A developer with plans for $160 million of new Auckland housing projects is using the coronavirus crisis to get "shovel ready" to build once the alert level is lifted.
Shane Brealey, a director of NZ Living, said although all non-essential construction work had to stop for the month, that allowed what he sees as a perfect opportunity to expand for demand from the 80,000 Kiwis returning from overseas.
"We are doubling down on design and consent resources to get shovel ready on as many projects as we can," he said.
Consultant teams are being kept fully employed, the business would be well-placed to start work immediately when the lockdown ends and the housing shortage would not end and in fact was likely to be exacerbated by the crisis.
• Watch: Shane Brealey changes career
• Premium - 'KiwiBuild works, no cost to Crown': $26m Onehunga project developer backs state scheme
• Brealey selling his 83.2% stake in NZ Strong to Amalgamated boss
"We all need to keep cool heads. This thing will pass," said the former New Zealand head of Brookfield Multiplex who started then sold national builder NZ Strong.
He sees a possible financial flight to bricks and mortar and many Kiwis returning home.
"The easiest thing in the world would be for us to hunker down and pause everything. That helps nobody. We need to be thinking about job creation so that we can get the economy moving again just as soon as we safely can. The shutdown is a great opportunity for us in the construction sector to get shovel ready and for other sectors to think about what they can do to achieve a fast bounce back," he said.
Auckland Council's consenting team continued, plans could be prepared and lodged and approvals sought, he said, in spite of the shutdown.
"Other sectors may fall away for a time but we have an essential housing infrastructure pipeline to deliver. We are investing big in fast-tracking design and consents," he said.
However, the RLB Crane Index out this month said 128 long-term tower and crawler cranes, working on sites for more than a month, were now standing idle.
Retirement village businesses have made NZX announcements that their construction sites are shut down, as has Precinct Properties on its $1b waterfront Commercial Bay and Wynyard projects.
Paul Blair, Infrastructure NZ chief executive, estimated construction and contracting companies could let go of up to 30 per cent of all their staff within just a few months unless immediate measures were taken to protect workers and restart construction.
"We have been speaking with a cross section of our 140-plus members over the last two weeks to better understand the impacts of the lockdown on their business and the broader infrastructure sector.
"Contracting and construction companies could let go of up to 30 per cent of their staff within three months under the current conditions. In six months, those providing advisory and other support services will be in a similar critical position," Blair said.
But Brealey said NZ Living's new Northcote housing schemes on Lake Rd and Awataha Dr were now ready to build and work would start once the month-lock alert level 4 ended. Two other big new housing projects were 90 per cent ready to go.
"Depending on how things pan out over the coming weeks we are looking at building on this pipeline by securing further housing projects," he said.
Brealey has found KiwiBuild a success, saying last year that 24 of the 25 KiwiBuild units at 340 Onehunga Mall had been sold. Having more than half his project under the Crown guarantee scheme enabled speed and huge cost savings, gave him the confidence to go ahead and has been such a success that he is now starting a much larger North Shore project, he said last August.