luke achterstraat
Luke Achterstraat has made the calls as the state navigates its way out from the current outbreak. Image – LinkedIn and Canva.
  • The construction sector was shut down for two weeks in July
  • Sites are capped at 50% capacity
  • Property Council argues construction workers have successfully implemented and followed numerous Covid-safe measures

As Sydney’s lockdown continues, the Property Council of Australia (PCA) NSW’s executive director, Luke Achterstraat, has argued construction sites should return to 100% capacity immediately.

Mr Archterstraat said the sector has shown its resilience given its abrupt shutdown during July where all construction work was halted for two weeks.

“The sector scrambled to make sites secure, reschedule projects and break the bad news to thousands of their workers,” he said.

“The shutdown was a double blow considering how much of our economic catchup from the earlier 2020 lockdown was being led by the property industry.

We must ensure the industry is in a strong position to underwrite that recovery again as we emerge from this lockdown.”

Luke Archterstraat, NSW Property Council Executive Director

Since the two-week ban was lifted, Mr Archterstraat said the sector has successfully implemented a range of Covid-safe plans including QR codes, contact tracing, on-site Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) where appropriate, along with contactless delivery and deep cleaning.

He says given this, the NSW government should increase worksite capacity immediately.

“Otherwise, we are putting at risk the two things NSW residents so dearly value during a pandemic: jobs and homes.”

Currently, worksites are capped at 50% combined with a ‘vaccine overlay’ meaning only fully vaccinated construction workers – or those with one jab and a negative test – from LGA’s of concern are allowed to work onsite.

“The message has been clear: jabs for jobs,” he added, noting uptake has been high throughout the industry so far.

The comments come as Masters Builders Australia (MBA) has launched an advertising campaign to further boost vaccination rates within the industry. The Victorian government has also recently announced more vaccines available for those in the industry as it conducts a large scale compliance blitz.

During usual times, there are over 250,000 construction workers onsite throughout NSW during a typical day. Mr Archterstraat said that it is unjust tradies who are fully vaccinated are being locked out due to the 50% cap.

“While the idea of a half-capacity pegging may sound reasonable to some, it is impractical and provides a logistical migraine for managers juggling numerous trades and contractors throughout any given day who have already done so much.

“There are many sites that are physically too small to make it worthwhile operating at half-capacity.

“And there is the broader question of why open-air greenfield construction projects on the outskirts of greater Sydney should be treated the same as an interior renovation job in the inner city.”

Mr Archterstraat is concerned that the lockdown will further delay projects to boost housing supply which in turn will worsen housing affordability. The state government currently has a target of 42,000 new homes annually.

“We are about to walk over an “apartment cliff” which will only heighten the issue of housing affordability.

“The construction sector not only answered the Government’s call but blazed the trail for vaccine acceleration that other sectors can now follow.

“It is high time for the Government to answer the construction sectors call and open worksites up to full capacity in recognition of the immense work done to date on safety,” he concluded.

Yesterday, the NSW government announced 1,127 local cases and 2 deaths. 78.8% have received first dose with 46.5% fully vaccinated.

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