Brownlee says rebuild accommodation not up to Govt

5:30 pm on 20 March 2012

The Earthquake Recovery Minister has rejected suggestions the Government should help provide rental accommodation for the workers needed to rebuild Christchurch.

The has been severely damaged by earthquakes since September 2010, including the fatal quake in February last year that destroyed much of the central business district.


Gerry Brownlee says contractors coming into the city to take advantage of the work available should take more responsibility for housing their workers.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand says the situation is reaching crisis point, with virtually no short-term rentals available.

But Mr Brownlee said on Tuesday that while there is some difficulty with accommodation he believes it will be short-lived, and he does not think the Government is obliged to provide accommodation.

"If those businesses want to participate in the rebuild and be part of what is a huge spend down there, then I think they should make provision to have a workforce there.

"I'm not sure that is a taxpayer obligation - particularly of worker accommodation."

Mr Brownlee says it is wrong to say Christchurch faces a rental accommodation crisis. He says the Government will not intervene in the rental housing market but is providing more temporary housing for residents who need somewhere to live while their homes are repaired.

The minister also dismissed criticism of the continuing demolition of heritage buildings in the city, including ChristChurch Cathedral.

"We have to have a city that's safe for people to live in. It's going to have to be a city that does have buildings that are a high seismic code because our seismic risk is heightened for the next couple of decades."

Mr Brownlee says some of the claims made about the demolition of heritage buildings are outrageous.

Warning workers will go home

The settlement support co-ordinator at the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce says 24,000 workers are needed for the rebuild, with many coming from overseas.

Lana Hart says the work will peak in 2013, making the current shortages even worse and ultimately jeopardising the speed of the rebuild.

"It is one of those challenges - and this is quite a major one - that could lead to the sudden slowing of the rebuild ... If we haven't got places for people to stay they will turn around and go home."

Ms Hart says the situation is so bad, employers are having to step in and help find accommodation for workers.