Construction work will be able to restart in Greater Sydney outside of eight local government areas from midnight on Saturday night as the NSW Government partially reopens its building sector despite extending its lockdown for eight weeks.
But almost 70,000 construction workers who live within the eight LGAs will remain subject to stay-at -home orders.
Furthermore, sites which do reopen will need to have a COVID Safety Plan and will need to follow new COVID safe practices (refer article)
On Wednesday, the NSW Government announced that current stay-at-home orders in Greater Sydney and surrounds will remain in place for another four weeks.
The government also added the Parramatta, Campbelltown and Georges River LGAs to its Authorised Worker Order regime.
This brings the number of LGAs which are subject to this regime to eight. These include Fairfield, Blacktown, Cumberland, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Parramatta and Georges River.
Workers who live within these areas may only leave their LGAs for work purposes if they are authorised workers.
These includes certain specific workers in areas of retail, admin/support, public administration and safety, healthcare/social assistance, education, agriculture, manufacturing, transport/warehousing, electricity/gas/water/waste, ICT, financial services and other services (refer link above).
Construction workers are not included.
But the government has announced a partial reopening of construction sites.
Under these arrangements, from midnight on Saturday July 31:
- Construction work remains closed in the eight LGAs above which have high COVID spread.
- Construction workers who live in aforementioned LGAs are not authorised workers and thus remain subject to stay at home orders. This will affect more than 70,000 workers.
- However, businesses in those LGAs which are part of the construction supply chain will be permitted to operate. 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, plant and components.
- Outside these areas, construction work will be allowed in non-occupied settings subject to a density of one person per four square meters.
- All construction and trade businesses operating in Greater Sydney on premises which are not occupied must have a COVID Safety plan
- Outside aforementioned LGAs, builders and tradespeople can also resume work in occupied settings including residential homes provided that residents are able to vacate the relevant areas and there is no contact between workers and residents. Limits of two workers will apply to indoor settings whilst limits of five workers will apply to outdoor settings.
- To make up for time lost, worksites will be able to operate on Saturday and Sunday for the remainder of the year up until Christmas.
- A defined list of preparatory works may commence on worksites from tomorrow to enable sites to reopen safely, with limited workforces on site to ensure COVID safe measures are in place, that equipment and plant can be restarted safely and that all utilities are in order.
In a statement, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the construction industry was vital to the State’s economy and reopening the industry safely was crucial to keeping hundreds of thousands of people in jobs.
He praised the industry for working with the government to create a plan which will enable to sector to reopen safely.
“Getting workers back on the tools as soon as possible has always been our priority, but we need to ensure it is done as safely as possible to protect both workers and the community,” he said.
“The construction COVID-19 safety plan builds on the COVID safe measures already in place at many worksites, but we’re now applying that consistently right across the sector.
“We have worked with the industry over the past two weeks to get the right outcome and I would like to thank the sector for their constructive engagement. I would also like to acknowledge the willingness of the industry to take the lead in trials in the application of Rapid Antigen Testing and local vaccination services at sites, consistent with guidance from NSW Health.”
Building industry lobby groups welcomed the move but cautioned that the industry faced hurdles as tens of thousands of workers within the eight LGAs remained subject to stay at home orders.
In an analysis, the NSW division of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA NSW) revealed that 68,303 workers lived within the LGAs which remain subject to the orders – a number which is equivalent to 42 percent of the Greater Sydney construction workforce.
“This will cause significant delays in housing and infrastructure and continue to damage the economy,” UDIA NSW CEO Steve Mann said.
“The supply chain for construction extends 2.7 times into business and this will add to the challenges to operate construction productively.
“We now need to find a way to get the workers in these LGAs back onsite in a COVID safe way. UDIA is calling for all construction workers who are fully vaccinated to be allowed to leave the restricted LGAs for work and for sites within the affected LGAs to be re-opened where all workers on site are fully vaccinated.
“We are pleased that NSW Health and the NSW Government has the confidence in our industry for us to reopen without causing any negative impact to the health and wellbeing of the workers or the community.“
Speaking of the broader lockdown, NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the additional time is needed to enable NSW to suppress the outbreak and to increase the uptake of vaccines in areas which have been most impacted by the current outbreak.
Berejiklian said higher vaccination rates and following the health orders are the only way to guarantee the further easing of restrictions.
“Though the Pfizer supply is insufficient there is plenty of AstraZeneca, and updated federal health advice recommends anyone aged 18 and over in Greater Sydney should access the jab,” Berejiklian said.
“If you are unvaccinated, please organise a jab as soon as you possibly can, especially if you live in an LGA of concern.”
Hazzard acknowledged that the stay-at-home restrictions are difficult but stressed that this is a critical time if the state is to suppress the outbreak.
“The vast majority of the community has been absolutely fantastic to date and have followed the public health advice,” Hazzard said.
“Though we are easing some restrictions today we need people to redouble their efforts as we continue to battle the Delta variant in the coming weeks.”
“We need people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary to leave and the best reason for most people to leave home right now is to get vaccinated. In doing so, you are taking a vital step to protect yourself, your loved ones and the community.”
The latest COVID-19 information for NSW can be found here.