that while he welcomed the government’s $25 million support for small ‘screwdriver ready’ projects, it needed to do more across both residential and civil sectors.

He said it should build more social and public housing, fast-track government infrastructure projects, ensure tenders go to local companies and cut red tape to keep projects flowing.

Tenders should be awarded locally through the whole supply chain from subcontractors to suppliers to consultants. “The whole project team should be as local as possible,” he said.

Mr Hopkins said the government should also speed up development approval systems and the completion stage of projects, including the processing of applications for unit titles in apartment projects.

“While we’re expecting the level of private investment will decline over next few months, any private projects that are trying to start construction should be given every chance and every support from government to make sure they do [start building].”

Mr Hopkins said the building and construction sector would be crucial to the economic recovery, being the Territory’s third-biggest employer with 20,000 jobs, behind the public service and healthcare.

He said that while the bigger companies were still working on jobs in progress, the concern was what happens when those projects end.

ANZ/Property Council survey results

The ANZ/Property Council survey results. Image: ANZ.

Infrastructure projects such as roads and cycleways, and health and education facilities should be considered, as well as pushing the Commonwealth to get light rail Stage 2A going.

”Light rail is a great opportunity for local civil contractors but also all the suppliers that would service them as well,” he said.

Master Builders, along with the Property Council, will be working with government over the coming weeks and months to literally build the economic recovery.

Property Council ACT executive director Adina Cirson said that the sector was expecting to take a significant hit, with companies surveyed reporting a moderate to serious impact on construction schedules and growth expectations over the next few months.

“These results highlight the absolutely critical nature of our work with the ACT Government to keep construction going and to keep those who are working in the property and construction industries in a job.

“Our industry is going to be vital in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase, and ensuring we have a solid pipeline of construction projects is essential,” she said.

Mr Hopkins also urged homeowners not to put off repairs and extensions because of COVID-19, saying it was safe to proceed.

“Safe Work Australia has provided advice which states a workplace includes a private home or dwelling. Safe Work Australia has also produced information for in-home workers and tradies, containing a range of practical information about client interactions, householder checks and other ways to reduce or eliminate risk,” he said.

“Our members are taking the utmost care to ensure their clients’ safety remains a top priority while completing residential projects. Builders have implemented a variety of measures including social distancing, regular sanitising of work areas and wearing additional personal protective equipment such as masks.”

He said many display homes remained open across the ACT, but the public should call ahead and make bookings in advance.

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