Business NSW issued an appeal to the NSW government to lift the ban on construction by Monday, 26 July, asking the government to instead implement a set of COVID-safe conditions under which the industry would be allowed to operate.
“Our economy relies on construction, and it supports hundreds of thousands of people and their livelihoods. We would like to see a reopening of building sites early, in a safe but reduced way,” Business NSW CEO Daniel Hunter said.
“By announcing a reopening date of next Monday, it will give those businesses a proper COVID Safe plan time to develop one, and give an opportunity for businesses to order and receive materials in time for a recommencement of trade.”
Business NSW proposed that the government designate a set number of workers per hectare able to operate on outdoor sites, given that the transmission risk is reduced in unenclosed settings.
Mr Hunter noted that Victoria implemented a similar set of parameters for construction even during its protracted lockdown last year, allowing 25 per cent of the total number of regular workers on large construction projects to return to site. A maximum of five workers and a supervisor were allowed to resume operations on smaller jobs.
At a press conference on Monday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian committed to allowing construction to resume on 31 July.
“There will definitely be construction activity on July 31, I can give you that assurance,” Ms Berejiklian said.
She did not say under what conditions the industry would be allowed to operate if the state’s lockdown continues, but new restrictions would likely differ from Victoria’s constraints, as Ms Berejiklian said she believed a percentage allowance of workers onsite caused “more confusion for people”.
Mr Hunter noted that the cost of shutting down the construction industry completely extends beyond economic damage.
“We are facing a significant mental health crisis, with so many workers unable to earn a living in a safe way,” Mr Hunter said.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of getting vaccinated as soon as possible in order to reopen our economy.”