Developers and builders will recommence work on construction sites across Sydney from Saturday with “one hand tied behind their back” according to some within the industry.
The recommencement of work follows a two-week halt to stop the rising case numbers across the state. Sydney’s broader community will remain in lockdown for a further four weeks.
But building sites in eight “high-risk” coronavirus hotspots in the south-west and west—Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, George's River and Campbelltown—will not be allowed to start work.
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro said construction workers would be able to access job sites from tomorrow to engage in preliminary and basic works, including maintenance, deliveries, and machinery and site preparation.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said low-risk construction sites would require Covid-19 safe plans as compliance would be strictly enforced.
“Construction cannot resume in the eight local government areas (LGAs) of concern, nor will construction workers be allowed to leave these areas,” Berejiklian said.
Tradespeople, including cleaners who are able to work with zero contact with residents, will also be allowed to resume provided there are no more than two people inside and five outside.
“If contactless arrangements are not possible, work will not be allowed to go ahead,” Berejiklian said.
Despite this, Berejiklian said construction supply chain workers will be added to the authorised workers list and will be allowed to leave their local area for work, subject to meeting Covid-19 surveillance testing requirements.
This includes workers engaged in manufacturing of construction materials and components.
Development director and co-founder of Fiducia Property Group, Marie Doyle, said the developer welcomed by the decision by the state government to partially restart construction.
“This is great news, however we still face restrictions in the eight LGAs which make up for almost 50 per cent of all construction workers in Sydney,” Doyle said.
“This will continue to cause delays across the greater Sydney development industry and we are actively looking for Covid-safe ways to get people back on site.
“The [state’s] economic future and our personal livelihoods depend on billions of dollars our industry generates.”
Australian Constructors Association chief executive Jon Davies said the construction industry may be set to reopen, but it would have “one hand tied behind its back”.
“With eight local government areas now in lock down, approximately half the workforce on any given project will be missing and many activities will be either stopped completely or significantly disrupted,” Davies said.
“To deliver the planned pipeline of NSW infrastructure projects and support the economy we will need more hands on deck but we don’t expect this to come at the cost of the safety of our workforce or the wider population.”
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the pause in construction had stripped $700 million per week from the state’s $600-billion construction industry and the broader NSW economy.
The expected reopening of construction comes as health experts, including Burnet Institute chief executive Brendan Crabb, have called for tougher restrictions to curb movement across the city.
The Burnet Institute released modelling earlier this week that showed stage four restrictions, as seen during Victoria’s 2020 outbreak ,were needed to control the delta variant outbreak in Sydney.
The state government has mandated mask use on public transport, in residential building common areas, in non-residential indoor areas and in airports.