New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB)
Business View Oceania interviews Grant Florence, CEO of New Zealand Certified Builders, for our focus on Strength and Growth of the Construction Industry.
New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB) is a membership organisation formed in 1998 by a group of trade qualified builders led by Tauranga’s own Craig Wilkinson. These builders wanted to create a group that would protect homeowners from unqualified builders and unethical practices and promote excellence in building standards. Those values and mission remain today, as the NZCB brand and membership continue to grow.
The association has an extensive member roster of builders throughout New Zealand proudly carrying the NZCB stamp of approval. Each builder is trade qualified with a strong history of stability and success. And homeowners are reaping the benefits. Not only are they guaranteed first-class knowledge and expertise when working with an NZCB approved builder, each home is covered by New Zealand’s Halo 10 year residential guarantee for peace of mind throughout the building journey.
For New Zealand builders who are passionate about providing superior workmanship and meet the NZCB membership criteria, the door is wide open. The first requirement is to hold a recognised trade qualification equivalent to, or better than, National Trade Certificate in Carpentry Level 4. To ensure high standards are maintained, the association also considers a builder’s history of stability and success, solvency, absence of complaints by customers and suppliers and an untarnished reputation and brand. Business View Oceania spoke with Grant Florence, CEO of New Zealand Certified Builders for an overall look at the association and what the future holds for NZCB and the building industry. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.
BVO: Can you give us an overview of the NZCB association?
Florence: “We were formed in 1998 by enthusiasts who felt that builders who had undertaken some study or training weren’t recognized. So the association was formed with the criteria that you needed to have done an apprenticeship or some sort of study in building to gain membership. Doing that was unique in the New Zealand environment and that criteria remains today. Over time, the association has gone from being a ‘club’ of members with like-minded objectives to still supporting leaders in business and building but now taking a range of activities and services to its members.
“Education for builders is a key focus and we have a number of ways we communicate our education stream. From face to face regional meetings or seminars, through to the online environment which we’re doing more and more of, and through distribution of newsletters. It’s a multi-faceted approach. A signature event for us is our annual conference in June. Probably the largest building industry conference in the country, where we have more than 800 people attend.”
BVO: What are the biggest challenges facing the building industry in New Zealand?
Florence: “It’s interesting. In 2018, we were in Sydney talking with HIA (Housing Industry of Australia) and we both wrote on the board the five top challenges we faced and they were the same. Here and now there is a shortage of skilled trades people. That challenge has been in front of the industry for the last three years and that’s just come about by the boom/bust nature of the building industry in New Zealand. Builders don’t necessarily invest in apprenticeships in down times and so we lack the skill levels. Right now we’re totally in a boom economy. Our new housing starts are the second highest they’ve been on record. And that’s continued to grow over the last two to three years.
“NZCB runs an apprenticeship program with 12 polytechnics across the country. It’s about supporting young men and ladies to get involved in the industry. Polytechnic schools provide the education and our association provides the opportunities and the employers and other elements to encourage people to join the building industry. The number of women in the trades in New Zealand has increased, still only around five percent, but that’s up from a year ago and it’s growing.”
BVO: How has NZCB evolved beyond being simply member focused?
Florence: “About 80 percent of our members are business companies operating primarily in the residential and light commercial sector, traditionally in the city market. And across the country we have a couple of group home, volume home builders, as well. Part of our evolution over the years has been growing our brand to support our builders. So homeowners may go looking for a builder who is a member of our association. For people to have that capability available to them is a good thing. In that regard, our website has a portal for homeowners to find a certified builder. It’s around evolving the association and growing a brand so that we support our members and their businesses.
“A lot of associations tend to be just member focused but we expand on that. Particularly around the homeowners’ significant investment. They don’t take that lightly and sometimes they need some sort of reassurance or confidence. So we have that dual strand around what we stand for and what we provide. The Halo is a homeowners guarantee that we brought in to market in 2015/16 after a global search. We wanted to provide peace of mind for homeowners, so we put the Halo product together, which gives coverage during the process of construction and up to 10 years. That’s been a strong tool for us and it comes back to the point of it being a big decision for homeowners; they’re not necessarily always informed. And so we wanted to provide further assurance when they hire builders that there was an independent homeowners’ guarantee underwritten by Lloyd’s of London. It’s another tool to provide that level of surety and it’s gone really well. We’ve written six billion dollars of coverage under that policy arrangement since we put it in place. It’s definitely unique in Australasia.”
BVO: Is membership on the grow?
Florence: “Yes. We currently have just under 3000 members. The rough estimate is that we represent around one third of the builders in New Zealand. Another association called Registered Masters Builders of New Zealand, has one third, and the other third doesn’t belong to any type of association. The Master Builders have a different profile of members; a lot of commercial-type builders who do multi-story buildings, things like that. So each to its own niche.
“NZCB has a staff of 20 based around the country. We run a board of six, comprised of four member Directors (elected by the membership) and two independent directors. They continue to evolve and play a governance role – forming strategy for the association. I’ve been CEO for six years and membership has continued to grow each year. We really put some effort into that in 2019 and by the end of September it had grown by 15 percent in the first nine months, which was quite significant. It’s a reflection of growth in the building sector and our standing in the industry and with others in the trades. We have a lot of loyal members who renew each year, but we’re facing an aging membership like everybody else, as baby boomers are now starting to retire.”
BVO: What changes do you anticipate for the future of the industry?
Florence: “New Zealand is a small market and there’s been a lot of entry into the country of prefabrication and other types of technologies like that. And that actually gained momentum when the government had their earlier ‘Kiwi build 100,000 houses over a 10-year target’. So prefabrication was seen as a way of achieving that. Obviously, that target has failed miserably and they’ve now backed off that policy. So there are some activities going on for prefabrication but it will never be significant in the overall market.
“Other challenges that are coming at us: the government is having another go-round of regulation change around building acts, which will hopefully better the building system but we’ll wait and see. There are always changes that are happening but they take some time to work through. I think the biggest challenge the industry has is that it’s still struggling with slow productivity. Building is currently more driven by the actions of the local councils who undertake all the consenting and inspection and slow the inventory down. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
BVO: What are the most important points people should know about NZCB?
Florence: “The number one thing is membership criteria. We are an organisation dedicated to improving the standards of the industry. That’s reflected by the fact that we have a unique membership criteria. We have introduced other tools, such as Halo, to support the betterment of the industry. And we have a commitment to each one of our members. Those are the three planks that people should understand about NZCB and we look forward to welcoming more builders to join our growing association.”
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AT A GLANCE
New Zealand Certified Builders (NZCB)
What: Trade association for builders throughout New Zealand
Where: Tauranga, NZ