Tuesday 28 June 2022

Bootleggers and Baptists - construction waste edition

Rochester political scientist William Riker celebrated great herestheticians - those adept at manipulating policy to serve their own interests. His book is classic and should be on every public policy syllabus

Newsroom reports on some superb herestheticians applying Bruce Yandle's lesson about bootleggers and baptists, and about the importance of raising rivals' costs in the construction sector.

If you're a construction behemoth, you can bear regulatory compliance costs a lot more easily than smaller competitors. If you're building at scale, you're probably already doing a better job in avoiding construction waste.

Construction waste going to landfill really isn't any kind of public policy problem. Tips can set tip fees that recover costs. 

That doesn't mean you can't make it a political problem. Lots of people don't understand how landfill pricing works and just hate the idea of waste - failing to realise that, sometimes, measures to reduce waste are more wasteful than bearing the waste. It's a combination of economic illiteracy and aesthetics. 

So here's what we then get:

In a rarely-seen consensus private and public players in the building industry are calling for greater government intervention on the vexing issue of construction waste

The Environment Select Committee will today hear its last submission on the topic it has been investigating for several months - how to deal with the three million tonnes of sector waste dumped in landfills annually.

About half of this is thought to be useable or recyclable.

Fletcher Building Residential and Development chief executive Steve Evans said as the country embarked on a massive bid to address the housing shortage, change was more than just a nice-to-have.

“I've been in this industry for a long time and regulations change behaviour. So you ask people to do things voluntarily and you will, of course, get those that are socially-minded or environmentally-minded, that will do it.

It would be excellent fodder as case study for any of the public policy schools - in a world in which they could recognise that this sort of thing is a problem. 

Not all of the push is crazy though. Updating the Building Act so that it's easier to re-use materials makes a lot of sense.  

But just think about the difference in cost that mandates like this would impose on small players as compared to the big guys. MBIE is helping to create another cartel, and simply doesn't care. 

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment spokesperson Antonia Reid said a range of work was underway to encourage the reduction of waste, including investigating the barriers to reusing and recycling building materials and expanding the waste infrastructure network.

“MBIE is also progressing changes which would require reporting and measurement of new buildings’ whole-of-life embodied carbon emissions - from manufacturing building materials to disposing of them at the end of a building’s life.

“We expect this focus on embodied carbon reduction will encourage greater repair and retrofit of existing buildings, smarter building design to help minimise emissions and waste within new construction, and more deconstruction of buildings at the end of their lives if they cannot be made fit for purpose.”

For those unfamiliar with Yandle's Bootleggers & Baptists: 

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