22 April 2013

New Zealand immigration to fuel Christchurch rebuild

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With the rebuild operation still to get properly underway in Christchurch, construction operators are turning to New Zealand immigration options to find the labour they need.

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The construction industry in Christchurch is gearing up for the rebuild process.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake which devastated large parts of the city and the surrounding region of Canterbury - as well as costing 185 lives - triggered a mass exodus from the city. With levels of skilled workers well below levels need, Christchurch employers are hoping New Zealand immigration can provide the answer.

"There isn't enough labour available to do the work," said Robin Clements, an economist at UBS Christchurch.

"If we haven't got enough workers we need to attract them from the rest of the country or overseas."

The best estimates predict the city will need an extra 15,000 workers when the operation begins properly. This will include plumbers, carpenters, electricians and all other manner of construction workers.

The rebuild operation is yet to begin in earnest due to prolonged aftershocks in the wake of the original quake as well as studies needed to ensure the city's soil and foundations are able to built upon. Such was the original damage of the quake many buildings are still yet to be demolished.

The delay in beginning the rebuild has caused some discontent among business owners within the city, with many concerned of a concentrated construction project's effect on the area's economy and inflation rates.

"The delays in opening up the city are creating an environment of disengagement," reported one business representing group, commenting that they were "mindful of the potential rise in inflationary pressures as construction activity increases over the coming years'.

Property rates and building costs in the Canterbury region are rising above national rates thanks to the forthcoming building operation but analysts claim this is no disadvantage to people considering moving to the city as wage rates are also rising beyond national levels.

"There are businesses out there paying ridiculous amounts of money for guys to drive trucks and diggers," said Rob Uffindel, general manager of one Christchurch-based concrete firm.

Mr Uffindel said his company had doubled its fleet of trucks to almost 50 in the past 18 months alone but as it takes six months to train each operator, he needs to look further afield to source the workers.

"We need more people than we can put through our training program."

It's not just demand that's fuelling the city's growing levels of attraction to migrants either; while the Australian economy over the Tasman has experienced envious economic times, skilled workers who flocked to the booming mining operation are now returning home to work on projects that are about more than just money.

"Work isn't that great back home anymore and we've got work here," said engineer Stephanie Thompson who left her job in Western Australia to move to Christchurch with her husband, adding that in Perth 'it's all about money and mining'.

"We came here to do something more meaningful."


The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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