COVID construction shutdown is hurting construction projects large and small, as well as the economy

A sudden ban on most construction, renovation and repair work in Greater Sydney has left projects large and small in disarray and is expected to double to cost Sydney’s foreclosure.

The new rules have left Angie and her husband Banner in limbo.

They ripped off the only bathroom in their place just before the announcement of the general ban on traders from visiting homes.

“My husband and I have a property that we emptied last weekend,” she told ABC News.

Banner and Angie “emptied” their bathroom before the announcement of the cessation of construction and trades.(

Provided: Angie

)

While traders were to come and install the new bathroom, Angie and her husband also notified the owner where they were staying during the renovation.

In the current tight rental market, their landlord had already lined up new tenants, meaning they cannot extend their stay now that construction work such as renovations have been halted.

Angie does not know if the work on their unfinished bathroom is covered by the exception “if the work is urgent to ensure the health, safety or security of the place of residence or members of the household”.

The ABC has asked questions of New South Wales Minister of Health Brad Hazzard and his department.

While government sources believed it was likely that Angie and Banner’s bathroom would be considered an “urgent” job, the department had yet to respond with an official response.

Otherwise, Angie said the couple would be forced to live in an overcrowded house with her parents until the new bathroom was completed.

“We are lucky to be able to go to my parents,” she said.

While the timing couldn’t have been worse for Angie and Banner, Robert Sandeman, a builder based on NSW’s central coast, said the shutdown hadn’t affected him too much, due to good fortune.

“It was perfect for us,” he told ABC News.

“We only finished a job on Friday.”

An excavator at a house construction site in Jannali, south Sydney, is idle.
An excavator at a house construction site in Jannali, south Sydney, is inactive due to the building ban.(

ABC News: John Gunn

)

Although he added that the closure had delayed the start of his next big project, a house extension and potentially smaller works.

He said he was involved in a job where the roof was half done, but the roofers were able to operate under the emergency exemption to complete the waterproofing of the unfinished roof.

However, depending on the work stage of a project, Mr Sandeman said it “could take weeks for some work to be watertight,” meaning some projects may be damaged in bad weather. before the end of the closing.

Construction break doubles cost of Sydney lockdown

The ban on most construction, renovations and repairs is not only a headache and financial burden for homeowners, builders and traders, it is also a blow to the economy. .

The Commonwealth Bank Australian chief economist last week priced Sydney’s foreclosure at $ 1 billion a week.

But that was before the last tighter restrictions, especially the construction halt.

He has now told ABC News that, according to rough estimates, you can double the economic blow of the Greater Sydney lockdown from $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion per week.

This will remove 0.4 percentage point of the country’s economic growth, or GDP, from the numbers for each lockdown week until restrictions are relaxed.

Master Builders Australia chief economist Shane Garrett told the ABC that ABS figures put weekly construction activity in New South Wales at $ 750 million, with around a quarter of million on-site workers, $ 421 million per week in wages (as of the latest 2019-20 data) and around 1,000 new homes started every seven days.

Other estimates put the cost of foreclosing Melbourne at around $ 700 million per week, which would also increase dramatically if it were to follow Sydney’s lead and halt construction work.

Construction site for the new Sydney metro line with a sign that says we are building the Sydney of tomorrow
The normally busy Sydenham construction site for the new Chatswood tube line in Sydney’s Bankstown is empty.(

ABC News: John Gunn

)

Much of the blow to Sydney’s economy comes from the break in record-breaking New South Wales government infrastructure spending, which includes Australia’s largest rail project, the Chatswood-Bankstown metro line. , the remaining components of the Westconnex Freeway, Sydney’s second airport and a range of other major projects in various stages of planning and construction.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Adrian Dwyer said the sums of money going from state government to construction companies and their workers and suppliers are huge.

“Before the lockdown, the NSW government averaged a utilization rate of $ 1.8 billion per month in infrastructure construction spending,” he told ABC News, noting that this figure did not even include spending by crown corporations or local boards.

“Building is not an abstract exercise, it’s real people building real things, it’s a daily stimulus that makes the economy work – and that means we have to work collectively to reopen so quickly and safely. security as possible. “

Construction of Western Sydney Airport
Western Sydney Airport, worth $ 5.3 billion, is among the main projects delayed due to COVID.(

James D. Morgan / Contributor via Getty Images

)

Builders ask for shorter shutdown for large projects

Jon Davis, CEO of the Australian Builders Association, which represents major builders such as Lendlease and Multiplex, praised the state government’s handling of the shutdown.

“It is not possible to close some sites as quickly, we need more time in some areas,” Davis explained on RN Breakfast.

However, he said his members desperately want a firmer timeline on ending the construction ban, so they can plan to resume work.

“Just as it takes time to close construction sites, it takes as long, if not more, to plan and restart construction sites. We cannot work on those kind of vague promises,” he added.

While this may be bad news for current and potential home builders and renovators, Mr Dwyer said full-scale construction “should be the first cab to roll out” when restrictions start to ease. .

“Large civil construction sites have the most sophisticated health and safety controls and site entry mechanisms of virtually any workplace in the country,” he said.

“It is more difficult to enter and move around a large-scale construction site than to enter a hospital.”

Mr Davis agreed that his members, who operate on many of these large civilian projects, were already well advanced in their COVID security practices before the shutdown.

“We introduced additional testing, all of our staff had to have a valid test from the last 72 hours to come to the site,” he noted.

“But we were talking to the government about this idea of ​​a rapid antigen test to give faster answers.”

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