Quake rebuild job seekers complain of visa hurdles

9:51 am on 18 June 2012

Some foreign workers trying to get visas to help with rebuilding of Christchurch say they are being thwarted by Government red tape.

Since 1 July last year, 312 visas have been granted and 39 declined.

Foreigners who have heard about the apparent abundance of jobs and who've moved to Christchurch to get involved with the rebuild say that getting a work visa is proving a big hurdle.

Structural engineer Aaron Varley, a British citizen from South Africa, says he was led to believe he would easily get a visa because of his skills and qualifications.

An American citizen who does not want to be named says he and his family want to stay here but are being offered no clarity by Immigration New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand says the unsuccessful applicants did not have acceptable offers of employment.

It says those who did qualify for a work visa met the criteria for the Department of Labour's Canterbury skills shortage list.

Fletcher EQR is contracted to the Earthquake Commission to help with the rebuilding of Christchurch.

So far, it has accredited 1066 contracting firms and, with that, 13,891 contractors and tradespeople.

General manager David Peterson says the company has about 30 employees they've brought in on work visas.

The firm is likely to need upwards of 1000 more staff as the rebuilding gets into full swing but is not yet looking overseas.

"We've made it very clear we want to exhaust all possible avenues within New Zealand," says Mr Peterson.

"We've looked to recruit from Canterbury specifically intially, then wider South Island, then wider New Zealand."

Mr Peterson says the company has contigency plans if it needs to recruit from overseas.

Immigration New Zealand says Government policy is to ensure that, where they have the appropriate skills, New Zealanders are employed before migrants.