The Eye of the Fish

Leviathan
April 9, 2020

Construction is an Essential Service

For those of us in the business, there is no doubt about this: construction work is an Essential service. Trouble is, at present, it is not being recognised as one by the otherwise excellent Government lockdown. Let’s look at what are classified as essential services at present:

Hospital workers – doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, etc – yes yes and yes. We all need to live and owe our lives to these brave folk.

Supermarket workers – yes, we all need to eat and drink.

Transport workers – yes, we need the logistics supply chains replenished for all.

Food delivery / click and collect / courier services / NZ Post etc – a blurry edge condition if you ask me, but it makes sense.

Alcohol sales – dodgy reasoning there really.

Accommodation and housing – a bit strange, as most of the hotels and motels appear to be closed, but makes some sense.

Pets and animal welfare – vets? Vets are essential? Really?

Online selling of washing machines and vacuum cleaners and new computers etc – hardly essential, but arguable: yes.

Plumbers, electricians, and other emergency construction repairs.

Some of these look logical under lockdown level 4 but some others of these: not so much. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and say, OK to all, even those useless vets and sellers of booze. But what about level 3 when it comes at the end of April? Like everyone else, the Fish is wondering how the move from 4 to 3 is going to proceed, and who will be allowed to change. Not all, that’s for sure. Matamata and Bluff are likely, i’m guessing, are likely to stay more tightly locked up than, say, Gisborne.

There is a strong argument that certain elements of Construction should also be considered as Essential – certainly more than Vets or Booze barns. Let’s remember that the purpose of the total lockdown is to avoid human to human mixing, to eliminate the disease by eliminating hand touching and sneezing, coughing on others, kissing friends or hongi, and retaining that 2m exclusion zone. What better way of achieving this than by certain forms of construction equipment?

On the Transmission Gully, near us here in Wellington, there are thousands of workers – and I’ve never seen any of them touching. They’re all driving round in white Toyota Hilux utes (not actually sure what they do, but it is clearly very important, as there is a lot of it going on). There are also others driving big yellow diggers, big red cranes, long green graders and scrapers, humungous great big Kenworths hauling trailers full of dirt, and tiny little, ummm, no, nothing is tiny. Its all big. And its all solo. No hand-holding, no hongi, no kissing that i can see, and large steel machines that are driven by only one person, and filled up with diesel, itself a process involving only one person. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t free up the road-building teams, nation-wide, to get back to work. And what better time to do work on the roads, than when there is absolutely no-one on them? (Similarly: rebuild Auckland Airport’s runway NOW!!! Heck – that’s only logical !! Quickset concrete, poured at night if needed – but do it now ! ).

Similarly on a much smaller scale: just as us architects are beavering away in individual bedrooms and living rooms in our brand new one person offices, there are a lot of builders who normally work alone, or with just one builder’s mate. I would think that it is not hard to make sure that a team of one or two could continue to work on, in level 3. Certainly having two builders working on a house is less dangerous than going to the supermarket – I went yesterday, and although all measures were in place, I still came into contact with about 10 different people. How to make Building safe? Ban collective smoko rooms for now. Hand sanitiser or mandatory gloves on site. Don’t share hammers or power tools. Every decent builder has their own tools anyway. We could do this tomorrow if we wanted – I know our builders are ready and raring to go.

We can do this Jacinda. We can. Building is Essential.

And one last thing – for no particular reason other than it is topical, this:

Leviathan
9 - 04 - 20

And tonight…. they’ve said that greenskeepers for golf courses are now Essential workers. Ridiculous.

60 MPa
10 - 04 - 20

Vets support the farming industry, you will find that rural supplies people, rural contractors, fert spreaders, etc are all still working

Leviathan
10 - 04 - 20

Ah, yes, OK. So basically, the rural sector is not locked down, just the townies? What do you think about Construction 60 – reckon it could be relaxed?

60 MPa
10 - 04 - 20

Farming is all go now, your points re Transmission Gully will all be amplified and pressed upon govt and I would expect to see outdoor construction start back up ASAP
Shift changes and distancing means that many in the Construction sector could be safely back to work tomorrow, it is about the trace and contain phase at the moment

This may be the death knell for open plan offices? One can only hope

greenwelly
10 - 04 - 20

@60Mpa, Its certainly gonna kill off hot desking for the foreseeable future,

Leviathan
10 - 04 - 20

ooooh yeah. The thought of sharing a square metre of desktop never had much appeal for me in the past – even less so in the future!

Julian
11 - 04 - 20

I think city vets are only dealing with emergencies. I would prefer to see animals in pain being looked after properly, more so than for some particlar humans. But that’s a sidetrack on your otherwise totally-accurate article, outdoor construction work can probably continue. It apparently is where works are necessary for essential services – you don’t see water leaks being left unattended in Wellington (any more than usual anyway) – and the rules allow that. But other outdoor works should also continue, especially on identified major projects, for the reasons you state.

KLK
11 - 04 - 20

Where I am (overseas at the moment) we are 3wks into lockdown and yesterday announced an extension of 2wks.

To this point its been just essential services operating, similar to the list above. Restaurants have been able to operate for takeaway and delivery, which looks different. But absolutely no venturing outside, only to get essentials and then one person per car.

In conjunction with the extension, the list of esseniatl services has been broadened. That now includes construction. And hairdresses.

Seamonkey Madness
14 - 04 - 20

Hairdressers?! Why would hairdressers be considered essential to the economic engine of a country?

60 MPa
14 - 04 - 20

As there are more women in power now and as many of those women dye their hair, grey roots are a greater problem during this lockdown
Whether or not blokes agree, many women consider the ol’ warpaint to be essential

Does anyone have numbers on how much money gets spent in the country on hair/nails/spa treatments/makeup (ie the feminine dollar)?

I bet it’s a lot

Leviathan
15 - 04 - 20

Yes, I agree that for many people the thought of an unshaven chin or an unbleached root may be the end of the world, but seriously – there must be few jobs which are as ridiculously exposed to possibility of Covid transmission as a barber. All that breathing in the face of someone else, the physical contact between two human bodies, the multiple partners in one day, not to mention the inane conversations about what someone did on their last holidays… hairdressers would be the very last occupation to be lifted from a lockdown if i had my way.

I’ve not seen anyone using gloves, a face shield or a mask when chopping hair – surely, it doesn’t take much of a brain cell to realise that this is one of the more high risk and yet low value occupations.

KLK
17 - 04 - 20

Not long after I posted, the decision on hairdressers/barbers was rescinded and they remain closed.

You’ll be happy/disappointed, depending on your point of view….DIY shops are allowed open though.

Leviathan
17 - 04 - 20

KLK – it seems to me that some governments are thinking with their heads left in Idle, rather than fully engaged. The Covid virus is, it seems, incredibly contagious, and is airborne, but can fall to the ground and remain there for hours or even days. So, people swimming or surfing is in NO WAY a danger to anyone except themselves. Going to the barber or hairdresser however is a TOTAL fuckfest of Virus party, namely staring into someone’s face, hair falling to the floor and getting all over the floor, breathing in their (potentially) toxic fumes – it is beyond comprehension to me that anyone could even argue it for a minute. Ban all Hairdressers forever as far as I am concerned – they are a pox on human kind and a total non-essential if ever there was one. I say loudly to all the people of the world: Grab a pair of scissors and cut your own bloody hair!