Fletcher Building responds to Government's letter over GIB supply crisis

Fletcher Building has responded to the Government's letter over the current GIB supply crisis, saying it will grant licenses allowing parties to import foreign-made plasterboard that may otherwise breach its trademarks.

A company spokesperson said it already granted non-exclusive, royalty-free licences to 10 parties "well before the recent media interest to increase the amount of plasterboard in the market".

"This morning we confirmed to [Minister Megan Woods] that we will grant similar licences on similar terms to other parties until May 2023 after which time our new factory in Tauranga will be operational and more than meet the current demand requirements.

"Meanwhile, we remain focused on running our plants around the clock, maximising our local production of plasterboard, continuing to source product offshore and distributing it across New Zealand as fast and equitably as possible."

The spokesperson said Fletcher Building welcomed "any initiative which constructively reviews the current challenges facing the building industry, including the temporary shortage of plasterboard and the surge in demand". 

It comes as the country's GIB crisis gets so bad, the Government's had no choice but to step in.

Woods, the Building and Construction Minister, has set up what she calls a high-level taskforce to try and fix the plasterboard shortage and isn't ruling out changes to our laws. 

It's a sight seen right around New Zealand - construction projects stalled as builders struggle to get their hands on GIB.

Usually selling for just under $34 from Bunnings, on Tuesday Newshub found some GIB for sale on TradeMe for $204 a sheet. That is a 518 percent increase.

"It's a straight supply and demand situation," said Woods.

The nationwide shortage is a result of global supply chain issues and the difficulty of getting GIB alternatives into New Zealand given Fletcher Building's 94 percent stranglehold on the market.

The Government's swooping in to put a plaster over our plasterboard crisis.

"Today I announce the Government's setting up a ministerial taskforce of leading construction and supply chain experts to develop further measures," said Woods.

But ACT leader David Seymour said "the Government's answer is a new form of bureaucracy in the form of a plasterboard taskforce. Give me a break".

National's Christopher Luxon said: "This is an urgent issue. It needs urgent action, not another working group".

The group is made up of industry experts tasked with the job of fixing our plasterboard problem including whether or not our laws and regulations need to change. 

"This taskforce has already got action underway," Woods said. "There's 28 containers of plasterboard that are on their way to New Zealand."

Just on Monday, Fletcher's shareholders called for the chairman to resign, demanding an external review of the company, saying the nationwide shortage points to evidence of poor risk management.

"When it comes to security of supply, they appear to have failed in that responsibility," said Oliver Mander from the Shareholders' Association. "The reputation of the company in its customers' eyes is certainly falling."

The minister, too, dropped the company a line on Monday, asking them not to enforce their trademark on specific GIB colours, which Fletchers says it hasn't been doing anyway.

"It's actually one of the issues that actually has stopped products coming in historically," said Woods. 

GIB supply, yet another crisis for Kiwis to endure.