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Builders fear stage four restrictions will halt home construction

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Seventeen townhouses in Mooroolbark were supposed to be finished within weeks, with only their internal fit-outs left to complete.

“Now it will go beyond [deadline],” Mr Bavadiya said.

Most of those townhouses have already been sold, meaning their buyers may have to remain in rentals, and loans may have to be extended.

On Wednesday, Mr Bavadiya was still trying to confirm whether the five-person rule applied per townhouse or per construction site.

Michael Ryan from Marbuilt Builders said he would be able to manage the five-person rule and was thankful that construction had continued in some form while the pandemic gutters the economy.

But he said his business would be forced to shut down within 10 days if staff could not work at multiple job sites for the next six weeks.

“If that’s the case, it makes it extremely difficult to keep working,” Mr Ryan said. It might be easier, he suggested, to just “rip the Band-Aid off and shut down altogether” until mid-September.

“If you look at plumbers or electricians, glaziers, tilers or corkers, their scope of work on a construction site is only one to three days max,” he said. “They’re going to be impacted the greatest.”

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Mr Ryan said he understood the need for a partial shutdown, but argued the government had to get the balance right.

The Master Builders Association has been seeking clarification from the state government before the new rulestake effect at 11.59pm on Friday.

“We are actively working with the state government to clarify the intent behind the rules relating to movement between sites,” the industry group’s Victorian CEO, Rebecca Casson, said on Wednesday.

“If these directives aren’t properly thought through and applied, most of the building and construction industry will shut down within days.”

The association has estimated that stepping down construction for the next six weeks could cost the industry more than $450 million a day, given it accounts for 300,000 workers and 13 per cent of the state economy.

Amy Muir, the outgoing president of the Australian Institute of Architects in Victoria, said some projects may have to halt completely if architects are forced to stay off site.

She said it was possible, but certainly not ideal, to do virtual tours of a work site.

“It comes with its pitfalls and complications,” Ms Muir said. “It limits our ability to assess progress holistically which ultimately will impact the safety and quality of the built outcomes.”

“In order to fulfil our obligations as architects we need to be able to attend site in order to observe construction, monitor the progress and review the quality and safety aspects of the build.”

Ms Muir, who practices through Muir Architects, said architects needed to visit work sites to certify progress.

“This critically impacts the cash flow for contractors but more broadly subcontractors, suppliers and consultants,” she said.

A government spokeswoman said consultations with the industry were continuing.

“We’re asking Victorian businesses and workers to make some big sacrifices – but the alternative is six months of continued disruption and unacceptably high case numbers,” she said.

“We are continuing to consult with industry, workers’ representatives and stakeholders on the impact of the stage four restrictions.”

Contact tracing measures will also be required as part of the mandated COVID-19 safety plans.

Large construction sites and projects with more than three storeys (including the basement) must limit workers to 25 per cent of the normal number of employees allowed on site, confine all workers and contractors to the one site and demonstrate there are no crossover or blended shifts.

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