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The policy of the Works Depa: ment in preparing large blocks land for State housing is likely come under review now that Mr : for M ea i C K en, Govera ment memb for Maryborough, has been appoint. Parliamentary Under-Secretary the Minister of Works. For son time it has been apparent that tl housing section of the Departmei (which should not be confused wil the Housing Branch responsible f< actual construction of homes) hi been fignting a retreating or delayir action. Over the past few months lart numbers of men who had becorr specialists in road construction, kerl Hig and sewer and drain laying fc State housing schemes, have bee transferred to Karapiro, the navi base, and other Works Departmei enterprises. Also, the services < other men were dispensed with th week, with the intimation that thei ■was no other State housing work fc them. % Little now remains but the sta nucleus of an organisation, built u over some years, which until a fei months ago employed large numbei of men in preparing such large area for State housing at Orakei, Orangi Stewart, Smith-Hipwell, Nelson, an others. The change is due to a policy of competitive tendering. High Preparation Costs It is no secret that costs of gettin; some land ready for State houses i: Auckland have been high. There ar several factors bearing on this; per haps the most important being tha the class of country dealt with ha taken a heavy toll of machinerj ■ Much of the land is shot througl with rock. Sewers, drains and road have had to be blasted out. Bull dozers used to wrench and swee] out rocks loosened by explosives depreciated sadly and have neede< frequent overhauls and repairs Navvy excavators suffered in i similar way. Costs of replacements and repairs of such high-powere( Diesel machinery are very heavy. But that is not the only cost. Wher a machine breaks down, even for ar hour or so, the whole flow of work on a job is broken, and other costs quickly accumulate. It is reliablj stated that a good deal of the machinery has become worn out. II has not been an uncommon sight tc see a power navvy excavator or a road roller lying out of repair on a job for weeks at a time. Engineers responsible for carrying out work in such conditions face an almost impossible task in saving costs. Whether private contractors will fare better in the class of rock lands held for preparation remains to be seen, but it is said that several are at the moment much better equipped with machinery than is the Department's housing section. It would be unfair to blame the Department unduly for the situation which has arisen. It has much good machinery suitable for housing preparation, but lately there have been outside demands on this,, such as the renewal of the runways at Ardmore. On whether it can redivert machinery for its housing section seemingly depends the position the section will fill in the future. Open Competition Significant of the change in policy was the calling for. tenders for preparation of the land for the big housing scheme at Meadowbank. The Department secured the contract for that in open .competition, but it is equally significant that it sublet contracts for roads and sewers. However, it did provide men and machines for other branches of the work, and it speaks well for the drive it can exercise and the experience it commands that it did the work in record time and possibly within the margin of cost allowed. In Mount Albert, the college block, which will require five or six miles of roads, has been held in reserve for some time. It is now intended to do the work in sections, and recently tenders were invited for two of these, involving about three miles of roads, as well as sewers, drains and other amenities. Apparently, the Department intends to compete on the open market for such work. Whether it will follow the same policy it pursued at Meadowbank if it secures contracts remains to be seen. If it does so it is unlikely to employ directly any large numbers of men. If it assembles improved machinery from other sources it will probably secure the services of some of the men it has trained over the past four or five years—men who had attained a degree of skill which gave them the expectation that they had . lifted themselves from the casual labour class and had fitted themselves for permanent employment.

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Bibliographic details

POLICY CHANGE, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 182, 3 August 1945

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POLICY CHANGE Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 182, 3 August 1945

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