ZB

Gib crisis: Megan Woods launches taskforce to investigate

Author
Anne Gibson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jun 2022, 1:00pm
Building Minister Megan Woods. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Building Minister Megan Woods. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Gib crisis: Megan Woods launches taskforce to investigate

Author
Anne Gibson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 21 Jun 2022, 1:00pm

Building and Construction Minister Megan Woods is taking action on the country's Gib crisis, forming a taskforce to investigate and report back to her.

The group will troubleshoot on the plasterboard issues that have left many builders unable to secure supplies.

Woods has also written to Fletcher Building over their trademarks, asking them to refrain from taking action against other parties who import plasterboard which might have the same colours as their Gib and to let people know they will not take action against them for a year, she said.

Taskforce members are Naylor Love chief executive Rick Herd, Registered Master Builders chief executive David Kelly, Simplicity Living's managing director Shane Brearley, businessman Sir Stephen Tindall, a member of Local Government NZ, and telcom founder Tex Edwards.

Terms of reference will be released this week.

Woods has previously expressed concern about the escalating crisis.

"The plasterboard shortage is a high Government priority, with ministers directing officials several weeks ago to look into what could be done to alleviate the impact on construction projects."

Meanwhile, the Commerce Commission will release its draft report on the sector for consultation around July 2022.

That comes at a time when the construction sector is under pressure, driving builders and developers to Australia and Thailand for plasterboard due to desperation from shortages here.

High plasterboard costs were Highlighted by Simplicity Living's Shane Brealey, who said this month Thai imported plasterboard was much cheaper than Gib, even by the time all the shipping costs were included.

Thai board cost $11/sheet in shipping costs. But even then a standard Thai board sheet was only $19.50/sheet compared to Gib at $25/sheet, Brealey said.

"For standard board, [Thai] is 20 per cent cheaper and for moisture-resistant, it's around 40 per cent cheaper when we buy in the larger volumes we are," Brealey said of Bangkok plasterboard compared with Winstone Wallboards' product.

Gib's pricing has come under less attack than its shortage.

Yesterday, Fletcher Building critics called for the company's chairman Bruce Hassall to resign, directors to put themselves up for re-election and a review of the company's culture and conduct.

NZ Shareholders Association chief executive Oliver Mander and KiwiSaver provider Simplicity (NZ) managing director Sam Stubbs released a copy of a strongly-worded letter they sent to the company after an unsuccessful meeting on Friday.

They called for a board overhaul due to the Gib crisis and said Hassall was one of this country's highest-paid chairmen, getting more than $344,000 in fees annually.

"We call for an independent culture and conduct review at Fletcher Building, with a focus on how your operating models affect your perspective towards customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.

"We expect the outcomes to be made public. We call for an independent risk and assurance review of Fletcher's risk identification, management and monitoring processes, at both a management and governance level. Again, we expect the report to be made public," the letter said.

In response, Fletcher acknowledged Simplicity and the Shareholder Association communication and said it would continue to engage with them.

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