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Leaders in Tauranga's building sector are breathing a "sigh of relief" after the Government announced construction would be allowed to operate in alert level 3.
They say the construction industry, which pumped more money into Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty's economy than any other industry last year, was a "highly important cog in the economic wheel" and it was "crucial" to get the sector back up and running.
Those in the industry believed construction was well-versed in the importance of health and safety to be able to operate in Covid-19 alert level 3.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week announced construction businesses could start work again but under strict hygiene measures when the country moved out of lockdown, which Cabinet was expected to make a decision on today. Johnny Calley of Calley Homes and Master Builders said knowing construction would be allowed to operate under alert level 3 was a "sigh of relief".
Calley believed the construction industry could definitely operate safely under alert level 3 and believed the Prime Minister had made the right decision to allow that to happen.
He said the construction industry had designed a set of protocols and guidelines that if everyone in the industry followed there would be no reason why the industry could not work effectively and carry on.
"I think the Government recognises the construction industry is a highly important cog in the economic wheel to keep the economy up and running.
"Through all seasons, the construction industry is the lifeblood of a large proportion of our population."
New Zealand Certified Builders chief executive Grant Florence welcomed the announcement, saying it enabled builders to return to work and contribute to the country's economic recovery from Covid-19.
"It is a great step for us as an industry," he said.
Florence said the well-established focus on health and safety in the building sector was a strong platform for ensuring successful implementation of the new Covid-19-related risk management protocols developed by industry representatives in consultation with the Government.
"I think the construction industry is pretty well-versed in the importance of health and safety."
Peter Cooney, director of Classic Builders, said the construction industry represented a large proportion of the region's workforce and needed to get back up and running.
"We can't leave houses and buildings exposed for too long or the cost of repair will be too large.
"Any longer than four weeks further down the track, it will be serious damage."
Life in level 4 had been a "huge blow" for a lot of people in the construction sector without income, sales or signed contracts. That had impacts further down the track.
"Everything is going to have this big black hole in the future," Cooney said.
To prepare for life after lockdown, Cooney said he would put protocols in place for a return to work.
"It can be done and it can be done safely."
Carrus managing director Scott Adams said it was "crucial" the construction sector returned to work.
"Every industry has suffered but when the construction sector grinds to a halt, this has a flow-on effect throughout the whole real estate continuum and other industries indirectly suffer."
Adams said construction was vitally important, even before the pandemic surfaced.
"Tauranga and Rotorua roading and three waters infrastructure badly needs upgrading as future-proofing."
Adams said he expected most office-related activities had adapted "okay" in the short term, which meant working from home would not be as challenging.
"Safe place education is necessary for essential workers, for the rest of us, distance learning is extremely difficult but necessary for now."
Tauranga builder John "Swampy" Marsh said due to his age he would not be returning to work because he was over 70.
But he said it was important that his fellow builders and those in sub-trades such as electricians, plumbers could return to work.
"They are the heart of the economy and they have livelihoods too."
Marsh believed the industry could continue to work under level 3 and could manage with people staying in their bubbles on site.
However, he believed the country should be in lockdown for longer to help eliminate the virus while still allowing construction to continue by having people live on site.
"I am sure it could be done and still have a skeleton crew which would keep the industry going."
General manager of Tremains Bay of Plenty and Waikato, Anton Jones, said there was a battle between saving lives and eliminating the virus or killing the economy by waiting.
"It would have to be a brave person to make that decision. We have got two parts going up against each other but from an economic perspective the more people working, the better it will be to get the economy back up and running."
The latest Infometrics report showed the construction industry pumped more money into Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty's economy than any other industry last year.
It was responsible for 9.1 per cent of the sub-region's $9.13 billion GDP in 2019.
Construction was also the biggest contributor to economic growth in the past 10 years, responsible for pumping $349 million into the sub-region and creating 3562 jobs.
Business leaders told the Bay of Plenty Times when the report came out earlier this year, the construction industry had been a stable pillar of the economy, creating some of the city's top-paying roles, with more building consents issued in Tauranga than other big cities.
Before Covid-19 hit, training organisations said they had more apprentices on their books than ever before, while a local recruitment company said it was "incredibly hard" to find builders to fill vacancies.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the construction industry had been a "stable pillar of our economy" for the past few decades.
"It has helped the city grow a wide range of expertise in planning, architecture and engineering.
"The industry has some of the city's top-paying roles, while also providing fulfilling entry-level roles."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said the construction industry had benefited from a larger amount of population growth in the past few years.
"There is also more commercial activity in construction and Tauranga's level of building consent activity is way higher than comparable cities like Hamilton and Wellington."
Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) chief executive Warwick Quinn said there had been strong growth within the Bay in the past five years.
Before Covid-19 hit, Quinn said the company had more than 1100 apprentices on its books compared with about 700 at the start of 2015.
Earlier this year, 1st Call Recruitment managing director Phil van Syp told the Bay of Plenty Times that it was "incredibly hard" to find builders for the region.
"They are taking on apprentices but there has just been more and more," he said.
"It is just getting busier and busier."