Land, material costs the relevant issue

National leader Simon Bridges. Photo: RNZ
Simon Bridges.
A Central Otago builder says while promises from the National Party to cut regulations sound good, the real difficulty the industry faces is in the price of land and materials.

The National Party has promised to clamp down on the cost of resource consents, health and safety law, and the anti-money laundering regime as it pitches itself as a stronger economic manager than the current government.

Leader Simon Bridges yesterday released the party’s plan to reduce economic regulation and said there would be further announcements on tax relief, infrastructure, small business and families.

"Unnecessary red tape and regulation is getting in the way of a stronger economy. It’s holding us back from having more money in our pockets, lower daily costs and affordable housing," Mr Bridges said.

O’Callaghan & Walker Builders Ltd co-director Steve O’Callaghan said rolling back regulations, especially in health and safety, was unlikely.

"I can’t see that happening at all in health and safety. It is a big cost but it’s not going to go backwards. I don’t think anyone would want it to go backwards.

"The health and safety part is obviously exactly what it is; health and safety and the regulations are all there to either protect clients ... to make sure it’s all done properly."

Mr O’Callaghan, who confessed he was probably a National Party supporter, said there was a cost to health and safety but it wasn’t enormous.

"It’s just a cost on top of other costs," he said.

"It’s training and it is gear. It’s processes, it’s maintenance of gear — like testing and tagging — every electrical appliance or tool in your business needs a test every three months and it needs a tag on it saying it’s been tested."

Changes to certain parts of the Resource Management Act as proposed by National could be quite helpful, Mr O’Callaghan said.

O’Callaghan & Walker Builders Ltd employs 12 staff and builds about 12 houses a year.

The company builds houses in Alexandra, Cromwell, Clyde and Wanaka.

The biggest obstacle to building was the cost of land and materials, Mr O’Callaghan said.

"Whatever area you’re talking about in regulations ... I think the cost of building is in the land and in the materials not so much the regulations really. That’s where I sit."

Another difficulty for a company his size was finding good staff, especially if they had to be convinced to move to the area.

"We have a fairly consistent staff ... but if someone leaves we struggle to replace them.

"We’re not actively looking for staff but there’s definitely a shortage out there, without a doubt. One of the reasons in this area is it’s very expensive to live. So it’s very hard to get someone from outside the area to come here because of the cost of living."

National said its regulatory programme aims to get rid of 100 regulations in the first six months of office, and it would create a ministerial warrant for the move, echoing a similar role held by Act New Zealand’s Rodney Hide in the previous National-led administration.

The programme’s other three major points include: repeal and replacement of the Resource Management Act; introduction of a national policy statement for the anti-money laundering regime to help firms comply in a less costly manner; and the introduction of a cost-benefit test for health and safety regulations. —Additional reporting BusinessDesk


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