Construction leaders issue dire warning over industry health

Just over half of the senior managers in the construction industry think the sector is performing poorly or terribly.

Industry leaders say they have too much work, are being saddled with too much risk and don't have enough skilled workers.

That blunt assessment was revealed on Thursday as they called for politicians to stop bickering and help solve the problems facing the sector.

"We cannot afford to be reinventing the construction industry every three years cause it takes three years for these projects to be gestated and completed," says Ockham Residential CEO Helen O'Sullivan.

The call for more certainty in the industry was a common theme as hundreds of construction leaders met to dissect their stalling industry at the Master Builders Forum.

A survey released today showed 52 percent of leaders believe their industry's performing poorly or terribly - ironically at a time when there's a plethora of work.

"Which one would normally, automatically think that's a great thing - but everyone's operating a bit beyond capacity," says Leighs Construction managing director Anthony Leighs.

That's underscored by the recent high-profile collapse of Ebert Construction, owing $40 million to creditors and costing 80 jobs.

And earlier this year, the country's largest construction company Fletcher's completely pulled out of large-scale commercial work, after losing hundreds of millions of dollars on low-margin projects.

"Maybe one could argue we've been a bit slow about it, but the collective industry is taking on a lot of risk that it didn't use to take on - in some cases unknowingly," Mr Leighs told Newshub.

While many in construction are hoping to benefit from the Government's vast KiwiBuild programme, National leader Simon Bridges says there's too much uncertainty around it.

"I just don't think we're going to see a lot happening out of KiwiBuild," he says.

However his comments have been met with a warning from Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

"If he is still the leader of the National Opposition, I don't think he's going to be of the mind to scrap what will be an incredibly popular policy with New Zealanders," he says.

Mr Twyford did promise to work with the construction industry to address its multitude of problems.

But National and Labour's unwillingness to co-operate over the problem won't satisfy the concerns of anyone in the industry.