Locals first for Christchurch job training scheme

Christchurch people will be at the front of the queue for a new scheme to train 900 workers for the city's rebuild.

The scheme, announced yesterday by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, provides trainees with a $300 a week allowance.

They will undergo a six to 14 week course for new entrants before completing qualifications on the job, overseen by five workplace tutors. Those who complete the training and meet industry requirements will be guaranteed a job.

The workers will be part of the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team which is repairing waterworks and roading in the quake-torn city.

Brownlee this morning said the training would be offered to locals first and people from other parts of New Zealand second.

"Then if necessary, we will bring in people from overseas," he told Radio New Zealand.

There had been considerable angst over the past two years about where the workforce for the rebuild would come from, Brownlee said.

"We are taking the right steps to make sure we don't have either a flooded employment market or an under-capable employment market."

The has been concern that a lack of housing in the city and rising rents will force workers to share accommodation.

Chamber of Commerce chairman Peter Townsend yesterday told TV3 workers may have to consider hostels, homestays and boarding in private accommodation.

Brownlee said the Government had worked "assiduously" on the housing issue.

Thousands of damaged state houses were under repair and about 200 fixed homes were about to become available, he said.

"Some of the normal conditions that will be required for people to use those houses will no longer be applied so they are available in a general sense."

However, Housing Minister Phil Heatley today said people would still have to meet social need requirements to move into a state house.

"What we have relaxed is the need to prove you cannot get accommodation elsewhere and we are a bit more relaxed about whether we match a house with a spare bedroom or not for a family in need."

The Government was also building up to 300 new houses which would be used mainly for state housing and first home-buyers, he said.

The Government has estimated about 30,000 workers will be needed over the next ten years for the wider rebuild and up to half of those are expected to come from overseas.