Waikato Chamber of Commerce executive director Don Good has blasted the Government for its lack of shovel-ready projects approved in the Waikato, while civil contractors wait for projects to be given a green light.

The Government has yet to announce the bulk of shovel-ready projects. However, 23 projects, totalling $2.8 billion, were pitched to central Government by Waikato councils in April.

About $150 million was designated for Waikato, with shovel-ready projects such as upgrades to the Hamilton Gardens and cycling infrastructure across the city on the list.

In a letter to the Chamber of Commerce members, Good said that the Government is holding back on announcing the projects and getting lost in bureaucracy, listing the Cambridge to Piarere extension to the Waikato Expressway and Southern Links.

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"What is the Government doing with all the other big 'shovel ready' projects that Hamilton City Council, Waipa District Council and Waikato District Council put forward for consideration five months ago?

"It is easy to believe that they were merely a convenient jingoistic slogan at the time that gave very expensive Wellington bureaucrats the opportunity to do a door-stopper report that is now gathering dust on a shelf in a government department."

Good said Waikato businesses were becoming frustrated with the wait.

"We understood the sacrifices that were needed to contain Covid-19. We are part of the team of 5 million, we made sacrifices. But five months to put together a plan to help the economy to recover is way too long.

"The recipe for shovel ready was simple. We were locked down and our leaders needed to
invest in projects delivering a multi-generational infrastructure that gave employment to
many.

"That would give people certainty. The funding would push cash into the economy, and cash in the hand would give people security. With certainty and security, you give your people confidence.

Waikato Chamber of Commerce executive director Don Good. Photo / Supplied
Waikato Chamber of Commerce executive director Don Good. Photo / Supplied

"We would love to be proven wrong. We would love to hear a major announcement tomorrow that funding has been approved for some of these big projects. Business wants to work."

He said that contractors are now crying out for opportunities to keep their workers employed.

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"Waikato region is screaming for confidence in the future, so we can leave 2020 behind.
We ask our leaders now to lead: do not let us down."

Despite the grim outlook from Good, results from the 2020 Construction Industry Survey have indicated that the industry sees a promising future as the Construction Accord, three waters reforms and New Zealand Infrastructure Commission begin to have a stabilising effect on the work pipeline.

Resilient civil contractors are taking a range of measures to withstand the short-term challenges they are experiencing around cashflow, uncertainty of the pipeline of work and cancelled/ deferred contracts.

With local and central Government representing 75 per cent of clients for the construction industry, contractors are anticipating the positive impact of the Government's recent New Zealand Upgrade programme, 69 per cent expect positive impact over three years, and shovel-ready infrastructure announcements will help balance out reduced local government spending caused by Covid-19's impact on budgets.

"Although it's a difficult economic climate, many contractors are confident in their own resilience and are looking to retain and, in some cases, hire staff in the next 12 months," said chief executive of Civil Contractors New Zealand Peter Silcock.

"Contractors will need to take steps to ensure their businesses can withstand a short-term reduction of work over coming months, ahead of projects planned over the next five years."

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