Fletcher Building plans to resume work on the SkyCity International Convention Centre and hotel as soon as the nation's full lockdown ends on April 28.
New Zealand will go from the lockdown of everything other than essential services, known as alert level 4, to level 3 just before midnight on April 27.
At level 3 some industries, including construction, can resume work, although a number of conditions, including social distancing measures, will apply.
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The New Zealand International Convention Centre and hotel site in Auckland was badly damaged after the partially completed roof caught fire.
A report released today by Fire and Emergency New Zealand has concluded the fire was an accident.
"With construction able to progress under alert level 3, Fletcher Construction intends to begin bringing staff back to the NZICC site from Tuesday, April 28," the company said after BusinessDesk asked.
Commercial Bay close
"Fletcher Construction is taking a staged approach to returning to work across its sites following the government lockdown, with an emphasis on ensuring the health and safety of its staff," it said.
The SkyCity project is one of the last remaining projects of the construction division's Buildings+Interiors unit, which contributed to Fletcher Building's nearly $1 billion in losses booked in 2018, although the impact on cash flow will continue until the projects are completed.
Fire and Emergency reported the seven-level construction site, which had been nearing completion, was fire-damaged down to level five but water-damaged throughout.
The other major B+I project yet to be completed is the Commercial Bay development at the bottom of Auckland's Queen Street. Its owner, Precinct Properties said last month that having to close down the project during the lockdown meant inevitable delays but that it was close to completion.
Fletcher – which has about 10,000 employees in New Zealand – and other construction companies are now working through what they need to do to be ready to resume work.
Sydney-based Downer, which has 12,000 employees in New Zealand and operates through brands including Spotless, Hawkins, Epicure and Road Science, has operated essential services through the lockdown, including cleaning, catering and laundry services to district health boards and essential work on the telecommunications, gas, water and power networks.
But its other construction and maintenance contracts will restart "in a gradual way" from April 28.
App's proximity alert
Downer's technology team has been working to ensure the company has both electronic and manual ways to track and trace workers and any visitors to each site.
"This is being managed using online registers and forms. Plus we have built a bespoke application that uses bluetooth technology to identify when our people are in close proximity to each other and sends an alert," the company told BusinessDesk.
Downer has also prepared an induction pack for every worker who returns to the workplace to ensure they understand their obligations for social distancing, hygiene and tracing.
"This has been built in stages so each employee is clear on what needs to happen before they arrive on site, how to safely enter a site using our new tracing and hygiene protocols, ways to ensure we can work safely with physical distance and what to do when they return home to help keep their loved ones safe in their bubble."
Both Fletcher and Downer, as industry giants, have been working with a range of industry organisations including Construction Health and Safety NZ, the Registered Master Builders Association and Civil Contractors New Zealand to develop industry-wide protocols across all types of building projects from homes through to high-rise buildings.
Fletcher's construction division chief executive, Peter Reidy, said his industry would play a leading role in the economic recovery.
"Construction employs 8 per cent of workers in New Zealand and we know many companies are keen to get back out there," Reidy said.
Fletcher has been working closely with the government on its stimulus package and is actively helping to shape infrastructure projects that will underpin growth in the regions and cities.
"Getting back to business will not be like turning on a switch. It's going to take a considerable time for our activity levels to return to where they were before the lockdown and the industry is likely to need to come back in stages," he said.
Health and safety protocols, new hygiene measures, physical distancing and contact tracing are expected to reduce productivity and will come with an associated cost to implement and to train staff.
The first action at each site will be to ensure they're thoroughly cleaned.
"On our larger sites, the return to work will look very different. We'll be taking a staged approach and have been working with our customers on which areas will return first once construction resumes," Reidy said.
Measures Fletcher will be taking to ensure worker safety include staggering start times and lunch breaks, controlling access to small spaces such as lifts, adding more contactless site access and ensuring staff have appropriate personal protective equipment.
"We'll also be working closely with our subcontractors and customers to ensure they are aware of the new standards," Reidy said.
"This is a new world of work for everyone. Ensuring our people are kept safe and provided with the safety training they need is key."
Follow the protocols
The construction division isn't the only part of Fletcher gearing up to reopen.
Its PlaceMakers retail trading arm has been operating on a limited basis through the lockdown to supply essential services and will now be able to open up more, though still with restrictions.
Fletcher's distribution chief executive, Bruce McEwen, said PlaceMakers would follow strict health protocols to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
"Our branches will be open, with physical distancing measures, but we will be encouraging our customers to order online, by phone or email. Both contactless delivery and click-and-collect will be available to minimise the need to come into branches. Our showrooms will remain closed to the public at alert level 3," McEwan said.
Infrastructure NZ chief executive Paul Blair is urging the construction sector to follow the protocols the industry has made available.
"It is vitally important that all firms follow these protocols. The last thing we want is to cause a return to level 4 lockdowns."