Quarry sector looks to raise its profile
The quarrying sector is being virtually ignored by government and Aggregate and Quarry Association of New Zealand (AQA) chair Brian Roche is backing a united approach by industry to change the status quo.
He points to the industry’s failed attempt to put together a panel discussion of political leaders at this QuarryNZ annual conference in Auckland recently with economic development spokespeople invited from various parties.
Only economic development spokesperson for Labour, Stuart Nash, spoke at the conference.
“Quarrying is a big and important industry. But outside the quarry gates you’d hardly know it. We just don’t get the attention we deserve,” says Roche.
Roche says that it was in 2008 that the then AQA Board commissioned a document called Foundations for our Future.
The document called for a national strategy on developing aggregate supplies, a formal mechanism for industry liaison with Government, and for national and local government to provide for local aggregate resources in their long-term infrastructure, transport and resource management plans.
He noted there has been virtually no progress on the issues since current Government took office nine years ago.
Echoing a comment made by National MP Stephen Joyce about public perception of infrastructure Roche says: “If building is sexy and infrastructure is unsexy quarrying must seem hideous [to the public]. We need to change that perception.
We need to make the public aware that what we do affects so many aspects of their lives and that quarries are necessary for houses, buildings, roads, infrastructure. We do good work and add to our communities and the economy in so many ways.”
It’s been a call backed by several key industry figures for some time with Stevensons Group speaking out on the need for a single industry body rather than the disparate approach that presently exists to gain a unified approach with government on key issues.
At present AQA, Straterra, Mining Health and Safety Council and Coal Association represent the sector.
A proposal to eliminate industry organisations and combine them into one was tabled at a strategic review of the Mining/Extractives Health and Safety Council (MinEx) in mid-February by Stevenson Group which stated after a 12 month transition period it would only provide funds to a single extractive sector organisation.
Mark Franklin, managing director of Stevenson Group thinks politicians are not so much ignoring the industry as misunderstanding the importance of it, something he hopes a single industry body could address: “A l ot of politicians do catch up with the major [industry] players but I’m not sure the understanding of the industry as a whole is significant.
A single face that the extractives industry can project to the whole marketplace would bring a targeted approach as to the message of the industry and its importance,” he says.
Roche says with the amount of building and infrastructure projects needed to accommodate the growing population quarrying will play a key part but that presently the quarry industry is being held back by complicated resource consent procedures and changing public and government perception of the industry could go a long way to alleviating issues.
“If you think we’ve left the stone age behind you’d be wrong. The world has a massive appetite for stone and aggregate.
“It’s nice that Stephen Joyce increased the infrastructure spend but it won’t go very far without stone to put into it.
There needs to be a requirement for councils to make a plan for quarries to expand and new ones to open as we are going to need more aggregate and without it infrastructure and housing will come to a grinding halt.”
Roche says he is backing the creation of a single extractive sector so long as it serves the quarrying sector as well as mining.
“We need to go with the times and consolidate so we can get a profile and get in front of the politicians with one voice. At the moment we have smaller under funded groups doing good things but it’s challenging.”
Mark Franklin says that a number of major industry players representing some of the largest companies working in the sector are funding an independent review of the current industry structure, which is currently underway.
He expects the results to be ready in September.
“There is a genuine understanding that a review of the whole structure and how things work at the moment needs to happen. We need to find out what we really need and how to get there.”