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New Zealand calls for UK workers to aid reconstruction effort

New Zealand is seeking potentially thousands of construction workers, managers and supervisors from the UK to fill 23,000 expected posts.

A huge reconstruction effort is under way in the aftermath of the earthquakes that devastated Christchurch in September 2010 and February 2011, as well as ongoing aftershocks.

The cost of rebuilding Christchurch is estimated to be around £15.2 billion, and according to the government could require about 24,000 additional construction workers at the predicted peak in Q3 2013.

Thousands of homes and buildings have been damaged by the earthquakes. In the next four years 10,000 homes are expected to be built while 100,000 houses will need repair work.

CN has learned there are systemic failures in leak-prone pre-clad townhouses and apartment blocks, particularly in city centres, as well as a shortage of homes.

Meanwhile, the commercial rebuild is expected to take up to 15 years and infrastructure reconstruction work is set to occur within six years.

The Emigration Group director Paul Arthur said industry experts were predicting a need for more than 23,000 construction workers by mid- to late-2013, many of which will be sought from the UK.

“For skilled construction workers looking to further their career and have an improved lifestyle, now is the time to emigrate,” he said. “There won’t be a better opportunity.”

Many of the top professions sought are in construction, ranging from general builders to site managers, geotechnical engineers and skilled tradesmen.

The most in-demand are carpenters and joiners, paint workers, concreters and plasterers, though general labourers are also in high demand, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Low-skilled workers are expected to make up 28 per cent of workers required, in addition to 68 per cent semi-skilled and 4 per cent high-skilled.

According to Peter Townsend of Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, 70 per cent of buildings in the Christchurch central business district have been or will be demolished, including 346 restaurants and 60 per cent of hotels.

One hundred schools also require repairs or rebuilding, and 50,000 people have been displaced from the area.

As of August, 700 buildings had been demolished, with a further 200 expected to be pulled down in coming months.

Mr Townsend also said there was a vast infrastructure challenge, as 46 per cent of urban sealed roads, water and sewerage capacity had been damaged.

However, he added that education institutions were “reinventing themselves” to meet their new environment, while infrastructure work worth $2.5bn (£1.3bn) was under way and housebuilding was steaming ahead, presenting a number of opportunities.

The New Zealand government has published a list of skills in shortage. A number of the construction roles being sought are listed at the website recruitment fair organisers Working In.

Leading construction-related occupations in demand:

Employment as at March 2011
Christchurch*New Zealand
Carpenters and Joiners4,8051,80012,800
Painting Trades Workers2,7126006,400
Other Miscellaneous Labourers1,7408,80062,600
Bricklayers and Stonemasons1,4304002,800
Wall and Floor Tilers1,2313001,900
Building and Plumbing Labourers9769009,100
Truck Drivers7214,20031,500
Table 14: Leading construction-related occupations in demand

Source: Canterbury Development Corporation-Department of Labour earthquake labour demand modelling programme.

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