RMBF’s new president — up for the challenge

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Welcome to my first Building Today piece as RMBF president.

First, I would like to acknowledge the exceptional work Ashley Hartley has put in on behalf of the RMBF and the industry as a whole — not only as president but also on the various committees and the extensive work he has undertaken on the Licensed Building Practitioner scheme with the Government to ensure its practicality for us, the builders.

I have seen Ashley’s dairy for the past 12 months and am stunned by the workload. His comprehensive knowledge across a breadth of issues means I will definitely be taking up his offer of a helping hand where needed!

Having said that, I am enthusiastic about what the presidency of the RMBF has to offer, and am up for the challenge.
Over the past 21 years at Stonewood Homes Ltd, I have built more than 2700 homes in Canterbury and in the Waikato before that (in the days when they beat the Crusaders!).

Prior to that, I worked for eight years with Merritt Beazley Homes (previously Beazley Homes) in Christchurch. Stonewood now has 12 franchises throughout New Zealand, and we’re looking to increase this over time.

It’s true what they say — “it doesn’t matter what you do, you end up in Human Resources” — and this is definitely the case as Stonewood grows.
I am 51 and have been married to Sue for 31 years. We have three daughters — Emma 27, currently in Ireland (that OE just seems to continue); Lauren, 25, who with husband Luke in Christchurch have just opened a music shop; and Ujjwala 22, who is in New York running in a six-day race as part of her spiritual quest.

Both Sue and I are looking forward to the next two years visiting the Associations around the regions, starting with the Wanganui and Southland AGMs in the next couple of weeks. I can see my year planner filling up fast!

Those who know me understand my passion for housing. For the past 13 years I have been a member of Registered Master Builders and the National Association of Home Builders (USA).

I have had eight years on the Boards of both the RMBF and Master Build Services, with the past six years as MBS chairman. I am also on the Board of the New Zealand Green Building Council and on the EECA expert advisory group for the HERS Scheme.

I was Canterbury RMBA president in 2000 and on their executive for four years. I have also spent five years on the House of the Year management committee.
I have grown from the knowledge gained from these experiences, and am willing to keep learning going forward. The RMBF and I are especially fortunate that Blair Cranston has stepped up as our vice-president for this term, so thank you Blair, the Board and Associations for the endorsement and legacy.

I see the main focus of my two years as president being compliance costs and sustainability. Compliance costs are robbing our clients, and if you are not building “green” in the next 10 years, I believe, you won’t be building. Although, having said that, for “green” building itself to be sustainable it has to make financial sense.

Another important goal is helping to create a better and more stable building industry environment to which, I feel, licensing is integral.
It’s important that in the RMBF’s leadership role within the industry we have the Government’s ear on the various issues our sector faces. As Ministers change, their interpretation of some aspects of the portfolio they are running can, at times, be different to their predecessors. Therefore, we find ourselves having to ensure that our view on the various issues at hand are consistent, reaffirmed and, once again, heard by the right people.

I, for one, am a home builder. I want to build good homes for my clients and don’t think that it’s too much to ask for our Government and local councils to assist by having efficient and consistent processes to make that happen.

It is a view held by most of our members who are trying to run their businesses in a difficult environment.
Our industry is 5% of GDP (and that’s not counting the multiplier effect, which would make it higher) — equivalent to $12 billion dollars per year. A number of us employ apprentices for four years (and look to further their careers over many more years) and provide up to 10 full-time jobs for each home we build.

This is not an insignificant contribution to New Zealand’s economy and society yet, we as an industry:
• are subject to the whims of immigration as the numbers go up and down drastically each year, made worse by the fact that we watch our good tradespeople leave our shores in droves,
• have the Finance Minister with the Reserve Bank Governor talking down the value of investing in housing, then setting interest rates with out-of-date information,

• have endured five years of additional compliance costs, much of it not actually related to building a better, higher quality home — just a more expensive one, and
• have Building Consent Authorities that, after an extension of time, will still not all get accredited, and then as they do, our code of compliance certificates take 20 working days — they used to be overnight!

Is this progress?

New Zealand has a great lifestyle and we have grown up with a good standard of housing. We do not need to import every compromise in housing standards we see in the UK or every rule we see in Australia.

We are New Zealanders and (by choice) would rather live in a detached home, not a high density “fire-walled import” from the future slums of the United Kingdom.
The construction industry now needs to take a longer view and set its own direction on what we want it to look like in the next 10 years, we need to get cross party support, joint industry support, create the roadmap and then take the Government of the day with us.

I look forward to my time as RMBF president and the opportunity to help create this much needed space — and also to allow the words “efficiency” and “quality” to be associated with our industry and our customers’ homes.

I look forward to working with you all.

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