Plasterboard supply crisis: Government taking action on GIB, tells main supplier to not enforce trademark

The Government is investigating how it can ease the current plasterboard supply crisis, including by setting up a taskforce of industry experts.

The Building and Construction Minister has also written directly to Fletcher Building, New Zealand's largest supplier of GIB, asking it not to enforce some of its trademarks for at least 12 months and to communicate that publicly.

"This would be an important step to address concern about the potential for enforcement; such concern can be a significant barrier, even in the absence of actual enforcement action," Megan Woods says in her letter to Fletcher Building chief executive Ross Taylor.

Woods said in a statement on Tuesday that she has set up a ministerial taskforce to examine what can be done to ease plasterboard shortages, which are causing significant issues and delays for builders.

The taskforce will "troubleshoot the regulation of alternative plasterboard products, including examining whether legislative change or regulatory change is needed", Woods said.

It will also look at ways to streamline the use of products currently untested in the New Zealand market, consider other distribution methods, provide advice around the appropriate approach to consenting and act as a forum for related supply chain concerns.

"While GIB is well-known, it is not the only plasterboard available. The Building Code allows for the use of any product which meets performance specifications," the minister said.

"The taskforce has a very clear aim, to increase sector productivity as quickly as possible, and to remove any unnecessary barriers, including around certification, to facilitate the use of different types of plasterboard. I will convene our first meeting next week."

The minister has written directly to Fletcher Building.
The minister has written directly to Fletcher Building. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Woods also said she is "concerned" trademarks on colours may be "impeding the importation of alternative plasterboard brands".

Winstone Wallboards, a subsidiary of Fletcher Building, supplies 95 percent of the New Zealand market with its GIB plasterboard. But it's been unable to keep up with demand, leading to a shortage which Woods describes as "critical".

In her letter to Taylor, the minister said she understood Fletcher Building is "as eager as the Government to find solutions" and asked if it would "not enforce its trademarks it has to protect the use of colours for its Winstone Wallboards GIB products".

She said it would be in the public's benefit for such a commitment to come as soon as possible and ideally within a week.

Newshub has contacted Fletcher Building for comment.

The Commerce Commission is currently conducting a market study into competition in the residential building supplies market and Woods said she looks forward to receiving the final findings.

On Monday, the New Zealand Shareholders' Association (NZSA) and KiwiSaver provider Simplicity called for Fletcher Buildings chairperson Bruce Hassall to resign, for remaining board members to put themselves up for re-election and for an independent review into conduct, culture and risk.

It said there had been no "mea culpa" or "substantial admittance of fault" for the company's role in the current supply crisis.

"Your refusal to acknowledge the existence and depth of stakeholder dissatisfaction speaks to a corporate culture based more on hubris than humility.

"There has been poor risk management and business decision-making, exemplified by the management of the current GIB supply crisis provides evidence. At our meeting last week, there was no evidence provided to support the quality of your risk & assurance processes."

It also took issue with Fletcher Building's share performance despite conditions "that should have been beneficial".

A Fletcher Building spokesperson told Newshub on Monday that it acknowledges the letter and will continue speaking with both companies directly.

"Both the board and management understand and sympathise with the difficulties our customers are facing," the spokesperson said.

"We remain singularly 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 to our customers as fast as possible."

The taskforce members:

  • Rick Herd, CEO of Naylor Love
  • Dave Kelly CEO of Registered Master Builders Association of New Zealand
  • Shane Brealey, Simplicity Living, managing director
  • Sir Stephen Tindall, Founder and Chair, The Warehouse Ltd and The Tindall Foundation
  • A LGNZ representative
  • Tex Edwards, 2degrees founder