Departing Accord co-chairs ‘hand over the keys’

Departing Accord Steering Group co-chair Chris Bunny was unwittingly ‘volunteered’ for the job by his fellow departing co-chair, Peter Reidy. The job became a passion project for them both.

Andrew Crisp with Chris Bunny at the ASG meeting

New co-chair Andrew Crisp with Chris Bunny, ASG meeting 5 August 2021

They are leaving their co-chair roles as the Accord moves to the new Transformation Plan 2022-2025. The new co-chairs are Andrew Crisp, CE of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and Tracey Ryan, New Zealand Managing Director of design, engineering and advisory company Aurecon.

Back in early 2019 the Accord was to be launched on an April Sunday in Manurewa, Auckland. Peter Reidy was Chief Executive of Fletcher Construction and newly appointed chair of the Accord Steering Group. Chris was MBIE Deputy Chief Executive of MBIE’s Building, Resources and Markets branch but he was unable to attend the event. Instead, MBIE Chief Executive Carolyn Tremain took his place. It was a fateful change, as Chris relates:

“Peter Reidy approached Carolyn at one point saying ‘look, for this next phase of the Accord I think a co-chair arrangement would be a good way to go about it’ and they agreed between themselves that Chris Bunny would be a perfect candidate, so avoiding a Sunday launch actually got me a job for a couple of years! I didn’t apply for it, but I’m delighted to have had the opportunity.”

Peter Reidy speaking at the launch event

Peter Reidy speaking at the launch event, with then-Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, April 2019

How do you feel about leaving (apart from elation)?

Chris: I think it is genuine mixed feelings. In one respect I’m pleased to be moving on – one responsibility fewer is welcomed – but it’s leaving something that I’ve really enjoyed being part of over the last few years. I was a little bit cynical at the outset, I wasn’t too sure if this thing would gain traction and then it did, it kind of exploded and became quite a thing, and it became my baby a little bit. It was something I was fiercely protective of and really wanted to see continue to do well, so yeah it does feel a little bit strange handing over the keys.

Peter: I’m very proud of what the industry has been able to build, because we have built a platform, and what is regarded as a very strong partnership as an ITP [Industry Transformation Plan] with government. I think what we’ve now got is a very solid group of industry leaders – private and public – who can actually make some stuff happen across the system.

What were the highlights of your time?

Peter: Definitely a highlight was realising we needed to come together – coming together for New Zealand’s growth. We basically brought the industry together and we spent the first meeting wondering why we were there, and some key players said ‘we don’t need each other, we’re fine’. After three months we realised actually there’s more power by being connected than by being apart, and that was a pretty powerful moment: we all said ‘right, let’s drive this forward.’

Another highlight was what was done in the very early Covid environment like developing construction health and safety protocols for Alert Levels 3 and 4. That was very powerful. And the other highlight for me would be the Ministers. I’ve really been impressed with their deep engagement and interest when we bring them together. They see the Accord now as the hub, the place to go to, to discuss and understand issues in the construction sector. It’s a very connected hub where the govt can actually get a very good insight on what’s happening.

Chris: I think the way that the Steering Group who were largely all strangers to each other really came together and really bought into a common purpose. Some of the work through the initial phases of Covid – I doubt that would have occurred had it not been for the Accord being in place –and the fact that most of the tasks of the first Transformation Plan will be complete, which is quite remarkable when you think of all the disruption that we’ve had over the last couple of years.

What do you wish you could do again?

Chris: I think it probably would be just recognising that the people we placed quite high expectations on have busy day jobs, so maybe we could have been a little bit more deliberate about making sure we weren’t overburdening them and/or giving them time to do both sides of both the Accord and their day jobs, as they should.

Peter: Covid forced us to focus on mandatory safety protocols for the sector and this was universally seen as a success as the various parties came together to solve a problem for New Zealand. I do wish that we were able to bring that same intensity and industry-wide approach to help the various parts of the sector address issues relevant to them. The other thing is that the first phase of the Accord tackled the big rocks that may have been more acute for the larger infrastructure and commercial builders and asset owners. I look forward to seeing the Accord better support the residential and tier 2 and 3 commercial building market.

How much progress has been made?

Chris: I think progress has been outstanding on two fronts: first, the vast majority of the initial Transformation Plan has been delivered within the intended time period. That is quite remarkable given the disruption over the past couple of years through Covid. Just as importantly though, it’s set a foundation for a way of working between govt and industry that hasn’t existed certainly in my time around the construction sector and I think that foundation just offers so much potential to kick on and do even greater things in the future.

Peter: We’ve been looking in the rear vision mirror for a while. Now we’ve got a strong road map so that’s a fair bit of progress in three years. There is momentum there and the industry now needs to grab it and bring the whole sector together across vertical construction, the SME/residential market and the high-end civil market. So we were a start-up and now it’s in the growth phase, and I’m looking forward to seeing what people can do in the growth phase.

How much is still to be done?

Peter: There’s a lot to do around workforce planning, innovation, new technology, offsite manufacturing, and prototyping new ideas on government projects, to bring smarts, to bring efficiency, bring technology and development that can reduce carbon emissions.

And what can we do to make it seen as a very attractive sector, because it’s not an attractive sector. If you’re a mum or dad at home with kids you’re not going to be able to get there at 7am. It’s working Saturday mornings, and it’s a tough environment. It can be a bit male-orientated, so the big issues are getting more diversity of gender, of ethnicity, more inclusion, the right workforce skills, and technologies driving the carbon strategies so that our sector is relevant for the future. And that’s why I think the Accord’s got a really beautiful role in pivoting towards thinking about the development of the sector, as opposed to fixing issues in the sector.

Chris: There’s a huge amount to do. There are some fundamental challenges that we just need to get better at. We need better productivity. We need to value our people. We need to embrace technology. We need to reduce carbon emissions. These are challenges and opportunities that will be with us for quite some time and it’s great to have an Accord that can continue to invest time and effort and get the focus on these things.

Advice for the new co-chairs?

Chris: I think the mood of the room, the mood of the sector is all there. Probably they need to be a little bit more disciplined than I was on the ‘how’. We were very good at identifying what needs to be done, so I think planning out the ‘how are we going to do it’ a little bit more deliberately would serve them well, but I know for a fact they’re going to be tremendously successful.

Peter: Continue to bring an end-to-end, systems perspective to the table and focus on things that will make a difference because you can really get side-tracked. What are the four or five things that will make a difference to the sector going forward? It’s certainly skills development; it’s certainly construction’s role in decarbonisation; it’s certainly disciplined procurement and risk allocation; it’s diversity and inclusiveness of people in the sector; it’s getting the sector to work closely to share ideas and share learning, and that’s the good thing about TP25 it’s got this learning element to it, so we become a learning industry, so we don’t repeat mistakes – we share those learnings across the sector.

Last updated: 30 June 2022