The CEO of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, Danni Hunter, spoke to ABC News this morning, outlining the steps being taken to ensure the health and safety of property, building, development and construction workers amid COVID-19 lockdown measures.
It was announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday 24th March that all auctions and open for inspections will no longer be permitted to go ahead under strengthened social distancing measures, and Hunter outlined the speed and flexibility with which the industry has transitioned to appointment only and virtual inspections.
“Regarding development in particular, display home viewings have transitioned completely to appointment only, in accordance with social distancing guidelines.”
In regards to the potential complete shut-down of the building, development and construction industry, Hunter explains, “it’s a really live discussion right now, especially as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews talks about moving towards even stricter lockdown measures.”
“The property, construction and development industry employs more than 1.4 million Australians – more than manufacturing and mining combined – so it is critical to think through what happens in the event that building sites are shut down for a period of time. How can we get them operating productively again as quickly as possible?”
“We are also continuing to talk with government about the fact that not all building sites are the same. The practical realities of maintaining social distancing can be achieved very differently in a land development, for example, when only a few workers are present at any given time.”
Regarding tenants and developers who may also have property management arms of their businesses, Hunter says, “it is a big part of the economy, but it is also a considerate and understanding part of the economy,” indicating the sector’s willingness to work with government to ensure the ongoing health and safety of staff, tenants and the community.
In a joint statement with a number of unions, including the CFMEU, UDIA Victoria assert that their primary concern is the health and safety of workers in the building, construction and development industry, and great lengths are being gone to in order to effectively adhere to the social distancing measures.
On Monday 23rd March, UDIA Victoria announced that the shutdown of non-essential activity implemented by Premier Daniel Andrews the previous day does NOT include the building, construction and development industry.
At this stage, building, construction and development sites can remain open, with recommended social distancing rules to be adhered to. The Premier has advised that if there are any employees within this industry who are able to work from home – which may include administrative staff – they should do so.
For essential building, construction and development staff for which working from home is not possible, the Premier has advised utilising flexible working arrangements, including off-peak travel when and where possible to ensure the health and safety of these workers and the greater community.
UDIA Victoria has also announced that they have advised the State Government that local government, state government agencies and authorities must remain operational and productive during this time so that a pipeline of projects and development activity can be approved, and industry can return to full productivity as soon as possible.
UDIA Victoria has submitted an Action Plan focused on the industry's economic survival this week, with further updates to follow.
Victoria Police have established an enforcement squad of 500 officers to ensure the containment measures put in place to combat coronavirus are followed, including the cease of non-essential activity such as gathering in pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and other establishments, as laid out by the Premier and the Prime Minister yesterday.
“Looking ahead, the building, construction and development industry will resuscitate our economy if we give it the ability to do so. As we talk with Government leaders, we're highlighting how important the industry is to the state economy. The sector employs hundreds of thousands of people and contributes 45 percent of Victoria's taxation revenue base,” says UDIA Victoria in their statement.
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