Border bubble change proposed to save builders
AT least 60 homes under construction in Northern NSW will not have roofs this week as new COVID-19 border rules bite the region's building sector.
GJ Gardner Homes Tweed Heads-Ballina managing director Peter Leotta said the industry was "looking down the barrel of extremely hard times" unless the border bubble was extended or there were exemptions to allow essential travel to and from construction sites.
Gold Coast suppliers cannot get to contracted jobs outside of the existing border bubble in NSW.
Mr Leotta, who represents the Master Builders Association in Tweed, said the top five residential builders in the region had at least $150 million worth of work they would not be able to complete.
The industry body is seeking a border bubble expansion to Yamba and as far west as Casino.
Mr Leotta said the region was traditionally serviced by the Gold Coast, because the Northern Rivers lacked speciality trades or major distributors.
He estimated jobs could continue at most for another week before work was stopped because of a lack of product or expertise.
"We know on the Gold Coast one roof supplier alone had 60 roof installations ready to go this week that had to be cancelled.
"This means 60 homes cannot be bricked up. This will have flow-on effects for hundreds of other jobs.
"This goes on to effect people who might be paying two mortgages, waiting to move in. It is a balancing act not even taking into account the mental health aspect."
Adam Merlehan, the managing director of leading specialist legal and consulting firm Merlehan Group, said some builders may also face further financial penalties.
"Depending on the terms of building contracts, some builders may be exposed to liability for failing to complete works on time, or increased costs in dealing with border travel restrictions."
Mr Merlehan said the Queensland Government built COVID disruption relief into its own contracts. "However, expecting private enterprise to follow this lead and amend contracts that are already in place is unrealistic.
"We encourage and facilitate clients engaging in sensible, commercial dialogue to solve unavoidable commercial issues like this one, particularly where contractual rights are unclear."
Master Builders Queensland on Thursday wrote to Deputy Premier Steven Miles proposing a solution to the cross-border issue.
"We recommend that the Queensland Government deem construction workers and necessary ancillary staff such as administration, certifiers, architects, project managers and supervisors as essential workers, and that these workers are permitted to work within a reasonable area outside of the border zone," Master Builders CEO Grant Galvin wrote.
"In addition, we are asking for a border pass specifically for construction workers. This will allow Queensland and NSW construction workers to cross the border more easily and allow for consistent application of the exemptions for Queensland construction workers at the border."
Originally published as Border bubble change proposed to save builders