National, ACT lash Government response to GIB crisis as just another working group

The Government's decision to form a taskforce to investigate solutions to the plasterboard supply crisis is a "total farce", according to National, which wants to see more urgency as shortages cause serious delays for builders.

Both National leader Christopher Luxon and ACT's David Seymour slated the move on Tuesday, calling the group brought together by Building and Construction Minister Megan Woods just another working group.

But Woods rejects that, saying "we're seeing action out of the ideas" the industry experts are having, pointing to 28 containers of plasterboard from alternative suppliers on their way to New Zealand.

The Opposition was shut down by Speaker Trevor Mallard in the House on Tuesday afternoon after making a kerfuffle as Woods discussed the new taskforce. 

She announced earlier in the day that the taskforce would examine how to ease current plasterboard shortages, including potential legislative or regulatory change and ways to streamline the use of products untested in the New Zealand market.

She's also written to Fletchers Building, the country's largest supplier of GIB, asking that it doesn't enforce some of its trademarks and publicly commit to that. Concern about potential enforcement "can be a significant barrier" to people importing alternative products, Woods said.

Luxon said it was a "total farce" the Government was "forming another working group to deal with an urgent issue around GIB". 

"The bottom line for us is that we have builders and building companies going to the wall because they can't complete projects and they can't access GIB," he said.

"It is an urgent issue and sending an urgent letter and forming another working group or a taskforce or whatever you want to call it doesn't get the job done."

National's building and construction spokesperson Andrew Bayly is proposing a Member's Bill that would allow plasterboard that is up to Australasian standards to be imported into the country and require councils not to reject alternative products.

Seymour agreed there are good substitutes, but the problem is with councils accepting them. He wants to see MBIE set up a register of equivalent materials and for councils to be required to accept them. Councils would be "absolved of liability for a decision to accept" substitutes.

"People will say that it's all terribly complicated and we can't possibly allow this to happen. That's the thinking that got us into this mess," Seymour said.

"The truth is that plasterboard is a sandwich of plaster and cardboard. What first-world, industrialised country gets itself into such a pickle? An overly bureaucratic one and it needs to stop, today."

Woods denied her taskforce was just another working group, saying she was interested in "rapid solutions" and "quick wins". 

"This is a group of people that we've been talking to for a few weeks… I thought it was a good idea to bring these people together into a systematic group that can give that very rapid-fire advice on what they see as what needs to be done."

But she said it's critical to ensure there are safeguards and that "products we're bringing in are up to standard and that they are doing the job that they need to do". 

Woods said BRANZ is "set up to ensure that products are certified to a level that they are claiming to be". She wants to look at what further resourcing it needs to support the certification of new products.