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First steps on road to recovery are hidden in plain view

Te Waka calls for smaller, ‘ready right now’ projects to keep Waikato contracting companies work fit.

Te Waka, Waikato’s regional development agency, is excited about the Government’s plans to back major ‘shovel ready’ projects and to fast track RMA processes, but says that Waikato communities can take matters into their own hands by unlocking a myriad of ‘ready right now’ projects.

Te Waka Chairman Hamish Bell says that firing up a range of smaller-scale projects is vital as a first step in order to keep jobs in the region and get civil contractors and construction firms back to work while the government works through the longer term plans for big-ticket national projects.

“We can’t afford to wait on those large longer-term projects, particularly when right now there are many smaller projects across the region which could get moving within weeks or months, rather than years. In line with this we’re calling on civic, business and government agency leaders in our region to join forces to help us light a bunsen burner under a range of smaller projects in the $50,000 to $500,000 and up range,” says Mr Bell.

Across the Waikato there are dozens of minor and medium sized projects which can contribute to a safer, stronger and more sustainable Waikato. These range from small council maintenance and renewal works on civic amenities, roads and the environment, to a range of private and central government projects in housing, education and health – all of which could be fast-tracked.  In many cases this work has been consulted on, consented, funded and approved – but is stalled due to the current uncertainty.

Earlier this week, Te Waka hosted a hui of contractors and construction firms. There was a common story of projects on hold because of the lockdown and a lack of visibility on the pipeline and funding of future projects. As a result, jobs are at risk as the wage subsidy period counts down, and as well as the personal costs to families, skilled work teams will be broken up.

“Both large and small contractors and construction firms are affected, although the issues vary. While the big players can shift resources between regions to chase the work, Waikato is the home for many of the smaller players who just don’t have that option,” says Mr Bell.

“It’s natural to fixate on the major national projects which may come soon but, in the meantime, we need to look for real, closer-to-home solutions that are hidden in plain view. While we acknowledge that Councils have a lot on their plate at the moment with all manner of challenges coming at them, there are a range of ways they could help - in particular we’d encourage streamlining consenting processes so smaller private projects can be fast tracked.”

Over the next few days Te Waka will be inviting the regions’ mayors, business and government agency leaders to take the first step by getting all the available, ready-now, local projects out on the table and by identifying what’s holding each of the projects back.

“We appreciate that all organisations are under pressure and we don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we certainly won’t make progress if we sit on our hands while time counts down on the wage subsidy scheme,” Mr Bell says.  “By putting our heads together, I’m confident we can then tackle blockages to get the machinery and people moving again. It could help many businesses save jobs and keep their heads above water until shovel ready mega projects come through in the national recovery plan.”

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