6 Jul 2015

Demand persists for Chch workers

12:50 pm on 6 July 2015

Demand for overseas workers in Christchurch is showing no sign of slowing, despite recent comments from the Finance Minister suggesting the city's rebuild was peaking.

Christchurch construction.

Christchurch construction. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Bill English was last month wary of hyping up a potential budget surplus because he said the Christchurch rebuild - which has played a major role in the country's economy - was reaching its peak, but those on the ground disagree.

Christchurch immigration lawyer Mark Williams said the city had a shortage of skills needed for major commercial construction projects in the central city.

"We're seeing the labour constraints now coming on ... and we expect that to continue, especially in the spring, when the weather improves."

Mr Williams said there had been no indication that the number of migrant workers needed would reduce next year.

"There's plenty of work here," he said. "Any skilled migrant in the construction sector really shouldn't have any sort of difficulty securing a job in Christchurch over the next year or so."

Since July 2011 almost 5500 work visas for the Canterbury rebuild have been issued, with the bulk of workers coming from Britain, Ireland and the Philippines.

Christchurch construction.

Christchurch construction. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The chief executive of the Canterbury Development Corporation, Tom Hooper, said the rebuild has different peaks and troughs.

"The residential rebuild is starting to wind down now and consents are starting to fall away," he said. He said building would now move to other areas.

"Commercial property development in the CBD, which is going strongly and well under way, and then you have the very large anchor projects which have to get under way as well."

Mr Hooper said the region's economy would likely continue to grow, but the rate of growth would slow, to be more on par with the national average.

He said the effects of the rebuild could be felt for 10 more years.

City councillor Jamie Gough said the city was at the higher end of the rebuild, but had not quite peaked.

He said delays to central city projects had been beneficial in some ways.

"Stretching out a number of the projects...has been positive to stop that boom and bust effect."

He expected there would be a steady demand for overseas workers for another 10 to 15 years.

East Frame Concept.

Photo: SUPPLIED / Fletcher Living

Projects such as the east frame residential development on the edge of the city centre would take about nine years to finish, while construction of the convention centre, central library and metro sports facility, had yet to begin.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said while demand for overseas workers would continue, what was important was that the region's economy did not come to fully rely on the rebuild.

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