Scroll Top

Interview with Stephanie Nitschke, ABC Riverland


Event: Interview with Stephanie Nitschke, ABC Riverland
Date: 13 February 2024, 8.55am ACDT
Speakers: Denita Wawn, CEO Master Builders Australia
Topics: Regional housing, labour shortages, Federal Budget, Housing Accord

Emma Pedler, host ABC Eyre Peninsula: Well, speaking about this regional housing shortage and a housing shortage right around the country. You probably know someone trying to get into a new home or rental. It seems like every time you open Facebook, there’s a new call out; ‘I’m moving to town, I need a house.’ or ‘a rental has been sold, has anyone got a four bedroom free from next month?’ The regional housing shortage is happening everywhere and with Parliament back in session, so too were the meetings to try and fix some issues. The National Regional Housing Summit was held in Canberra on Friday and they identified a few issues and potentially a few solutions. Our colleague Steph Nitschke asked Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia, what was being discussed and what the answers were.

Denita Wawn, chief executive Master Builders Australia: Well, we had a really good cross-section of local government representation, industry, Regional Australia Institute, as well as the Real Estate Institute and ourselves, the Master Builders. We jointly hosted it. So we had our own representatives from around the country and we also had a few politicians popping in as well. Over 200 people, as well as I think about 100-odd online. It was a fantastic day to discuss some really critical issues for our region.

Stephanie Nitschke, host ABC Riverland: What were some of the main issues identified; the the obstacles we’re facing here?

Denita: Well, we know they are large and it’s slightly dependent on where you are located. But there’s some really fundamentals, we simply don’t have our build-ready land, which seems quite incredulous to think in the regions we don’t have adequate supply of land. But it’s got to be build-ready and that means we need critical infrastructure, sewerage, water, electricity, roads, footpaths, and of course, the social infrastructure that goes around it. We’re putting too much pressure on our local governments to actually deliver in new infrastructure or upgrade existing infrastructure if you’re looking to go up rather than out in our our cities.

Stephanie: Tough things to tackle. Did you sort of find a way through some solutions to some of these issues or some discussion around that?

Denita: Well, I think the interesting thing is that we’re all in massive agreement about what the solutions are and the solutions have been sitting there for a long, long time in terms of how we resolve things. We’ve got to get that infrastructure right. We’ve got to ensure that we have enough resource capacity in our local governments to get planning and development approved. And of course, we need people to build. So the solutions are well known. The question is, are we going to have effective collaboration to get it actually underway? National cabinet has agreed, and that is all three levels of government, to get these supply issues resolved. And I think the big focus on Friday was everyone saying get on with it. Please, government, just get on with it.

Stephanie: We’re hearing about regional housing. We’ve been hearing about it for a while. Do you feel that things are changing quickly enough? Are we heading in the right direction, to kind of find a way through this problem?

Denita: I think the simple but depressing answer is no, we’re not. The government has got a Housing Accord to build one million to 1.2 million homes over five years starting 1 July this year. The time clock starts in less than six months and we’re saying to governments, we have to get these number of houses built because simply we’ll have a worse housing crisis in five years’ time. So, we’re putting collectively, huge pressure on governments to get things in order. We’ve seen some things happen in pockets. But simply not enough. So a concerted effort and that the biggest issue at the moment unfortunately is people, people for local government, people for the building industry. And of course, what do people need? They need more homes. So we’ve got a bit of a chicken and egg situation as well that we need to resolve.

Stephanie: Finally, I know that Master Builders Australia has made a pre-budget submission to the Federal Government. Obviously, some important things in there, Denita, you can you give us an idea?

Denita: Well, the first big one is about people, and it’s a situation upon which we need more funding for training of apprentices. We simply do not have enough people, particularly tradespeople in our sector. We also need to bump up skilled migration in trades as well to add the additional people that we made. We also need more support for local government, financially. The government has committed $500 million for this financial year for local governments, in terms of these housing shortages, we say it should be  reoccurring funding. I think the other big issue is just making sure that governments are actually working collaboratively together as well where they might be helping around their their area, but not helping in another. So that was our big message, a holistic approach to policy development and funding development.

Emma: We’ll have to see what that looks like and if it can help things out in the short term, which I know is at the forefront of many of your minds. That’s Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia with my colleague Steph Nitschke.

Media contact:
Dee Zegarac
National Director, Media & Public Affairs
0400 493 071

Sign up to our news and media mailing list.