Gib crisis: call to cut red tape

Builder Bill Hamilton, of Dunedin, with Gib which was ordered for a new build two days before the...
Builder Bill Hamilton, of Dunedin, with Gib which was ordered for a new build two days before the shutdown. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A Dunedin builder is urging the Dunedin City Council to make it easier for alternative plasterboard products to be used as pressure on the Gib supply continues.

Another builder has criticised the producers of the country’s main plasterboard, describing them as "disgraceful".

It comes as the Government sets up a ministerial taskforce to look at what can be done to ease plasterboard shortages, including the potential for legislative or regulatory change.

Minister for Building and Construction Dr Megan Wood said it was the Government’s priority to ensure builders from small to large businesses had the materials they needed.

At present, Fletcher Building subsidiary Winestone Wallboards’ Gib plasterboard holds about 95% of the market in New Zealand, where demand has outstripped supply.

That had put "extreme" pressure on the building industry, RenoMasters owner Andrew Elliott said.

Last week, the Auckland Council cut back on its red tape to help make alternative boards available to ease pressure.

Mr Elliott said it would be "very helpful" if the DCC did the same.

Cutting red tape over the use of alternative products would make "life so much easier" and the DCC needed to look at what ever it could do to make that happen.

W Hamilton Building co-director Bill Hamilton said Winestone’s business practices were "disgraceful" and the Commerce Commission should never have allowed the near-monopoly to happen.

"They’re batting us around like ping-pong balls."

Although alternative boards would be useful, Gib was essential to keeping many trades in business.

Many parts of the construction industry, including painters and plumbers, could not work on sites as work had not progressed.

There would be businesses that went bankrupt due to the effects of the shortage, he said.

Mr Hamilton said if businesses were ordering Gib now, they would be expecting to wait until early next year.

His firm had managed to secure an order for a major build.

It was easy to point fingers at the council and say it needed to change, but the situation should never have got to this point, he said.

A DCC spokesman said the council was working through guidance released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment recently on substituting alternative plasterboards for Gib.

It was important to note the council was legally required to follow the processes set out in the Building Act, as well as a raft of other codes and regulations set by the Government, and council "red tape" was not to blame for the issue, the spokesman said.

A Fletcher Building spokeswoman said the company understood the building industry was facing challenging supply conditions and it sympathised with them.

Winestone Wallboards was operating its manufacturing facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week and was producing about 700,000sqm of Gib a week, she said.

For builders with critical plasterboard needs, Fletcher’s distribution business PlaceMakers was allocating pool plasterboard.

That would be managed at a local level and it was encouraging its other merchant customers to consider similar measures, the spokeswoman said.

The Commerce Commission is due to release an initial report on competition in the building material market and how that affects housing costs next month.

Ministerial taskforce aims:

 - Troubleshoot the regulation of alternative plasterboard products, including examining whether legislative change or regulatory change is needed

 - Look at ways to streamline the use of products that are untested in the New Zealand market

 - Explore new distribution models

 - Provide advice regarding the appropriate approach to consenting

 - Act as a forum for related supply chain concerns