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Construction skills shortage 'means no rebuild in sight' for Westport

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Construction Strategy Group (CSG) which represents leading members of New Zealand’s construction industry says that the unfortunate consequence of the critical labour shortage in the country’s building sector is that there will be no one to rebuild Westport following the weekend's devastating floods.

CSG’s Executive Director Julien Leys says the building and construction sector needs 50,000 workers to meet the current pipeline of growth across the residential, commercial and infrastructure built environment.

"The stark reality facing Westport is that there are no tradespeople or builders to do the new residential and other remedial construction that the town desperately needs to recover from the weekend’s destructive floods that destroyed much of the town" says Leys.

Leys adds that the Government’s approved trickle of 60 construction workers per month through MIQ for 4 months only, is not enough to meet the growing demand across the residential, commercial, and infrastructure parts of the sector.

"We need private or rapidly expanded MIQ facilities for construction sector workers from project managers, carpenters, to joiners as soon as possible. The record levels of new building consents are likely to impact on the demand for both skilled labour as well as add to shortages of materials with house building in Auckland potentially affecting commercial building work."

Leys says the shortage of skilled workers is not just confined to the building and construction sector as the BNZ has forecast that businesses still intend to take on staff in large numbers with annual employment growth accelerating to 3.5%.

"Unfortunately Immigration's new Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) application process (reducing 6 Visas to 1) which is employer-led will not help either because the salary threshold is now 150% of the median wage ($79,560). This means if a builder wants to hire a carpenter where the current market rate is $65k then they will have to pay a $14,650 premium over a local employee which we don’t have anyway. Given NZ is at full employment this significant salary increase will drive up the cost of construction even further. It doesn’t make sense when a Westport rebuild and a backlog of houses, schools and hospitals all need to be built across New Zealand as a matter of priority," says Leys.

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