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Contractor (September 2014) Consolidate Your Concrete Associations

09 Sep 2014

Rob Gaimster
Cement & Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ)

A myriad of industry associations currently occupy the cement and concrete 'space' in New Zealand. While their raison d'êtres are entirely justifiable in isolation, it is perhaps time to seriously consider a comprehensive programme of consolidation.

A DENSE CONCRETE MIX

There are currently at least six organisations which represent specific cement and concrete sector interests. At a time when globally there is amalgamation amongst concrete related industry associations, some stakeholders and industry leaders in New Zealand are questioning the effectiveness of our fragmented network.

The main protagonists at the moment are the Cement and Concrete Association of NZ, Precast NZ, the NZ Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the NZ Concrete Masonry Association, the NZ Portland Cement Association and the (learned) NZ Concrete Society.

Throw into the mix the NZ Master Concrete Placers Association, the Concrete Pumping Association of NZ, the NZ Concrete Tank Manufacturers Association and the NZ Concrete Sawing and Drilling Association, and it is literally standing room only.

CONFUSION & COMPETITION

It is unsurprising that this number of organisations creates a little blurriness in the minds of the engineering and architectural fraternities.

Whilst the associations are differentiated in terms of their target audiences, they have similar names and share a common goal in ensuring the optimum use of concrete - albeit for a defined sector.

Furthermore, each association competes for membership, sponsorship, event registrations, publication sales etc. in what is a small market. Is this sustainable over time?

A SINGLE CONSISTENT VOICE

If the industry wants to promote excellence in all things concrete, in an efficient and cost effective manner that reduces transaction costs and provides better value for all, it has to be done through a single organisation.

Such an organisation would have one consistent voice driving advocacy, education, training, information exchange, research and quality assurance, whilst serving engineers, architects and anyone with an interest in concrete.

It is also entirely possible for the NZ Concrete Society, a learned organisation with no commercial bias, to become the educational wing of the single entity.

SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE

Our concrete colleagues in South Africa are currently grappling with a similar scenario and have coined the term “Consolidution” - a concrete consolidation solution - to encapsulate their predicament.

'More of the same' is not considered an option for moving into the future, and the re-evaluation of the various organisations representing concrete interests in the built environment arena is being urged.

John Sheath, CEO of the Concrete Society of South Africa, has proposed that the meaningful and effective promotion of excellence in concrete be driven through a single organisation, driving activities across the board.

He envisages an all-inclusive, member-based body (company and individual), recognised as truly independent and impartial. One that would be built on its technical base to be the leading provider of information serving the needs of clients, architects, engineers, specifiers, suppliers, contractors and users of concrete, with emphasis on quality and service.

The cement and concrete industry in New Zealand will be closely monitoring developments in South Africa, as I suspect will the wider construction industry, which is more than well catered for in terms of advocacy and technical support organisations.

A SUSTAINABLE WAY FORWARD

To help challenge the status quo and encourage the concrete related industry associations to take up the gauntlet and work collaboratively to define a long-term and sustainable solution I will be presenting a paper titled An Aggregation of Associations, or 6 into 1 Does Go? at the 2014 NZ Concrete Conference in Wairakei 9-11 October.

No doubt opinions will be strong, and possibly divided, as the three “Ps” – patch protection, personality and politics, come into play.

However, a sustainable way forward is ultimately required, one that will help to ensure that the cement and concrete industry remains competitive.

Article appeared in Contractor magazine.