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Creating Stimulus through Advocacy – Australian Institute of Architects WA

Thank you Australian Institute of Architects [WA] for providing much needed advocacy for our profession, providing insight to the Government on stimulus measures needed to help WA recover. Grateful to be a part of the team and many thanks to Pete Hobbs and Beata Davey for preparing the submission.

There are many people providing ideas to the Government on what is needed, the construction industry will obviously be one of the best placed industries in WA (and Australia) to assist with this. In a development life cycle, Architects and the Consultant team often feel the effect of a construction industry slowdown first, it is vital that we implement capital works stimulus packages now, so they are shovel ready when we get through the period of economic slow down.

Key points from the submission are below, a link to the full letter is here – Australian Institute of Architects WA – Letter to the Premier

1. Construction sites need to remain classified as essential services to ensure construction drives jobs and businesses

2. Buy Local policies – we need to employ local businesses (based in WA) to design, manufacture and build any new stimulus projects. Keep the money circulating here.

3. Re-implement the 2012 BMW Architectural Panel over the more recent 2019 Panel for any BMW stimulus projects, as the latter was substantially reduced in number by about 70% of approved Consultants from the previous (due to a reduced number of projects available at the time), which will greatly increase the number of pre-qualified practices to participate in any stimulus package.

 

We need to employ local businesses to design, manufacture and build any new stimulus projects. Keep the money circulating here.

 

1. As an industry, we must have agreed consultant fee scales implemented. With WA having experienced a serious economic downturn for some years, consultant fees have been driven down to unprecedented low rates, leading to poor construction procurement outcomes and risk adverse practices, often costing projects far more due to construction variations. Further fee bidding in this fragile economy will only result in poorer outcomes in terms of project cost, delivery and quality as practices struggle to stay afloat. It is essential for the government to put a floor under fees for consultants in the construction industry that ensures value for money while maintaining quality.

Mandate consultant fee scales to ensure better project outcomes. Stop the fee bidding war in this fragile economy – it only leads to higher project construction cost, project delays, poor procurement practices. It is a false economy.

 

1. Fast Tracking Planning Approvals Many projects are being held up with Design Review and JDAP processes. Review the current Planning Approval process to cut red and green tape, and use the Design Review process for sensitive sites. Use of Registered Architects to self-certify Planning Approvals where they are below a $5M threshold and meet all town planning. There is also opportunity for large scale planning reform through the creation of local government stimulus packages through the creation of community projects (such as Rossiter Pavilion), and large scale redevelopment sites around under utilised land parcels, such as around existing train stations.

2. The implementation of stimulus packages through Affordable Housing packages and upgrades to Schools, through maintenance and capital works programmes – with a focus on sustainable initiatives to help lower running costs, improve learning and living outcomes and reduce our carbon footprint. ArchitectureAU published a great article yesterday on why social housing should come first in any stimulus package – ArchitectureAU – Why the focus of stimulus plans has to be construction that puts social housing first

 

Affordable housing and education stimulus projects, with a focus on sustainable initiatives

 

1. Reduction of fees and taxes for a period of time (6 months) that cause additional costs to a project upfront and slow down the development and sales process, including foreign buyer surcharge, development and building permit application fees, reduce land tax and local government rate relief.

2. Extend the 75% stamp duty rebate to all apartments sold including off the plan and those under construction (by stage) and give certainty on the eligibility for buyers.

3. Lastly, but certainly not the least important – Support for business during Covid-19 lockdown. New capital work projects take time to design, document and to receive approvals before commencing on site. There is an opportunity for government capital works stimulus packages to be prepared (through the isolation period) by the teams of required consultants and project managers, ready to commence construction onsite within a condensed time frame of six months. Architects often feel the effect of a construction industry slowdown first, this will provide stimulus to the many consultants that need it now, and assist the recovery of the construction industry on site as many projects under construction are completed in the coming months. Many private industry projects that will be shovel ready may not proceed due to bank or investor issues, creating issues for the industry in the months and years to come.

 

Architects and Consultants feel the effect of a construction industry slowdown first, it is vital that we implement capital works stimulus packages now, so they are shovel ready when we get through the period of economic slow down.

 

Now the question many of you may have – how can I ensure these ideas become reality, or some of my ideas are considered? Speak to your local MP, provide your ideas to the Australian Institute of Architects, Property Council, UDIA or any other industry advocacy group. Make your ideas count so we can come out a stronger State and Country on the other side of this pandemic. Australia is such a lucky country, and out of adversity this brings opportunity to drive systemic change and improvements for our industry.