G.J. Gardner Homes Tweed Heads & Ballina managing director Peter Leotta. Photo: Jessica Lamb
G.J. Gardner Homes Tweed Heads & Ballina managing director Peter Leotta. Photo: Jessica Lamb

JOBS ON THE LINE: ‘People can only hold on for so long’

GOLD Coast builder Peter Riewoldt from Chelbrook Homes has an $800,000 home on the Northern Rivers he can't finish.

Mr Riewoldt's Ballina project has stalled because he can't find a specialist contractor, most of whom are based in Brisbane, to install the $40,000 stairs.

Contractors are hamstrung by not being able to travel outside the border bubble without being forced to quarantine on returning to their businesses in Queensland.

The story shared by the Burleigh business was just one of many shared by South East Queensland and Northern NSW businesses at the Master Builders Association Cross Border conference on Thursday at Tweed's Twin Towns.

More than 60 houses on the Northern Rivers remain without roofs, builders can't access their Queensland-based suppliers, and more than $150 million worth of projects, from the border to Ballina, hang in the balance.

This is the reality of Queensland's hard border lockdown.

With industry experts warning the construction industry is in "serious jeopardy", lobbyists say their workaround suggestions to keep businesses afloat have fallen on deaf ears.

<<READ MORE: NSW Premier bursts Ballina's hopes of being inside bubble>>

 

G.J. Gardner Homes Tweed Heads & Ballina managing director Peter Leotta. Photo: Jessica Lamb
G.J. Gardner Homes Tweed Heads & Ballina managing director Peter Leotta. Photo: Jessica Lamb

The G.J. Gardner Homes Tweed Heads and Ballina managing director Peter Leotta said the "dire situation" had been caused by the industry being removed from the list of 'essential workers' eligible for exemptions on August 8.

"We have houses in and outside the border bubble that are due to have roofs on, have their kitchens fitted, but the workers can't get here to do the jobs, or supplies can't be delivered," he said.

"Our biggest concern is we have had no contact or response from the Queensland Premier. "Queensland companies and Queenslanders are affected too. People can only hold on for so long."

Tweed MP Geoff Provest said he had been assured there had not been any COVID-19 related outbreaks associated with worksites.

 

Tweed MP Geoff Provest addressing the 150 strong crowd at the Master Builders Association Cross Border conference. Photo: Jessica Lamb
Tweed MP Geoff Provest addressing the 150 strong crowd at the Master Builders Association Cross Border conference. Photo: Jessica Lamb

 

Mr Provest backed the idea of the NSW Government sweetening the deal for QLD by paying for OLD health officials to inspect NSW job sites, to ensure COVID-19 safe protocols were taking place.

"With any form of negotiations you need to bring something to the table," he said.

He acknowledged the small to medium businesses affected did not have the financial resources to wait for restrictions to ease, possibly in October after the Queensland election.

Executive director of Master Builders Australia NSW Brian Seidler claimed the industry was in "serious jeopardy".

 

Executive director Master Builders Australia NSW Brian Seidler. Photo: Jessica Lamb
Executive director Master Builders Australia NSW Brian Seidler. Photo: Jessica Lamb

 

"There has been no other time in recent history where the policy of our government is so vitally important to the recovery of the nation," he said.

"These border restrictions can only be described and immediate, catastrophic and far reaching."

Mr Siedler repeated his unanswered correspondence to the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk from August 14.

"I say it again, respectfully, can you please consult with building and construction for thousands of people whose livelihoods are threatened as businesses are forced to close, people lose jobs and many people's mental health is jeopardised," he said.

Most industry workers must find a way to pay their suppliers and workers while unable to bring in cash, by clearing current work from their books or taking on new work, waiting on supplies and contractors hamstrung by the border restrictions.

Mr Siedler explained the supply and trade-based concerns would soon begin moving onto developers and homeowners.

 

The 150 strong crowd (social distancing) at the Master Builders Association Cross Border conference at Tweed's Twin Towns on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Jessica Lamb
The 150 strong crowd (social distancing) at the Master Builders Association Cross Border conference at Tweed's Twin Towns on Thursday afternoon. Photo: Jessica Lamb

 

The general consensus from the conference floor was most of the shortfalls could be fixed by once again including the industry in the list of 'essential workers'.

Business owners and contractors expressed concerns about their business licences being on the line if they were unable to supervise work outside the border bubble.

Others asked why they had been snubbed in the $45 million grants program offered to the 13 LGAs along the NSW and Victorian border, recently announced by the NSW Premier.

The possibility of creating a 'C' border declaration pass for construction workers to apply for using their building licences for exemptions had already been put to the Queensland Premier.

Business owners expressed anger at QLD's announcement earlier this week that the AFL Grand Final would be played at Brisbane's Gabba in front of more than 30,000 spectators, an area which has recorded COVID cases, while they could not travel for vital infrastructure work in a place with none.



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