Regional Victorian construction workers blindsided by government ban

© Provided by ABC Health At midnight on Monday it was tools down for construction workers across Victorian locked-down areas. (ABC Ballarat: Jackson Peck)

Regional Victorian builders say they were blindsided by the government’s snap decision to shut down the construction industry for two weeks in locked-down areas of the state. 

Construction in metropolitan Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, the Surf Coast and Mitchell Shires was brought to a halt from midnight, after violent anti-vaccination protests took place across the Victorian capital’s CBD.

Tony D’Andrea, who owns a construction company in Seymour, in the Mitchell Shire, said the ban has caused shock waves through the industry locally. 

“The way that it was announced — and the timing of it — last night was frustrating,” he said.

Mr D’Andrea said the majority in the industry was complying with policies in place to keep workers safe and stop the spread of the virus across construction sites.

“We’ve all done the right thing. [We have] worn masks, QR coded into work, social-distanced and we still get punished for the actions of a minority,” he said.

“I’m frustrated beyond belief.”

He has received one dose of the COVID vaccination and is booked in for his second this week.

Build-time blowout

Mr D’Andrea previously worked in Melbourne but moved to regional Victoria and started his own business at the beginning of the pandemic when work in the city dried up.

“This is the first time I’ve actually had to stop completely,” he said.

“At the moment I have two clients that have either no toilet or no shower and I’m just trying to find information about whether I can go and get it done and not be fined.”

The two-week ban is expected to add an additional month onto construction time frames, according to the Director of Hearty Homes in Ballarat, Kevin Vaderkley.

He said build times have more than doubled as a result of COVID-related issues, with a typical five-month build now taking around 11 months to complete.

“We already have blowouts in build time frames due to delays in timber and materials and those sorts of things,” Mr Vaderkley said.

“We’ve got jobs that are waiting around 3 months for the timber frames to be completed.”

Grateful to still be working

Mr Vaderkley said the industry has been relatively lucky, managing to mostly stay open throughout the pandemic in regional areas.  

“We’ve been lucky that we haven’t been impacted greatly,” he said. 

“Everybody’s pretty keen to keep working where they can and not be locked down.”

He said it’s only a small minority of people in the town that share the view of the Melbourne protesters

“There are some scenarios where people are still breaking the rules but I guess that’s why the government is doing what it’s doing.”

Mr D’Andrea agreed. 

“What they’re doing isn’t going to achieve much. It’s probably going to make things worse,” he said.

Video: NSW Premier says cases will ‘go through the roof’ when state reopens (ABC NEWS)

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