The value of New Zealand’s construction sector came under the spotlight in March with the launch of a skills strategy to boost sector growth.
Speaking at the Building Value Futurescape event in Christchurch, Productivity Partnership chairman Bill Smith said that the sector contributes almost as much as agriculture to the New Zealand economy — more than 4% of New Zealand’s GDP.
Increasing skills, especially at a management level, has been identified by the Productivity Partnership as one of four factors critical to lifting the performance of the industry.
Research and changes to procurement and construction processes are also required to improve sector productivity and raise living standards.
The Partnership is a combined industry and government initiative to increase the productivity of the sector by 20% by 2020. This would add an estimated $3 billion to the economy every year, with flow-on benefits for all New Zealanders.
“The work of the Productivity Partnership should help drive down building costs, create jobs and increase access to more affordable housing for New Zealand families,” Mr Smith said. “It supports the Productivity Commission’s report on housing affordability.”
The Partnership’s skills strategy focuses on developing skills and making better use of existing skills, including creating business environments where skills can be used productively.
It is the product of nearly two years’ work with the education and training sector, the industry and government agencies.
A research action plan for the construction sector was also released by the Partnership at its Futurescape event.
“Knowledge is key to growing a smarter, more productive industry,” Mr Smith said. “Improved productivity is based on a better understanding of the industry’s structure, processes and decision making.”
The Partnership’s Research Action Plan identifies research priorities for the sector, and sets out a long-term research programme involving partners drawn from industry bodies, universities and research and government agencies.
Mr Smith highlighted the Canterbury rebuild as an opportunity to trial new ways of working.
“We’re dove-tailing exciting developments, such as PrefabNZ’s prefabricated homes showcase in Christchurch — the Hive Home Innovation Village — to promote a more integrated, value-driven approach to building which is customer focused and looks at the whole life of a building.
“There’s a demand for affordable, good quality homes and buildings, and there is room for change right across the industry in how we deliver these.
“The good news is change is happening fast, and the Productivity Partnership is taking the lead in giving the industry access to the right tools to enable smart, efficient building.
“These include procurement forecasts and digital modelling tools that provide a forward view of building projects. The future for building and construction in New Zealand looks very different and very positive,” Mr Smith said.