Industry experiencing four commonplace ‘growing pain’ issues


Feedback from RMBA president Kerry Archer’s recent nationwide travels suggests that there are four common issues facing the industry at present — councils and consents, lack of quality staff, land supply, and materials supply.

I have been lucky enough in the past few weeks to have travelled around the country attending some of the Master Builders annual members meetings.

With a few more to go in the next couple of weeks, my goal is to attend each branch over my two-year term.

I really enjoy these and getting face to face with the guys on the ground.

The informal chats before and after are invaluable in finding out what the real issues are with the Master Builders organisation and our industry as a whole.

Positive feedback

I am happy to say there have not been too many grumbles about the RMBA and, on the whole, it has all been pretty positive feedback.

This says to me that what we are providing as an organisation is relevant and of benefit to members’ businesses.

From an industry perspective, I thought I would share what seems to be the most common issues I have been hearing about.

These all relate to the current workloads that we as an industry are experiencing, and the associated “growing pains”.

We have not had this level of activity in 50 years in New Zealand, and it does not show too many signs of slowing over the next few years.

Four common areas

There seems to be four common areas where issues are arising — councils and consents, lack of quality staff, land supply, and materials supply. If you are experiencing any of these issues, you are not alone as it appears to be across the board.

What can be done about any of these? In the short term, not a lot. 

Land supply and councils are big ticket items that are definitely on the government’s agenda, with the Building Act and the Resource Management Act being looked at.

Land supply issues for housing are not so much centred around the lack of land but, rather, the lack of affordable land ready to build on.

Most of this is related to getting the infrastructure and subdivisions consented, all of which is currently being looked at with the government allocating big dollars towards infrastructure.

Unfortunately these things don’t happen quickly, but it is good to know that they are in focus and underway, and that Master Builders are well regarded by the Government due to the advocacy role that we play for the whole of the industry.

With regards to supply chain issues, these are largely out of our control, so we can only plan for the things that we can control.

All you can do is ensure that jobs are well organised, and that you’re planning further out than you normally would to make sure you have materials on hand — or that you can at least advise clients and give them an option to make changes.

Addressing a lack of quality staff is also not a quick fix. The way people want to work now is different to what it has been in the past, and more emphasis needs to be placed on work-life balance.

We need to strive to provide a place of work that staff are proud of, and that they want to continue to work there — and this is not all about pay rates either.

Difficulty retaining staff

As an industry, at times we have lacked good training and have had difficulty retaining staff.

Take on an apprentice and spend some time training them. Yes, it is a risk that they may leave once they have finished that training, but they should still be a valuable team member.

I have heard that this is a barrier for some employers, but maybe you need to look and see why it is they want to leave?

As mentioned earlier, I see all these issues as growing pains. Our industry is bursting at the seams, and that applies to everyone involved, from builders, subcontractors, councils and suppliers.

There is an old saying that more businesses go broke in boom times than in hard times. So make sure you are also allowing for a work-life balance and not just saying yes to all the opportunities that come your way.

Take a considered  approach to your current and future workloads, and spend time planning for all possible and probable variables.

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