RANZ Conference Report 2021

The best ever!

It’s a big call, but feedback from the delegates places Wellington 2021 at the very top of the pile, when it comes to RANZ Conferences. For those who missed it, here’s how it played out.

BY JOHN WILLIAMS - from RANZ's quarterly roofing industry magazine, Roll on Christchurch 2022! RoofLink- Spring 2021

Enthusiasm for this year’s conference was evident before it officially kicked off, with over 350 delegates registering to attend. This came as no surprise, to be fair, as we had all missed out on meeting up last year because of the pandemic. The traditional pre-conference gatherings were in full flow on the eve of the event, not only in the bar of the wonderfully adorned QT Arts Hotel – but also at a host of other venues throughout the nation’s capital… and it certainly was that night. The next morning, there were the traditional sore heads, but that didn’t curtail the obvious enthusiasm as everyone filed into the magnificent venue for our conference, Te Papa. What a building.

Following an opening mihi from RANZ Marketing Manager & Editor Stephanie Fill, delivered in both English and Te Reo at Te Papa’s busy tikanga team’s invitation, the reins were handed to the conference MC, award-winning journalist and TV news reporter, Jehan Casinader. Named Broadcast Reporter of the Year at the 2020 Voyager Media Awards, and Reporter of the Year at the 2018 New Zealand Television Awards, Casinader wasted no time in bringing up the issues surrounding mental health in the construction industry, relaying to the audience his own personal struggles, before introducing our first guest speaker Lance Burdett.

With 22 years of policing experience at the highest level, Burdett’s expertise is in communicating in challenging situations, including suicide intervention and predicting violent behaviour. His honest and forthright presentation was just what the audience needed to get them focused on what are critical issues currently affecting our industry. His speech was confronting, informative and, in parts, very funny. His words lifted the whole room and set the stage for what was to come. “Burnout won’t be fixed by putting a fruit bowl in the breakout room,” he said, before sending a personal invitation to everyone – “If you’re having issues. Reach out. I will help.” Lance’s session finished up with a Q&A session from the floor, brought to us via the handy Conference App, which allowed delegates to type in their questions, which were then relayed to the stage. This system worked so well throughout the two days – it was an absolute hit. And so was Lance, whose final message was, “go with your heart, not with your head, because that’s where the truth lies.” Ain’t that the truth. 

With Lance’s inspirational words still ringing in our ears, we broke for morning tea, before taking our seats once again for an address from the Minister of Building and Construction, and Public Housing, Hon. Poto Williams. The Minister proceeded to give us all a ‘policy statement’, touching on, amongst other topics, regulations and codes of ethics surrounding LBPs, blueprints for ethical practice, changes to complaints processes, legislations around contracts, and The Accord and climate change. It was a typical political speech – informative, but hardly earth-moving. Joining The Minister on the stage then came BRANZ CEO Chelydra Percy, who spoke passionately about sustainability and other issues facing the industry, all wrapped up in an analogy describing her personal journey of discovery, through scuba diving. Both then took to the ‘comfy’ seats beside the lectern for a round of questions from the floor. Some interesting questions certainly challenged both women – supply chain, calculating the cost of carbon, timber framing vs steel framing, the Licensed Building Practitioner (LBP) scheme and why are building costs so high in NZ compared to Australia? A good question to end the session.

Next, there was some light relief, where all the exhibitors from the trade show were presented with their plaques. Who would be awarded ‘best in show’, we would find that out the next day. COLORSTEEL’s GM of Sales & Marketing, Robin Davies was next up, who continued to talk on the themes brought about by our previous speakers – those of product supply and sustainability, particularly focusing on the whole lifecycle of steel, from how and where it is made right through to recycling.

Lunch on this first day of the conference was taken on the floor below in Te Papa, amid the Trade Expo, which featured 30 trade stands. The expo, as usual, ran concurrently with the presentations and provided a real buzz for all the delegates, showing off their latest products, technology – and also just being there for a good old catch up.

Following lunch we had an option of two sessions – for the number crunchers and those involved with the logistics side of the roofing industry, Melanie Morris presented an information workshop on how to find pathways to running your business smarter, not harder.

This session created lots of feedback from the attendees, with delegates swapping stories and advice. Those who were there certainly benefited from hearing the experiences of fellow business owners and admin staff.

Upstairs on the main stage, the audience were gaining some useful insights into topical issues surrounding ventilation, brought to us by speakers, Angela Foster (architect), Darran Lees and Rod Newbold, who discussed, amongst other topics the fact that around 50 percent of houses in New Zealand are still not ventilated adequately – a huge problem. Questions from the floor asked about the regional differences, concerning ventilation, and also what causes the most impact on moisture in the house –warm and humid, or cold and wet conditions?

Next on stage was Graham Burke, who is a member of the Construction Sector Accord Steering Group, Vice President of the Specialist Trade Contractors Federation, Board Member of Construction Health and Safety HZ (CHASNZ), amongst others.

The main topic of Burke’s presentation was the Construction Sector Accord’s accreditation initiative. As this is not completely finalised yet, this was an update on proceedings, talking about the goals of the initiative – increasing productivity, raising capability, improving resilience, and restoring confidence, pride and reputation; also about collaboration with other industry sectors and members. There was also a call out for members to support MATES in Construction to deliver progress across the country, and also addressing skills shortages through the Construction Skills Action Plan. All very insightful information for the members in the room.

Day One was rounded off with a trio of presenters – Neil Austin from Austinsure, and Rachel Conner and Sara Martin from Hazelton Law – who presented and answered questions on all things to do with contract law and liability. This turned out to be a popular session with the membership, with a dozen or more specific questions coming from the floor, to which the panel cordially provided feedback and advice.

Brimming with information and inspiration, the delegates shuffled out of the main hall and were given a two-hour turnaround to meet back at the same venue for the all-important red carpet COLORSTEEL Gala Dinner – with special entertainment from local legends, Weta Workshop. The atmosphere at the pre-drinks back at Te Papa was electric. Everyone was pumped following the inspirational presentations we’d all attended earlier in the day, as the mood now turned to celebration. Filing back into the same hall, it had been completely transformed with dozens of tables laid out in preparation for the feast ahead. As we all took our seats, a lone goblin – or was she an elf – skipped from table to table, foraging for food and generally causing a nuisance of herself (joking). It was fantastic to see the talents of Weta Workshop up close in real life. As we tucked into our first course, a transformation began on stage, changing one of Weta Workshop’s staffers into a Dwarf. By the time the main course arrived, the transformation was complete – and what a change! Delegates were then invited on stage to have pictures taken with this creature from another dimension. Following dessert – and a few more vinos – the crowds dispersed, to continue ‘networking’ at various hotspots around the city.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – not – most of us filed back into the hall early the next morning for a ‘full English’ courtesy of the COLORSTEEL Breakfast – NZ Women In Roofing Seminar. One person that wasn’t suffering from the effects of the night before was Jen Tyson from Switched-On Learning. At bang-on 8am, she danced onto the stage to give a rousing presentation, to a backdrop of clanking knives and forks on plates. A communications expert, by trade, she talked about the importance of profiling; of knowing the type of person you’re communicating with. Her favourite saying, she said, is “It’s not what we say, it’s how we say it.” “Replace frustration with fascination,” she went on to say. “Everyone’s perception is their reality.” Jen also gave us lessons in distracted listening versus active listening, and mindsets and attitudes. All very useful stuff that we should all be taking on board every day, as we talk with our colleagues, staff, and clients.

There was a bit of an unscheduled lull between Jen and the next tardy presenter, who came bounding, red-faced into the hall, fresh from a cross-Wellington bike ride – not the entrance you’d expect from one of the country’s leading financial journalists and economic commentators – a last-minute replacement due to cancellation for Chris Preston (LBP Board Chair). Giving himself barely time to catch his breath, Bernard Hickey leapt onto the stage and began an absolutely enthralling presentation on how he thinks the current government have fared so far, where all the money’s coming from, where it’s going, and how New Zealand has become the rock-star money printer of the world. “Will all this new cash be turned into inflation,” he asks. “No, because it’s all being stashed, not circulated. The world is awash with term deposits – New Zealanders are really cashed up. More than 20 percent of houses are now sold for cash – no mortgages,” he says. “We don’t have an economy, we have a housing market with bits tacked on,” he says. Hickey doesn’t think for a second that there will be a housing crash, predicting that it’s still got at least 10-15 percent to go. Nor does he think Tiwai Point will close – ever. ‘Green’ Aluminium is where it’s at, he says. Labour shortages are an issue, and they will be for some time to come. And with that, he was off the stage, out of the room, and back on his bike. What a great presentation!

Jon Harper-Slade, GM Health & Safety Innovation, and Chris Polaczuk, Programme Manager Economics, both from CHASNZ (Construction Health and Safety NZ), were next on stage for a safety forum. The bulk of this presentation was focused on trying to instil in roofers the need to look after their bodies by adopting the correct posture and body position when taking on common, repetitive tasks. With all the industry developments in height safety now well established, it seems that this is the next frontier for health and safety in roofing, according to the injury statistics presented on the screen.

Following a well-needed morning tea break, it was time to announce the hotly anticipated RANZ Awards for 2021, presented by RANZ President, Jenny Maxwell:
- Top Exhibitor Stand 2021: Fribesco
- Commercial Roof of the Year: Puhinui Station Interchange, by Project Unite Ltd., Hamilton.
- Residential Roof of the Year: The Damm House, Longacre Drive, Cashmere, by The Roofing Company Canterbury Ltd.
- Young Roofer Excellence Award: Jared Balvers from CS Roofing Canterbury Ltd.
- Trainee of the Year: Adam Godsall, Project Unite Ltd.
- Training Company of the Year: Topline Roofing (NZ) Ltd.
- And the supreme RANZ biennial accolade, the prestigious Roofing Excellence Award: Matthew McDougall (at the Roofing Company Canterbury Ltd.)

And so to the final act for 2021… A marvellous talk from one of our country’s favourite entrepreneurs and raconteurs, Sir Ian Taylor, who takes us on a very personal and, at times, amusing journey from his childhood growing up in rural Raupunga, all the way through his wide and varied media and entertainment career, up to today, where his company, Animation Research, now leads the world in on-screen computer graphics and 3D-visualisation, providing real-time scenarios for the likes of the golf’s PGA and the America’s Cup.

What an end to an incredible conference! All that was left was the closing address from RANZ President Jenny Maxwell, who thanked the sponsors, the organisers, and the rest of her Executive, and also the delegates for making this one of the most memorable conferences in a long time. As she left the stage, there were genuine tears in the room. It had been an inspiring conference, where the focus had been on looking after our people, and also about sustainability. Roll on Christchurch 2022!