Changes to Sydney construction ban

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By Aaron Gadiel, Partner

The NSW government yesterday (28 July 2021) announced that it will lift the ‘pause’ on construction activity in ‘Greater Sydney’ in all but eight local government areas. Construction sites will now have to have a COVID-19 safety plan.

The pause was introduced on 19 July 2021 and was due to end at the beginning of this Saturday (31 July 2021).  The details of the original ‘pause’ are set out in a Mills Oakley article here.

The NSW government’s announcement foreshadowed a series of changes to public health orders.  The government says that the general lock-down situation in ‘Greater Sydney’ will continue until Saturday, 28 August 2021 at 12.01am.

The government says a ban on construction will continue to apply to the Parramatta, Campbelltown, Georges River, Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Blacktown and Cumberland local government areas.

However, the relevant public health order — the Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Order 2021 — has not yet been amended to give effect to this more prolonged ‘pause’.

This article concerns itself with two orders that were published last night (28 July 2021).  These are:

  • the Public Health (COVID-19 Temporary Movement and Gathering Restrictions) Amendment (No 16) Order 2021; and
  • the Public Health (COVID-19 Gathering Restrictions) Order (No 2) Amendment Order (No 3) 2021.

These orders do two things.

Firstly, from the beginning of today (29 July 2021), work required to prepare for the commencement (or recommencement) of construction work on a construction site may take place on construction sites.  This does not apply to construction sites within any of the eight local government areas listed above.

‘Preparation’ includes the following work:

  • checking or maintaining installations or equipment;
  • cleaning, waste removal or waste management;
  • stocktaking or restocking;
  • delivery of materials or equipment;
  • servicing or installation of amenities;
  • relocation on the construction site of plant or equipment;
  • issuing permits or certificates;
  • establishing arrangements or procedures to help protect persons from COVID-19;
  • erecting fencing or hoarding;
  • inspections;
  • removing water;
  • connecting power, fuel or services;
  • safety work;
  • surveying or marking out; and
  • training required to be carried out on the construction site.

Secondly, from the beginning of this Saturday (31 July 2021), the occupiers of construction sites are required to develop and comply with a ‘COVID-19 Safety Plan’.

This plan must address the matters required by the approved COVID-19 safety checklist ‘Construction sites in Greater Sydney’.

The NSW Government has created a webpage to assist builders in preparing a COVID-19 safety plan.  It is here.

The COVID-19 safety plan must be kept at the construction site and be made available by authorised government officials or police officers on request.

It remains a criminal offence under the Public Health Act 2010 for individuals or corporations to breach the public health orders.  Individuals face a penalty of imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to $11,000 (or both), plus a further $5,500 fine each day the offence continues.  Corporations may be fined up to $55,000 and $27,500 each day the offence continues.  On-the-spot fines can also be issued for violations — $1,000 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations.

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