10 Sep 2021

Manufacturers say more building products in short supply than MBIE list

7:29 am on 10 September 2021

Building product manufacturers are gutted at the limit of 100 staff being allowed to restart in Auckland's lockdown despite a national materials shortage putting home builders in limbo.

workers with power tools on the building site

Photo: 123rf

Businesses will find out this morning if they have approval from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

"At the moment MBIE is only able to authorise a total of 100 workers for three specified products," a ministry spokesperson said, referring to roofing steel, plasterboard, gypsum plaster and insulation.

MBIE said it had received 17 applications to restart from 14 companies that produce those materials.

Manufacturers of other products in short supply were able to request their products be included.

One manufacturer that applied to resume production with 70 staff said the cap of 100 workers across all businesses was ridiculous.

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Brett O'Riley said it was disappointing given there had been weeks of discussion about getting some manufacturing up and running.

"It's disappointing. It represents just a fraction of the number of people we need to be working to allow the rest of New Zealand to operate at alert level 2."

He said many more products than those shortlisted by MBIE were in short supply.

"We think there could be at least 100 companies that could be applying for this and that's the reality of the supply chain in New Zealand and the reality of what's required to get the building industry back on its feet so this is very disappointing."

MBIE said the businesses or services that were authorised to restart would only receive authorisation for seven days.

If Auckland is still under alert level 4 next week, the ministry said it would reconsider the authorisations issued to ensure the system was working effectively and fairly.

Metro Performance Glass chief executive Simon Mander said his business was looking to get one of the exemptions, but they would not be at full production.

"We will just be making the products that we're only able to make in Auckland but are unable to make in our plants and Christchurch, Wellington and Mount Maunganui.

"So those are sort of a larger-sized windows, specialist laminated safety glass and various other types of specialty glasses, so it would be only a subset of our Auckland factory and it would only be delivered south of the Bombay [hills]."

Metro would not have "anywhere near" the 100 staff members permitted working.

"There's a lot of precautions, there's all the social distancing, wearing masks, the cleaning regimes, and really strict control of keeping people in their bubble … so it's a very controlled environment."

"Our factories, are the people are very spread out and as well, they are very large volume factories. It's our view is that we operate a very, very tight regime."

Metro had been encouraging staff to be vaccinated and was happy with vaccination rates in its workforce, Mander said.

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