Tuesday 22 March 2022

Barriers to building

Nikki Mandow continues to go through the barriers to entry in building materials supply. ($)

Elephant Plasterboard managing director Kevin van Hest has been importing his equivalent products for 34 years. He no longer gets angry when people ring him up and ask if he’s got any GIB. With the panic over plasterboard shortages, it’s happening every day.

“The word GIB has become generic. People think if it’s not GIB it’s a different product. People should call it ‘plasterboard’ on building consents and people should have a choice.”

One of the things that frustrates van Hest is council rules mean only one brand of product can be specified on the plan at the consenting stage. 

And once the plans have been approved, it’s hard to change the specified product - particularly when it comes to plasterboard.

“For some reason plasterboard is the holy grail of not to switch.”

In other countries the consent documents use the term ‘or equivalent’, or you can specify more than one brand,” van Hest says. 

“In New Zealand for years it said ‘no substitution allowed’. We still see that sometimes.”

There’s a reason for that. The leaky building scandals in the 1990s arose partly because less stringent regulations allowed developers and builders to use cheaper, less suitable construction materials. 

Councils which were often the last man standing for liability, had to fork out millions of dollars and became unsurprisingly unwilling to consent anything but the tried and true.

If the Commerce Commission isn't laser-focused on Council incentives under joint and several liability and ways of fixing that, it's wasting everyone's time.  

Nikki's piece likely ungates tomorrow; it's well worth reading if you're following this one.

I'm hopeful that the ComCom report on supermarket competition means they're very willing to weigh legislated barriers to entry. But the widespread media and political response to that report is a worry. Radio New Zealand in particular has been egregious. Because the report didn't call for big beatups on the supermarkets, it just doesn't feel like enough to people who are unable to think. And I hope that ComCom isn't sensitive to that kind of political pressure. 

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