Major trades skills shortage looms as Christchurch needs workers for rebuild, Labour leader Goff says

Major trades skills shortage looms as Christchurch needs workers for rebuild, Labour leader Goff says

There needs to be an onus on getting skilled workers ready for the Christchurch rebuild, Opposition leader Phil Goff says, warning there is a danger of a major trades skills shortage right across the country in six months time if the government does not act quickly.

Early estimates are 10,000 homes will need to be demolished in the city, with only some of these able to be rebuilt. This is on top of the major rebuilding efforts that will be needed in the CBD, not just for the city’s longer term future, but in order for Christchurch to be a viable Rugby World Cup venue come October.

Prime Minister John Key has said it may not be possible to rebuild homes in entire suburbs and that government may offer cash to people with land too damaged to rebuild on in order for them to move to another area of the city.

There were a number of options on the table, Key told media this morning.

“There are a number of subdivisions – I don’t want to bother going into them for the purposes of the moment – but there are alternatives. That’s one good thing about Christchurch, that a number of new areas have opened up,” Key said.

“Of course the government could accelerate the consenting of those.

“There may also be people (who), if they are given the cash, might choose to buy a house in the surrounding areas and not go to a new subdivision,” he said.

Government would work through all of the options “in due course”.

“We know the worst affected areas. That doesn’t mean that that’s a particular street, suburb or area that will be abandoned, but we certainly can see the areas that have suffered substantial damage,” Key said.

“In the first earthquake [on September 4], there were about 3,300 houses that we thought would be demolished. Some of those couldn’t be rebuilt but we were more confident with the capacity to remediate the land to allow us to rebuild,” he said.

Government was less confident now about the capacity to rebuild as the February 22 quake damaged land further.

“The engineers – Tonkin and Taylor and the likes – are working through that. They’ll provide expert advice to us in due course. We can’t rush that process, but we also acknowledge that people have the desire to understand as quickly as possible what their options are, and as soon we can communicate that we will,” Key said.

Government would need to consider whether peoples’ insurance cover, along with any EQC payout, would be enough to allow them to relocate.

“But we can’t leave people high and dry so we’ll look at that,” Key said.

Some government funding may be needed for relocations, although some funding which had been earmarked for remediating land after the September quake would be freed up.

“Initially what was happening was the government was footing the bill for essentially fixing up the land to be in a condition where we believed it could be rebuilt [on] and then re-insurable. Now if we don’t have to incur those costs it gives us some options, but again we’re asking Treasury for advice on that,” Key said..

Government would probably not provide land to be built on, he said.

“But we would aim to try and put together a package which would allow people to move from one location potentially to another.”

Government would also like to keep people in Christchurch.

The process of moving people to a new property would be much quicker than if land was remediated for a rebuild.

“The initial expectations, in the first instance was that if we had to demolish homes then go through the labourious process of fixing up the land and then rebuilding, that’s in the magnitude of two to four years,” Key said.

“If we provide someone with a section, or they have an opportunity to move out of one place to another section and build a home, that could be a year to 18 months,” he said.

Every insurance company now had a relationship with a major builder, meaning there was “quite a bit of capacity there,” Key said.

“And of course there are other homes that are just vacated that people might want to sell,” he said.

Who will do the work?

The economic impact of the earthquake was negative to the Canterbury region in the first instance, but the longer term implications were “very positive,” Key said.

“Insomuch that there’ll be lots of work, lots of opportunities and, yeah, we would like to see young people getting the chance to have the skills, moving out of the trades courses that they take at Christchurch Polytech Institute of Technology and the likes and into paid employment,” he said.

However, Labour Party leader Phil Goff is warning of a major trades skills shortage around New Zealand in six months time if the government does not act quickly to create more supply of skilled labour for the rebuilding efforts.

“There’s a massive rebuilding job that needs to be done, and we’ve got to look at how we can get the skills in place as quickly as possible. We’ll need thousands of qualified people to rebuild that city,” Goff told media this morning.

“At the moment the building industry is at its lowest ebb in nearly 50 years, so there’s a lot of action that needs to be taken quickly to equip the building industry with skills, with materials needed for that rebuilding,” Goff said.

“Lack of demand has led to a lack of skills. Apprenticeships aren’t being taken on in the numbers that they were, pre-trade training is not happening in the same numbers, and many of our trades people have fled overseas to Australia,” he said.

Goff said he thought it was possible to re-skill or up-skill people quite quickly.

“I’ve been on the phone for much of the last 24 hours to industry retraining groups, to the industry itself,” Goff said.

“The fact is we need thousands of people in the construction trades and we need to use institutions like the Christchurch Polytech Institute of Technology, the private training providers, we need to use private industry, and the government needs to give absolute priority to getting those houses built,” he said.

“In six months time, we’re going to have a major skills shortage right across this country in those trades, (so) we need to address that now.”

“We’ll be looking at people coming back from Australia. But of course the pay rates in Australia are eighty to ninety dollars an hour for labour-only contractors, and it’s fifty to sixty in New Zealand, so that makes the challenge quite difficult,” Goff said.

“But if there is a certainty about a building programme there [in Christchurch], yes we can bring people back from Australia,” he said.

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Ministers Joyce/ Brownlee – use the free trade agreement - import 10’000 productive Chinese – they do the job in no time for NZ$ 19.50 p/h – cheap !

.....while NZyoungsters serve them cappuccino’s or  serve cleaning  their shoes for NZ$ 12.50 p/h.


.......another great NZdeal like always. Of course let's talk about property.

OK admittedly this would be highly controversial.

But, there are plenty of out-of-work construction workers in the USA. Why not see if some would be interested in moving here?

As a quid-pro-quo they could be paired with unemployed NZers or NZers who want to enter the trades and train our next generation of apprentices.

Of course there is the whole labour mobility issue in the USA at the moment.

Could help out some kids as well.


Via 2 year work permits, yes why not.......might have to make sure they understand our building codes etc.

Lots of Americans are trapped with low cost accomadtion might need to be provided...oh wait....


Yes the debt/labour mobility issue is definitely an obstacle.
At least one of the majorly overbuilt areas (California) was also earthquake country, so there would probably be some compatability with earthquake construction standards.

As far as providing accomodation it is one of those chicken and the egg situations! Which comes first, extra builders to build accomodation, or housing to accomodate the builders.

Yes, at the end of our street is a Wooden Fence House (HNZ) with a large family with children ranging from 17 to 25 years and the parents are in their early to mid 40's . Most of these healthy young men have NEVER WORKED. Its a case of inter-generational unemployment  They sit around all day , play in the street . Some of them play club rugby , and are awake all night hooning about . Its time for them to get some skills and do some work . 

They'd need some skill and training....


Good to see that club rugby is live and well, it offers something positive for these guys

When the building industry is setup to build say 1000 homes in a region its self-evident when there is the need for say 10,000 there will be a shortage of workers....

"Goff said he thought it was possible to re-skill or up-skill people quite quickly."  If this is his level of thinking god help us if he ever becomes PM....

So he expects that we will have qualified and trained builders inside 6 months....and lets say we can train enough ppl in say a more realistic time frame of 2 years....what do the do once the building rate drops off back to normal? pray tell? move to OZ? retrain? so we have a glut of ppl out of work.....I would think they'd forget their student loans and jump to OZ.....

Also you need some aptitude to be a builder/ just cant take anyone and throw him or her on a 6month course and expect them to pass and have a usable skillset....


FYI Gerry Brownlee celebrates the removal of some red tape...


The government has, in consultation with opposition parties, approvednine orders in council to cut red-tape and help speed up the recovery process after the Christchurch earthquake, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced today.


"This process of removing legislative barriers has proved effective since the initial quake in September," Mr Brownlee said.


Four of the approved orders in council are reinstatements of orders that had expired since the first Canterbury earthquake on 4 September 2010.


Three relate to the Resource Management Act, one of which streamlines the resource consent application process for land remediation work in Canterbury.


"Any notified resource consent in a normal situation can take six months or more to decide with any appeals potentially taking more than a year to resolve.  We simply don't have that time to spare," Mr Brownlee said.


"We are committed to enabling Canterbury to get on and rebuild as quickly as possible.”


The nine orders in council were made under the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010.  All the orders take effect from the date of the aftershock of 22 February 2011 and most will expire on 31 March 2012.


The government has also approved two regulation changes that ensure payments from the Red Cross Earthquake Commission fund will not affect applications for hardship support. 


The other change exempts interest payments made by the Earthquake Commission (EQC), insurance companies and the Red Cross Earthquake Commission fund from income testing for hardship and other social assistance.


The orders in council approved are:


1.    Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act Order 2011 – this order repeats and extends an expired order.  It enables councils to issue incomplete Land Information Memoranda (LIMs) where information is not available.  It also extends the time councils have to respond to a LIM request.


2.    Social Security Act Order 2011 – this order repeats and extends an existing order which expired on 28 February 2011.  For Canterbury residents it defers unemployment benefit reapplication requirements until 30 November 2011.


3.    Transport Legislation Order – this order repeats a previous order which expired on 30 November 2010.  It will ensure that, within reason, authorised vehicles that carry additional weight to help with the clean up effort are not penalised. (This order expires on 31 October 2011).


4.    Resource Management Act Amendment Order 2011 – this order reactivates provisions that had expired in a previous order relating to administrative, record keeping and monitoring and enforcement obligations on councils.  It also allows for the Kate Valley Landfill to operate outside the conditions of its resource consent, where required to help respond to the aftershocks of the Canterbury earthquake.


5.    Resource Management Act Permitted Activities Order 2011 – this order provides for temporary and activities such as housing, depots and storage facilities as permitted activities, removing the need for a resource consent. These will be subject to standards and requirements set by the Council to manage environmental effects.


6.    Resource Management Act Order 2011 – this order streamlines the consultation process for resource consent applications for land remediation works; and council infrastructure and flood protection works in Canterbury.  It removes the requirement for the public notification of applications.  However it does provide for consultation with adversely affected parties, and they will be able to make written comments over a 10 day working day period.  The order also removes appeal rights, except on the part of the applicant.


7.    Education Act 1989 Order 2011 – this order enables the Education Minister and Secretary for Education to manage the location of schools, direct boards of trustees, manage the relocation of students, amend school opening hours, and be flexible around licensing requirements for early childhood centres.


8.    Tax Administration Act Order 2011 – this order amends secrecy rules and will enable IRD to share taxpayer specific information with other government agencies that would assist them to respond to the earthquake.


9.    Accident Compensation Act 2001 Order 2011 – this order allows ACC to pay the first week of weekly compensation to any eligible person injured in the 22 February earthquake, who will be on weekly compensation for more than a week, irrespective of whether they were at work when they were injured. This means employers will not have to make the first week's payment as they would under normal circumstances and employees, who would not normally receive compensation for the first week for a non-work accident, will receive income compensation from 22 February.

This is an emergency – 10’000’s of people need urgently homes, have to go back to work, while Chair – polishers kill the process of real progress coming from “Front people” with wonderful practical ideas.

PM - just wait and see – minister Brownlee will be see – too late mate – missed it !

Frustration all over - winter isn't far away!

Their won't be a skills shortage if you pay a decent trade wage and don't just employ one monopoly building firm to do all the work?

Yes - the English/ Americans are building new homes/ businesses in Chch – bravo guys ! They need at least one 600g steak/ 500g gram of potatoes- chips, a few beers a day, some good breaks, their own room, some entertainment – need to be organised, good equipment, their union bosses etc, etc.

While Asians just have an ideal working ethic in such emergency situation - adapting to the situation.

Minister Brownlee, this is an emergency for our country - why not ring a few of the Asian leaders and do some clever, practical negotiations ?

Unemployment rates rose quickly, and 80 percent of the city’s 2,000 small and medium sized businesses failed. Over 48,300 temporary housing units were constructed, many of which operated for more than four years. Another 14,000 public housing units were used temporarily to house victims of the disaster. Kobe’s heavily damaged central core had been losing affluent population to new suburbs prior to the earthquake, and the conditions accelerated after the earthquake.

Why is everyone equating houses with building skills, and many hours? Why not think out of the rhomboid?

I'm in a house which had the walls and roof go up in 42 person-hours.

It was cut to plan (in Chch!) and arrived on 1 - that's one - truck.

for $16,000.

Think Liberty Ships, folks. Unskilled folk can do the manufacturing bit - and I'll give you the tip, it doesn't take huge skill to assemble.


I think there is a difference in um expectations....liberty ships were thought to survive a few atlantic crossings before being were not expected to last that long....and were basic and cheap...quickly built....

I do think houses can be built far lighter, sure as std compnents but I think that they frames you buy now go a long way? really its the finishing.....


I think frames are the wrong way to go - panels (not necessarily steel on the inside) are better from a thermal point of view, lighter, quicker to erect, and if they have standard service-heights (bench-height plus 100mm say, and 300mm up from floor) then everything can be made to measure. you could even cad-draw and prefab wiring looms.

My panels have 20-year paint guarantee, and a finish to rival gib.

We won't go there though. We will do what we know. One, two, buckle my clog.  :)