Minister of Housing and Urban Development Phil Twyford today announced a new Ministry will be set up to help the Government deliver on its priorities of making housing more affordable and our cities more liveable.
Perishables and e-commerce remain key growth sectors for the Australasia trade as the demand for fresh produce, seafood and meat in Asia continue to drive volumes out of Australia and New Zealand, while inbound e-commerce continues its unabated growth, writes Donald Urquhart in AirCargo week.
Top notch model creation . . . There have been a few additional surfacing tools added to Inventor since the 2016 release... but this class by Paul Munford is epic! If you want to learn more about how to create top notch surface models in Autodesk Inventor make sure you take the time to watch this.
On May 12, the first Silk Road train exclusively destined for Antwerp has arrived.
The freight train, which had left the Chinese port of Tangshan on 26 April, was officially welcomed in the port of Antwerp. This direct railway link between China and Antwerp is part of the transnational Chinese ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, with which China seeks to revive the trade routes of the old Silk Road from Asia to Europe.
‘Belt and Road Initiative’
The train is part of the 'Belt & Road Initiative' (BRI), the ambitious development programme of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The initiative provides for enhanced Eurasian connectivity through major infrastructure projects and restoration of the Silk Road, the historic trade route between Europe and the Far East which, in addition to the traditional maritime link, an efficient land bridge link.
First ever direct train from China to Antwerp
The train left the Chinese port of Tangshan on 26 April and travelled via the border crossing of Alashankou, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Poland and Germany to reach its final destination, the port of Antwerp, after 16 days and having covered a distance of 11,000 km. It is the fist ever direct train from China to Antwerp.
The service is an initiative of Tangshan City & Tangshan Port, in collaboration with the Chinese state-owned shipping company Cosco Shipping Lines and the Chinese Railways (CRCT).
The consignee is Cosco Shipping Belgium, which will ensure the forwarding to the end customers. The train is loaded with a total of 34 containers, containing industrial minerals for use in various industries and productions such as paper and ceramics, toothpaste and cosmetics. They are unloaded at Euroports, which will transport them to their bulk terminal for subsequent distribution in Europe.
Luc Arnouts, Director International Networks, Antwerp Port Authority:“This direct train link puts our port on the BRI map and will further strengthen our ties with China. We have long been working on this project, which represents an important milestone in our trade relations with China."
Marc Van Peel, port alderman, adds:“China is the fourth biggest partner country for Antwerp, with an annual traffic volume of nearly 14 million tonnes of goods. Antwerp is ideally located on both the maritime route and the rail route between Europe and China, and our port is perfectly capable of acting as a transhipment port for trade between China and Africa via rail link.”
Geert Gekiere, Managing Director Euroports Belgium:“We are proud and honoured to have the privilege of unloading and further handling the majority of the load of this first direct train between China and Antwerp. We encourage our customers to optimise their supply chain, which is why virtually all of our terminals support both road, rail and water connections. Transport from the Tangshan region via conventional container ships on average takes +35 days, but this train manages to do it in a record time of 16-20 days, and at relatively low costs."
The local Chinese government is planning to run a direct train to Antwerp once or twice per month. To this end, Tangshan City is striving for closer cooperation with the Port of Antwerp and intends to sign an MOU/Sisterhood Agreement with the City of Antwerp. CRCT (Chinese Railways) is currently investigating the feasibility of setting up a commercial office in Europe.
Robotic handling raises sawing productivity, Volker Bühler, group manager for robotics at German sawing machine and storage system manufacturer, Kasto, describes the widening choice of automation systems on offer to minimise labour costs and increase production output from the company's circular sawing and bandsawing machines. The production solutions are available in the UK and Ireland through the firm's subsidiary in Milton Keynes.
A self-cleaning surface that burns up bacteria and viruses holds plenty of commercial interest. The revolutionary anti-microbial coating being developed at Canterbury University causes microbes to sizzle up on contact with surfaces like buttons, knobs, handles and rails.
'No capacity' for KiwiBuild writes writes Alexia Russell for Newsroom. The viability over the Government's KiwiBuild scheme has been called into question by the building industry, which says there is just no capacity to do it.
The Chief Executive of New Zealand Certified Builders, Grant Florence, won't go as far as saying KiwiBuild is doomed to fail, but says it faces some massive challenges. They include the price of land for affordable housing, and the sheer lack of tradespeople to do the work.
Speaking from the organisation's 20th anniversary annual conference in Rotorua, Florence told Newsroom that builders throughout the country are booked up through to mid-2019, and there is further demand down the pipeline. Efforts to increase the number of trades apprentices have fallen flat - there has been no lift in numbers this year.
"The industry is definitely seeking more details (on KiwiBuild) right now - what resources are being put into this, how will it be priced, where will it be done, and at what pace?" Florence is sceptical about some of the short-cuts the Government has mentioned as aiding the scheme, such as pre-fabrication off-site, and doubts the attractiveness of large contracts will be enough to lure builders in, especially if it means lower margins.
"The key lever is addressing the price of land, which is 50 percent of the cost of housing - more in some places," he says. "Unless the Government is prepared to address that in some way or form then I can't see it working."
"I personally think we will struggle to do those things the Government is thinking. I think the industry right now is just asking for details on how and what KiwiBuild is and how it is going to be executed. There is a growing level of scepticism within the industry about its viability and whether it's actually likely.
"We are probably at peak capacity now. There is a lot of over-trading ... builders are trying to do too much.
"If and when KiwiBuild gets up and running, I think it will put huge pressure on the industry. If it were to come on tap tomorrow I doubt the industry could cope."
Florence says homeowners - both those planning renovations and new builds - are the ones who would be hit worst by sudden extra demand on the industry. "It comes back to the point Treasury made recently in the Budget. KiwiBuild work won't be in addition to local work being done now because of this constraint on resources."
Treasury has halved its forecast on the rate of progress on the housing policy, saying it now sees just $2.5 billion of KiwiBuild-induced additional residential investment over the next five years. In spite of that, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government still plans to build 100,000 affordable homes within a 10-year period. Housing Minister Phil Twyford lashed out at the "kids in Treasury" for the downgraded forecast - he's since had to apologise.
Florence says Twyford has quite rightly pointed to high-density housing as the answer, especially in Queenstown and Auckland. But he also has worries over Auckland's Unitec plans and the lack of detail being revealed. He says before the first hammer is swung there needs to be massive infrastructure improvements, including transport and water issues. "Building the houses is the easy bit," he says.
In terms of new apprentices coming into the workforce, the trend now is for older people who have already been to university taking up the tools. About 40 percent of those in the NZCB apprentice competition in Rotorua already had a degree.
Slightly more women are also turning to the trades, but Florence says there is plenty more room for that number to expand. It's thought anecdotally that the Government's fees-free policy may have backfired on apprentices, with school leavers who might have taken them up now heading to university. Tertiary institutes haven't yet been able to provide numbers on that. Florence says there's a need to work closer with schools to encourage people - especially women - to enter the industry. He'd also like to see some effort put into finding the 40 percent of apprentices who drop out after one year, to try and get them back into the fold.
In the meantime, any extra workers are going to have to come from overseas, and Florence is not just talking about hammer hands. He says quantity surveyors and engineers will likely come from Europe, and unskilled workers from Asia. He says we need workers from across all the trades. "We did it for Christchurch and we will have to do it again for KiwiBuild to go ahead," he says.
He can understand some of the outrage over the importing of nearly 200 Chinese workers to finish an Auckland hotel, especially when the labour is cheaper than can be sourced locally, but says we need to look at the problem on a macro basis. "If they want to build it, they are going to have to bring people in."
In the meantime the building industry wants more details on KiwiBuild plans.