Aerial of Lismore, Suburbia. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star
Aerial of Lismore, Suburbia. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star

IT HURTS: $150m in construction could grind to a halt

CONSTRUCTION worth up to $150 million could grind to a halt on the Northern Rivers due to the continued border closure with Queensland.

The NSW and Queensland chapters of the Master Builders Association have written to the Queensland Premier and Deputy Premier highlighting their concerns.

Many companies have employees living on either side of the NSW/Queensland border who can't get to work.

It's estimated that it could impact up to a 1000 workers who have applied for exemptions online but haven't heard anything back from the Queensland Government.

In addition, the supply chain is broken and southern Queensland is an important centre for many specialities not available in northern NSW.

According to Peter Leotta, president of the Master Builders Association Tweed division, the construction industry on the Northern Rivers is effectively in "limbo".

"There was no industry consultation when these new [border] changes were made, they were effective immediately," he said.

"What it has done left tradesmen locked out of work already underway.

"It has basically slowed down about $150 million across the building industry or come to a grinding halt in some cases.

Mr Leotta said the construction industry worked on the foundation of 'you need to go where the work is', yet tradies could not.

"There are nearly 1000 applications for exemptions applied for online by contractors, builders and suppliers from both sides of which have not been acknowledged or replied too

"As these delays continue it places families in financial hardship and increases the risk and rate of mental health concerns."

Several examples were cited where suppliers for certain aspects of the building trade were based in south east Queensland and not the Northern Rivers.

The lack of materials flowing across the border meant projects were now in jeopardy.

The NSW Master Builders Association consulted with five major building companies undertaking work across the region.

Each builder had an average of 70 to 80 homes, either currently under construction or in the documentation phase.

"It is estimated that each of these projects referred to above has approximately one to two weeks of construction that can be achieved before hitting a supplier or trade roadblock preventing it from moving any further forward," the association stated in its letter to the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The five major builders operating in the region all accessed roofing materials from a business located on the Gold Coast.

Contractors recently had been notified that all roof installations scheduled had been cancelled.

In its letter to the premier, the Queensland Master Builders Association outlined a solution where the industry could be COVID safe.

They are also lobbying for a border pass specifically for construction workers.

"This will allow Queensland and NSW construction workers to cross the border more easily and allow for consistent application of the exemptions for Queensland construction workers at the border," it states.

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