Hi-tech state-of-the-art house-building factories have long been seen as a rescue for New Zealand's residential construction sector, which is struggling to cope with strong demand. So when one of the largest players in the sector says it is using this as a solution, it's time to sit up and take notice.
Details are emerging about who's behind what could be New Zealand's biggest new house-building factory, where it is, what stage it's at and when we might get the first look inside.
Could this be a game-changer for the country and provide thousands of much-needed warm, dry, well-insulted well-built durable residential stock to stand the test of time?
The giant of the construction sector, NZX and ASX-listed Fletcher Building, is making progress on its first house-building factory, a senior executive says.
Last year, Fletcher announced the revolutionary scheme which could result in thousands of new homes being built in a factory.
Steve Evans, chief executive of residential and land development at Fletcher, said last May his company would soon unveil a new Auckland panelisation factory which would speed house construction.
"We have a panelised factory that's being negotiated now. We're in the process of negotiating a lease and it will be in Auckland," he said 13 months ago, referring to faster construction techniques after Fletcher unveiled its two-houses-in-four-days video in 2017 at Hobsonville Point.
Today, Evans indicated the project was at an advanced stage and not far off beginning work.
"We are making great progress," Evans said today.
NZ shares gains in heavy trading on quarterly index reweighting
The interview: New Shareholders Association chair to keep pressure on boards
Ranking NZ group home builders: Who's the biggest and busiest?
"The factory is at Cavendish Dr, Wiri, and is completing the machinery install phase, with some of the equipment already up and running," Evans said.
"Recruitment of staff for the factory is well underway, including a diverse range of employees sourced through our Switch Up programme. The factory equipment testing and commissioning is on track to be completed by the end of September, when we would be more than happy to show you around," Evans said.
Fletcher is now building thousands of new homes on sites and has projects either on or planned at Beachlands, Hobsonville Point, Karaka, Kowhai Ridge, Ormiston, Red Beach, Stonefields, Swanson, Three Kings, Totara Heights, Waiata Shores in Manukau, Whenuapai and Christchurch.
Two years ago, Fletcher showed fast construction techniques via a time-lapse video of Fletcher Living putting up a new Auckland residential duplex worth nearly $2 million in four days.
The company said it had also built a single Auckland house in a day.
"This was the speed test," a Fletcher Living spokeswoman said of the duplex home construction. The 177sq m four-bedroom homes at Hobsonville Point sold for $935,000 each.
But not all has gone on the factory house-building front. In 2015, one business failed. The receiver of the country's largest off-site house manufacturer said then he was optimistic about selling it after 25 parties made their interest known.
Tony Maginness of McDonald Vague said he was negotiating to sell eHome and was down to about 10 parties.
The Kumeu-based housing prefabricator owed creditors $17.5m but was put into receivership, leaving many in the sector worried about whether they would get paid.
Matrix Homes in Wellington also failed and it was building homes inside a former car factory at Trentham.
Last year, the prefabricated home-building company went into receivership. A founder tried desperately to save the business but debts mounted to around $2m.
Sean Murrie, Matrix chief executive and a director, talked about reasons for the failure, citing lack of orders and slow planning regime changes.
"I'm gutted. I did everything I could to stop it happening, working very hard for a very long time. I could not secure the investment I needed. It was a comparatively minor amount and the shareholders did all they could," Murrie said. Asked how much creditors were owed, he said: "It would be more than $2m, there's no chance of it being as high as $3m."
Receivers appointed on July 18 last year were BDO Wellington's Iain Shephard and Jessica Kellow.
Murrie said Matrix built around 100 homes during its three-year trading life. The factory was opened in February 2015 by the then Finance Minister Bill English.
Adaptive Building Technology was building homes in a former Glenfield warehouse.