Superbly strong year for the RMBF and industry

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This month’s column consists of the speech I gave at this year’s House of the Year national gala dinner:


Welcome to you all to the 2007 Registered Master Builders House of the Year and RMB Commercial Project Awards evening, in association with PlaceMakers.

 

It’s just fantastic to have you with us here tonight. In particular, Prime Minister, it’s our privilege to share the industry’s very best in building with you.

 

2007 has been another superbly strong year for the building and construction industry, as well as for Registered Master Builders. Just to mention a few highlights:

Industry annual turnover by dollar value has reached an all-time high of $12 billion, and it’s likely to settle at around that level for another year or two before rising again; we have had a sustained bull run, therefore, since 2001, which has served the industry well; we run our businesses differently when we have that underlying level of confidence and overall sustainability;

The industry is half way through its largest-ever reform programme, with nearly every major facet of the industry changing in some shape or form, via such things as changes to the Building Code, the introduction of Building Consent Authority Accreditation and Product Certification, and the implementation of Building Practitioner Licensing; and so when I think back over the past year Government-wise, things have been tremendously busy, and we’re nowhere near done yet;

Housing Affordability has emerged — gingerly at first but then with a roar — as a major political issue, with multiple inquiries going on all over the place; some serious policy and industry debate is required to make sure we, as a country, adopt the right solutions, and we’ve certainly put forward our best thoughts to the Government for its consideration;

The second “green building wave” has started, with the Green Building Council now fully under way, the first green star-rated commercial buildings have hit the market, the Government’s Home Energy Rating scheme is about to go live in a month or so’s time, substantive energy efficiency changes to the Building Code have been implemented, the Greenbuild product register has been launched, and these are just the tip of the iceberg;

Industry apprenticeship numbers have reached their own all-time high, with around 10,000 carpentry apprentices in training around the country; and the BCITO is now moving its focus up the value chain looking at higher level qualifications;

And just to talk about ourselves for a second, the RMBF has enjoyed it’s second full year of membership growth, with 2007 doubling the growth of 2006 which, in turn, was double the growth of 2005 — and for those of you that are mathematically minded, our growth that year was 1%; and for those of you not mathematically minded (or with short memories!), that means our growth this year is on track to hit 8%.

 

And, perhaps the biggest reflection of how well we are going is looking around this room. It’s great to be able to share this evening with the leaders of our industry, and it’s great to see you all in such good heart.

 

So, overall, things are tracking pretty well for our industry. But that’s not to say we don’t have a few challenges yet to work through.

 

We need to crack the housing affordability nut, but not with a regulatory sledgehammer because, in reality, we might not go as green as the industry or consumers might like if the homes we are building are more expensive than they need to be.

 

We need to keep the regulatory reform programme on an even keel — we want to reform the industry without crushing it.

 

We need to keep debating with the Government and the Reserve Bank how they can slow down the hot real estate market without unduly dampening the new home construction market because, ironically, as the number of new homes coming to market slows, that has the perverse effect of pushing up house prices even further.

 

But our single biggest issue this year has been the licensing and DIY debate as we have sought to make clear from the moment Minister Cosgrove floated some radical proposals earlier this year.

 

We have been happy to look at having an exemption from licensing for genuine “true blue” DIYers, but we would not tolerate the introduction of a more wider exemption.

 

While we want to keep unnecessary regulatory interventions in check, we also don’t want to have a half-baked licensing scheme that exempts the very builders that we know will benefit the most from being part of a licensing regime, and that exempts those builders that are creating most of the problems.

 

Nor do we think it’s sensible to turn a blind eye to what has worked in this area in other countries — all the states of Australia, for example, have licensing exemptions just for DIYers, and all are working harder to make sure they apply to true-blue DIYers only, exactly as we are recommending to the Minister and the Government for New Zealand.

 

So, we still have some unfinished business to work through, and we will continue to work with the Government, regardless of its colour, to ensure we get the right regulatory framework for our industry.

 

But woven right through all these industry issues I have just canvassed, there’s one theme that remains unchanged — the ongoing industry drive for quality, as exemplified in our House of the Year and Commercial Project of the Year Awards programmes.

 

Without a doubt the quality bar gets higher and higher each year, and it’s difficult to see where it’s going to stop! And, slightly jokingly of course, we perhaps should slow down that quality trajectory a little — it’s making the Awards judging programme that much harder, with the smallest of margins between winners further narrowing each year.

 

I had the distinct privilege of attending another seven local House of the Year events this year, and it continues to amaze me how stunningly fantastic these events are.

 

Each one is personalised around the local regional flavour, each at the right level of quality given the Awards being handed out — just all-round great events. So, can I personally compliment and thank all the Associations for that great work.

 

And because of those local competition events, we are here this evening recognising the top 100 homes and buildings in New Zealand — and a stunning showcase we have again tonight.

 

Our bronze, silver and gold quality marks have been setting a benchmark for members since 2004, and we have been celebrating the very best of our craft through these awards since 1991.

 

Last year, we introduced a new system of national judging. This saw our locally-appointed panels replaced with seven national panels that travelled the country judging all homes in their allocated categories.

 

This involved a major new investment by Registered Master Builders to invest in the quality of this programme and the consistency of our judging standards, and we’re pleased to see the fruit of this approach here again this year, this evening.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to extend a warm thanks to our judging panels, most of whom are here tonight. They gave up many days of their time, with minimal recompense, to judge all our entries.

 

This year we again saw almost 700 entries, reflecting our members’ commitment to quality services for customers.

 

These Awards are made possible by a number of sponsors at local and national level. This evening special thanks go to our national principal sponsor PlaceMakers, who also sponsor the PlaceMakers Renovation Awards.

 

A special welcome to the CEO David Edwards, and many of his national office and regional JV team members. David, welcome to you and your team.

 

We also acknowledge the invaluable support of our loyal and committed team of national supporting sponsors, including GIB Living Solutions, James Hardie, Pink Batts Ultra, Mico Bathrooms, Housing New Zealand Corporation, Nulook, Future-Proof Building and Seismic.

 

We’re also thrilled to be joined once again by national event sponsors QBE Insurance Ltd and the Department of Building and Housing.

 

Thank you also to our table sponsors this evening — GIB, Mico Bathrooms, Carters, ITM, James Hardie, Nalco, PlaceMakers National Office, Right House Ltd, Tasman Insulation – Pink Batts, Wattyl (NZ) Ltd, Building Research, Department of Building and Housing, Alpwood, Architectural Profiles Ltd and Pacific Steel. Thank you to you all for your support tonight.

 

Finally, thank you to our clients — whether home owners or owners of businesses that work with our members to produce the stunning work that will be presented this evening.

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