Govt green-lights construction – on its own projects

The state’s building industry has been handed a partial lockdown exemption, with work on some “essential state infrastructure” to recommence from Monday.

Jul 22, 2021, updated Jul 22, 2021
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

In an email sent to various business and industry leaders this morning, the Premier’s office said work would be allowed to resume on a range of projects from Monday “to ensure their integrity and safety is retained”.

“The immediate progress of these targeted projects will ensure essential services can be delivered to the SA community as promised,” the email reads.

The briefing email, seen by InDaily, stated that “in line with the requirements set out in the State Coordinator’s Emergency Management Directions, only a very small number of high priority projects will recommence to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the South Australian community”.

These would include construction of “vital hospital, emergency services, school and transport infrastructure”, with COVID-safe plans in place at all the targeted sites.

Most of the projects listed, however, are school construction works ahead of next year’s planned shift of Year 7 students into high schools.

These include works at Adelaide High School, Glenunga International High School, Goolwa Secondary College, Heathfield High School, Mark Oliphant College, Norwood Morialta High School, Playford International College, Roma Mitchell Secondary College and Unley High.

It’s understood some of the Government’s school builds were already on tight time frames to be ready for the start of Term One next year.

Other projects green-lit to resume from Monday include upgrade work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Flinders Medical Centre Emergency Department and the Emergency Services Sector Headquarters at Keswick.

A raft of road stabilisation and sealing upgrades will also recommence prior to the end of lockdown.

Master Builders SA CEO Will Frogley welcomed construction recommencing but said there had been “a lack of consultation from the Marshall Government and the rationale behind why some projects can operate whilst others can’t is unclear”.

“Whilst we believe the listed projects can and should safely recommence on Monday, the Government needs to explain how they came up with this list and why some projects are on there but others aren’t,” he said.

“There should be a level playing field.

“Builders who do private sector work and residential builders have obligations to their clients and bills to pay too.

“If the Marshall Government quickly announces that all construction will be open on Monday, I think that will calm the waters. But in the absence of that commitment, resentment from the vast majority of the industry will only continue to grow.

“There’s no reason why all building and construction can’t open on Monday.”

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Frogley said the Government “says it doesn’t play favourites but that appears to be exactly what they are doing”.

Premier Steven Marshall said today he “wasn’t personally involved in this”, adding it was a new COVID direction offering “some minor leniency around essential work in SA”.

Asked how the listed projects were determined, he said: “That’s not something I’m aware of.”

Property Council SA executive director Daniel Gannon this morning issued a media release responding to the changes within minutes of the email from the Premier’s office being sent, calling the move “a great outcome for the state’s biggest private sector employer – property”.

“This means some hard hats and steel caps will return to construction sites across South Australia and breathe life back into this important part of the state’s economy,” he said.

“While not everyone will be pleased, it is important during these times to prioritise industries that have a material impact on the economy based on health advice. Construction is at the top of this list.

“A long and protracted lockdown across South Australia is far worse than a short, sharp one. Hence the importance and merit of this determination.”

He said the Property Council would “continue to advocate for a broader reopening of construction site activity with an early priority around commercial sites, especially given the financial investment and risk associated with sites for developers”.

Pat Gerace from the Urban Development Institute of SA said he would be “seeking some urgent clarification as to the way in which the builds have been selected”.

“There are a number of large projects within SA that aren’t listed and we’d like to know where their pathway is as well,” he told InDaily.

“We’re also looking for the Government to consider some of the other outdoor construction that could take place in a COVID-safe way and the pathway for that part of the sector to begin work.”

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