Coronavirus: New protocol for New Zealand's builders revealed for when COVID-19 lockdown lifts

New Zealand's construction industry is preparing builders for a new set of on-site protocols when the country moves into alert level 3 of the COVID-19 response. 

Prior to the nationwide lockdown, which has seen the closure of all non-essential businesses as of 11:59pm on March 25, the industry rushed to secure and weather-proof construction sites before setting down the tools for the preliminary four-week period. 

Builders will be permitted to get back to business when alert level 4 lockdown is lifted, a prospect they are all "really keen" for, according to Master Builders' chief executive David Kelly. Construction work is only deemed essential if it involves critical infrastructure, or homes which pose a threat to the public's health and safety.

"They're all really keen to get back to work. It's essential that [builders are] able to get their cash flow going. These protocols are about ensuring that they can go back to work in a safe manner," Kelly said in an interview with Newshub on Monday.

Kelly says the new guidelines were approved and published shortly after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced what changes New Zealand would see under an alert level 3 system on Thursday. 

"What I've heard so far is that [builders] are really pleased the protocols are ready so quickly, because they knew they would have to do something on-site differently... I think [it] gave a lot of people a huge amount of relief - that at least they could focus on getting their plans together," he said.

The new protocols centre around three key components: hygiene, controlled numbers and keeping a scrupulous list of who is on-site. 

"The number one thing is hygiene, so making sure there are wash stations [for] people on-site," Kelly said.

"Secondly, thinking about how many people are working on the site at any one time. We've split them into residential and large commercial, they will operate a little diffierently in each case. But in both cases they need to think about how many people they've got on the site, where they are, maybe even split shifts if they're able to do that. 

"And then the final, really important one is keeping a contact list - every single person that's been on the site, they need to be scrupulous in terms of making sure they know who's been there and when."

New Zealand's construction industry is expected to adhere to a new set of on-site protocols when lockdown is lifted.
New Zealand's construction industry is expected to adhere to a new set of on-site protocols when lockdown is lifted. Photo credit: Getty

Kelly says the guidelines were written to be "achievable", with input from builders, construction companies and subcontractors.

"I think the people that have developed them believe they are definitely achievable. I think the issue will be about not getting slack over time. It's really important that everyone in the industry understands them," he said.

"Contact tracing shouldn't be that difficult. It's really setting up the system to make sure you know everyone coming on-site so they control that point of entry. That should be a relatively straightforward matter. There are people looking at contactless ways, so you don't have to sign in with a pen - you could swipe an app over the phone or something like that. There are a few of those products out so I'm sure there will be people touting that fairly quickly in the next few days. 

"The key thing is that the whole industry needs to adhere with the guidelines - and then we don't have to go back into lockdown again."

The decision as to whether lockdown will be lifted or extended past its preliminary four-week period is set to be revealed at 4pm on Monday. The announcement is available to watch live on Three. 

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