COVID-19: Construction Sector Accord Update

21 April 2020

Offical Construction Sector Accord website here

In this update you’ll hear from the Accord Transformation Director as we look to move out of lockdown, and you can find information on what Alert Level 3 means for the sector. More procurement advice has been released this week, there’s a new business support package from government, and we talk about how MATES in Construction is supporting mental health. We’ll also update you on what we’re focused on now in the Construction Sector COVID-19 Response Plan.

Message from Dean Kimpton - Accord Transformation Director

Next Tuesday 28 April, much of our sector will be able to get back to work, even if it’s not work as usual. At Alert Level 3, the government has said the focus for allowable activities has moved from ‘essential’, to ‘safe’. As a significant sector to New Zealand’s economy, we have a leadership role across all activities as well as construction sites and workplaces to ensure safety and minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 for the workforce and the public. The new safety protocols for the industry were released last week to help businesses better prepare. More information on the protocols and links are provided in this newsletter.

Last week the government also announced a new support package for businesses. The tax loss carry-back scheme will help some of our small and medium operators by helping with cash flow, and we encourage everyone to take advantage of the free business consultancy support offered. We are continuing to work with government on other support options for businesses.

The Construction Sector Accord COVID-19 response group continue to meet every week. Our numbers have grown beyond the ASG governance group so we often have up to 40 sector leaders from across the sector ‘around the table’. Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa, Economic Development and Urban Development Minster Phil Twyford, and Housing Minister Megan Woods have also attended meetings and taken part in discussions on ways to support the sector. They, along with other Ministers, will continue to join us to provide direct dialogue and input into our work.

We’ve achieved a huge amount, but we’ve still got a lot to deliver in line with our COVID 19 Response Plan. Our objective remains simple – to support New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery by maintaining a strong building and construction sector that balances the health of our people with the future of our sector.

Lastly, we can take great confidence in what we are achieving. The leadership shown through the Construction Accord group is immense, well-noticed and highly regarded. It really is a unique combination of executives from industry, government agencies, peak body associations, and Ministers. As a trusted source of advice, we have become a ‘go to’ group on behalf of the total sector. So a huge thank you and yes let’s keep going!

He waka noa

Dean Kimpton, Accord Transformation Director

Working at Alert Level 3

Last week the government announced what types of activities and businesses will be able to operate under Alert Level 3. The Accord team has worked with government on what this, and the lower alert levels, will mean for the construction sector.

From 28 April, construction sites and most other construction-related businesses can get back to work, provided health and safety measures are in place. There is no requirement to register your plan, but you must have one in place and share it with your staff.

Health and safety standards and protocols for construction sites

One of the safety measures is physical distancing – which means keeping at least one metre between workers on construction sites. Where tradespeople are working in other people’s homes or workplaces, they must stay at least two metres away from people at the location.

Builders and tradespeople will now be able to get materials from suppliers and retail outlets, but these premises must have health and safety and physical distancing measures in place.

Building and construction site inspections can now take place, but councils are encouraged to make use of technology to carry out remote inspections where possible.

Businesses and workers are also allowed to travel to neighbouring regions to work, for example between Auckland and Northland, or Nelson and Marlborough, but cannot travel further afield.

Read more about Alert Level 3 for building and construction

More business support offered by government

Last week government announced an additional package of support measures focused on tax relief for businesses. Together with the existing support provided through the wage subsidy scheme, these new actions should help with cashflow and maintaining solvency, particularly for our small and medium businesses. The Construction Accord continues to advise on business support that could be given to support our sector.

The new measures include:

  • A tax loss carry-back scheme where you can be refunded tax you paid last year if you’re projecting a loss this year
  • Free business consultancy support
  • Greater flexibility in meeting tax obligations

To help you understand these measures and get further business support, you can contact the Regional Business Partner Network, the Employers and Manufacturers Association and the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce.

Read the government’s fact sheet on the new measures to support SMEs

Mental health

This is a stressful time for everyone. Although the shift to Alert Level 3 will allow most of us to get back to work, some workers have lost their jobs, businesses will be struggling and there is uncertainty for everyone about what the future holds. We need to pay close attention to our mental health and that of our staff and workmates. Accord partner MATES in Construction offers several services and there are many other resources available to help.

Read the MATES news story and find other mental health resources

New guidance for government agencies working with construction suppliers

One of the Accord objectives is to facilitate the sharing of good practice. Auckland Transport (AT) recently wrote to all their construction suppliers explaining the impact of the shutdown on their construction projects, including on contract management, and their expectations of suppliers. AT Group Manager of Procurement Andy Richards says the letter was designed to maintain positive partnerships during the COVID-19 disruption.

“It’s important for us all to work together at this time and have a clear understanding of what’s expected of each other. We want constructive and open engagement with our suppliers so we can ensure a swift and smooth return to BAU.”

The AT letter and guidelines, developed in conjunction with Auckland Council, have been adapted by the Accord for wider use across all government agencies and their construction suppliers. It includes information and expectations on essential services, procurement, contracts and business continuity plans during the COVID-19 disruption.

Read the guidelines for agencies and their suppliers

Finding seasonal or temporary staff

Ministry of Social Development recently launched the ‘Work the Seasons’ website which connects employers with jobseekers, and has been expanded to include construction roles. If you are looking for seasonal or temporary staff, this website may be able to help you.

Work the Seasons employment website

Accord focus this week

This week’s focus for the Accord COVID-19 response team is to:

  • develop more procurement guidance including a set of principles for agencies to work by when negotiating the cost of variations due to the shutdown
  • develop advice for the sector on fair risk allocation for COVID-19-related disruptions in new contracts
  • assist Crown Infrastructure Partners and the Infrastructure Commission to identify the pipeline of crown infrastructure projects that can be bought forward into the next six months
  • identify models to rapidly mobilise projects during the recovery phase including opportunities to streamline processes including consenting, governance, funding approval and procurement
  • contribute to further advice to government on additional support needed for commercial landlords and tenants
  • find ways to help ensure consumer confidence in the residential building sector remains high post COVID-19, and
  • work with local government to ensure the Construction Sector COVID-19 Response Plan is aligned with council needs.

We’ll continue to update you on further actions and decisions in the Accord’s COVID-19 Construction Sector Response Plan plan as they made.

He waka noa

The Construction Sector Accord Team

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