More than 75 building and construction businesses have contacted an Auckland developer who's importing four containerloads of plasterboard a month to find out how they could get some too.
Shane Brealey, managing director of Simplicity which is building Point England's 132-unit Kupenga, said house builders and others responsible for nearly a third of new homes had been in touch with him.
That happened after he revealed last Thursday that he is importing Bangkok plasterboard faster and cheaper than Gib. He was inundated with calls for help.
The businesses were planning or at critical stages of work where they needed the product to complete projects, Brealey said.
He has been happy to assist by telling them how Simplicity went about importing and getting consent for the Thai plasterboard.
"We need to help as many companies as we can get through this. We are providing details of how to import plasterboard and assisting with direction on what information territorial authorities will need to approve this," he said.
Brealey is telling the businesses about how to apply to build without using Gib, specified by name in New Zealand building consent application documentation and certification which go to councils for approval.
Many of the larger group house-building businesses had been in touch, he said, wanting to know how to get their hands on the cheaper Thai gib which arrives within eight weeks compared to the eight months or more it is taking to get Gib.
"My guess is that they would collectively be responsible for delivering 20 to 30 per cent of our new homes each year," Brealey said of those who had inquired with him.
Simplicity will never use Gib again and is instead importing four containers a month from Thailand and plans to do so for about the next decade in its 10,000-home plans.
He backed yesterday's meeting between Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials, along with Master Builders, Building Industry Federation and Construction Sector Accord members.
That meeting discussed how to help the sector through the crisis and change documentation so Gib is no longer automatically specified.
"It would be great if MBIE can get some very clear guidance notes out to help all territorial authorities respond quickly on this to help builders and customers out," Brealey said.
Auckland Council was already prepared, knowing a wave of minor variations to swap out Gib board was inevitable, he said.
So Simplicity was altering its consent documents by deleting Gib and replacing it with its Thai imported GM Gypsum plasterboard to gain approval within just two working days.
"We submitted our minor variation request at 6.17pm on a Friday and it was approved by 2.46pm on Tuesday - less than two days. We only use the standard and moisture-resistant board, not boards for bracing or fire rating due to our solid commercial grade of construction," Brealey said.
Meanwhile, Judy Zhang, Construction Sector Accord transformation unit director, commented after yesterday's meeting between Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials, along with Master Builders and the Building Industry Federation.
"Government can't deliver a load of plasterboard to a site tomorrow, but it can and is ensuring that it's as fast and easy as possible to get alternative products consented. The accord is facilitating industry discussion with MBIE and it has been an important channel for the industry to make clear to Government how urgent the situation is.
At a recent accord forum meeting sector representatives stressed that urgency and Housing Minister Megan Woods told the forum that the issue was a priority for ministers, Zhang said.
More broadly, the accord remains focused on the long-term transformation of the sector, and Budget 2022 included funding of $37.5m to support the delivery of the new construction sector transformation plan 2022-2025, to be launched in late July, Zhang said.
One of the plan's six mid-term goals is for increased productivity through innovation, technology, and an enabling regulatory environment.
Government must do its part to ensure that enabling regulatory environment, and industry must innovate to find new ways to build efficiently and sustainably, she said.
Julien Leys, Building Industry Federation chief executive, said councils could remove the word Gib from consent documents and he wants to see that happening.
He hopes more architects and developers will do that in future to remove Gib's grasp on the sector.
"There are many alternatives," he said naming global manufacturers like Boral, Knauf and CSR in Australia.
"Gyprock is the Australian version of Gib," he said referring to the CSR product which Naylor Love is now importing to supplement its use of Gib.
But several European manufacturers could also be alternatives for supply, Leys said.
"Plasterboard is to the construction sector what butter is to the food industry - ubiquitous. You can't cook anything without it," Leys said.
A Fletcher Building spokesperson indicated that the business wasn't concerned about rival imports.
"We 100 per cent believe in a free market and support any initiatives to supply plasterboard to the industry that will help meet the high levels of demand New Zealand is currently experiencing," the spokesperson said.
The company dismissed any claims today that a fire at its Felix Rd, Penrose factory last year was responsible for any supply shortages.
That fire was in mid-August at one of New Zealand's two Gib mills. Gib's second factory is in Christchurch.
A spokesman said today the fire had no impact on the supply of Gib plasterboard.
Fletcher is now focused on finishing its new $400 million mill at Tauriko, a factory due to open around this time next year.