‘All I want for Christmas!’

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For most of us in the construction industry we are charging towards Christmas 2005 at breakneck speed. In the past few years we have benefi ted from the highest work volumes the industry has ever seen, meaning each year has been busier than the one before. 

Add to this the leaky buildings issue and changes to the regulatory environment, and you begin to understand why the industry has been pretty frenetic. 

‘Wish list’ In this last editorial for 2005 — my third as chief executive of the RMBF — it seems appropriate to look at the “wish list” for the construction industry’s Christmas stocking for 2006: 

• Steady work volumes: The October residential consent numbers provide some evidence of the decline in building consent numbers that many in (and outside) the industry have been predicting for some time. 

Conversely, commercial consent numbers continue to hold their own. 2005 will finish a quieter year than 2004, and 2006 will be quieter again, but still higher than 2003 work levels. So, while the numbers are trending down, they should remain steady, giving the industry the chance to take a breather and to consolidate business operations. 

• Improved consent processing time frames and certainty: The biggest gripe from members during the year revolved around the delays and uncertainties experienced during the consent process, including the issue of code compliance certificates and site inspections by local authorities. 

On one hand, the industry needs to “pull up its socks” with regards to lifting the standard and quality of the consent applications being submitted to councils. On the other hand, councils themselves recognise the processing delays and uncertainties this year have been unacceptable. 

In most cases, we have seen improvements in this area during the past few months, but there is still much to be done. 

• Certainty and timeliness around licensing and other regulatory changes: Fifteen months out from the date the licensing regime is supposed to become optional for the building industry to sign into (March 2007), we are not much clearer on what the licensing regime will actually look like and how it will work in practice. 

We are aware that the Government has raised concerns that licensing is going to cost more than anticipated, and so it was worthwhile to look at ways of targeting the licensing regime to reduce its impact and cost. 

However, the RMBF is adamant that for licensing to work properly it must apply across all building categories and the component parts of the industry, rather than concentrating on one or two. Otherwise, it will be confusing for the construction industry and consumers, and won’t achieve the outcomes Government and industry are wanting from licensing in terms of lifting skill levels and professionalism within the industry. 

The RMBF is keen to get early traction on the licensing issue in 2006 so we are clear about what we need to focus on during the year. Having said that, we don’t want to rush things too much so we (Government and industry) get it wrong. We need to do it once and do it right. 

• Industry leadership: Finally, the industry is undergoing significant change and the framework we are working to build and implement will set the scene for the industry for years to come. What we do now will affect homes, offices, schools and hospitals for the next 20 to 30 years, if not longer. 

Necessary leadership That makes it incumbent on the key industry players to ensure we exercise the necessary leadership to get the framework right — right through the industry value chain from central and local Government to researchers, standard setters, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, builders and, last but not least, clients. 

We all have to step up to the plate to lead the way forward. And if all those things are in the industry’s Christmas stocking this year, we should be happy enough, I think! 

Can I take this opportunity to wish all the Federation’s members, partners and stakeholders the very best for the Christmas/New Year period, and I hope that you all get to share quality time with your families, friends and loved ones. We look forward to touching base with you again in the New Year.