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Changes ahead for New Zealand's construction industry

18 April 2019
CEO Update

It's been a busy few months in the construction industry sector. Master Plumbers and Masterlink CEO Greg Wallace provides an update on news and activities.

Reform of Vocational Education

Master Plumbers has submitted its feedback during the Ministry of Education’s all too brief public consultation period on the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) — which would see major changes for the training of apprentices. Whilst we accept that the Government cannot continue to write cheques for hundreds of millions of dollars to training providers in financial difficulties, we were extremely disappointed by the lack of engagement with industry associations on the proposed changes, especially given that it is industries such as ours that provide trainees with opportunities for employment.

We agree that the current training provider model needs reform to ensure they are financially viable in future—but most importantly providers need to be of high quality and meeting industry needs. We were also disappointed that some relevant and urgent issues were not addressed in the consultation document, including tutor shortages, substandard facilities, and a need for innovation in training methods.

Master Plumbers is concerned that creating a single mega institute for the management of all polytechnics could distance the industry even further from training delivery. The review proposes Industry Skills Bodies (ISBs) as a key component of the future vocational education system but, despite several meetings with Ministry of Education and TEC representatives, we remain unclear about the role of these ISBs and their funding. We find it difficult to support the ISB model until we have clarity on how they would function.

A decision on the Government’s proposals is expected in early June. From our perspective, the absolute priority is to ensure we have a robust training programme that encourages more employers to take on apprentices as a way of addressing the current skills shortage.

Occupational regulation reform

Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa has just announced the opening of a consultation on a suite of far-reaching changes to building law. These are the most significant reforms since the current Building Act was introduced in 2004.

The removal of exemptions that allow unlicensed people to carry out plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying work is among the proposals in the Government's newly released discussion paper on building system legislative reform (see p51 of the paper).

The closing date for public feedback is 16 June and Master Plumbers will be making a submission in due course. In the meantime, we welcome any member feedback—please email your comments to info@masterplumbers.org.nz

Construction Sector Accord welcomed

When Arrow International was placed in voluntary administration earlier this year, many of our members were financially affected. The risk matrix for commercial contractors is becoming increasingly unsustainable and Master Plumbers is working with the Specialist Trade Contractors Federation to see what legislative changes we need to lobby for to ensure subcontractors have better protection for the work they complete. Passing the risk onto subcontractors has been too prevalent for too long and changes must be made.

Master Plumbers welcomes the new Construction Sector Accord, announced on 14 April. We believe it is a positive step. 

The Accord is a partnership between Government and the construction industry, with a focus on improving government procurement practices, consent processes and building regulatory systems. The desired outcomes would be highly beneficial to the construction industry, but it will be vital to ensure that the aims of the Accord flow all the way to subcontractors.

The announcement marks the first stage of the process. The next will be to develop more detailed plans, again with Master Plumbers' involvement. Whilst the concept of the Accord is correct, there will be challenges ahead in its delivery and we remain hopeful of a positive outcome.

Adapted from the CEO's Report first published in NZ Plumber, April/May 2019

Agreement at a construction site 000025401936 XXXLarge

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