Building the answers to supply chain problems

To attempt to respond to increased demand for housing and ongoing supply chain issues, the Ministry of Building, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) have created a Critical Material Taskforce, aiming to build on the work of the Plaster Board Taskforce established in June 2022. The Plaster Board Taskforce imported and provided alternative products from GIB to ensure that construction could continue, despite the supply chain not meeting the demand post COVID-19. The Plaster Board Taskforce was deemed a success with a further 440 houses built in New Zealand. According to Government releases, the Critical Materials Taskforce has resulted in a 444% increase in the amount of plasterboard imported into New Zealand between January and October, equalling a total of 4.6 million square meters and enough to build over 9,000 homes.

New Zealand was experiencing what some have termed a “once in 20 year” building boom at the start of the pandemic, created by an increased demand for housing. Issues with supply increased when the production of building materials was halted because of the global pandemic. Due to the closure of factories and the ensuing shipping problems, a building material shortage emerged. Builders and developers had been unable to predict what materials were available and the cost of building houses, disrupting not only homeowners, but builders, designers, and engineers alike. There has also been a range of concerns including the export of harvested timber, which has contributed to challenges in the building sector. Therefore, the creation of the Critical Materials Taskforce.

With an increase in scope, its ongoing brief is to monitor emerging supply chain issues in the construction industry. The intention is that this covers all aspects of the industry including design, consent, products, and procurement of alternative products when necessary. It is hoped that the taskforce will help the sector by maximising productivity and help with inflation and global shipping issues, by providing support, advice, management, and data. The taskforce includes experts from the sector, along with members from the original Plaster Board Taskforce. The experts include David Kelly (Chief Executive Officer of Registered Master Builders Association of New Zealand), Malcolm Fleming (Chief Executive of New Zealand Certified Builders) and Jeff Fahrensohn (Manager Inspections, Building Control at Auckland Council).

With the Reserve Bank and Government recently predicting a further rise in inflation and an increase to unemployment, having effective infrastructure and building projects could be crucial in minimising the blow by taking over some of the smaller businesses and construction companies who may be struggling. 90% of materials used in the construction sector are imported and it is imperative for the continued success of the construction industry that sourcing these can continue unimpeded.


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