Claims firm selects builders for big quake repair jobs

17:00, Jun 16 2013
Corbel Construction director Craig Jones, right, with British worker Micky Read at an Opawa residential construction site.
MAKING IT HAPPEN: Corbel Construction director Craig Jones, right, with British worker Micky Read at an Opawa residential construction site.

Insurance claims business Southern Response has selected dedicated "panels" of builders for repairs and rebuilds, guaranteeing those building firms a certain amount of earthquake recovery work.

Southern Response chief executive Peter Rose said a panel of eight or so "name" contractors with strong financials had been chosen to carry out the AMI-related "new builds" to replace quake-hit homes.

The firms would each do between 10 and 80 new homes over a 12-month period depending on their capacity. Some other group builders that were not on the panel, but had already started homes, would complete their work.

Rose said a separate group of 17 builders had been chosen by Southern Response to do the larger repair jobs on houses damaged by the earthquakes.

The insurance group, set up by the Crown to handle earthquake claims, is starting the more significant repairs on homes.

The repairs panel of builders is still to be approved by the board of Southern Response, with a board meeting this week.


One of the building firms, Corbel Construction, chosen to do some of the "volume repairs" had been guaranteed a certain amount of work. Over 12 months it will do about 50 repair projects, worth on average $250,000, though actual projects could range in size from the over cap $115,000 amount through to $700,000 to $800,000 the insurer indicated.

Rose said that Southern Response had not yet allocated Corbel all the actual projects, but rather said the work would be forthcoming. Including 1500 "over cap" repairs, total repairs would add up to about $500 million and another 13 or so builders would be added to the existing panel of 17, he said.

"We want their [building] capacity. We want them to be committed to us . . . the only way you can do it is by committing volume," Rose said.

Corbel has been busy sourcing staff to do earthquake rebuild work. Skilled workers from the United Kingdom were filling about 50 per cent of the extra workforce required.

Corbel director Craig Jones said the Christchurch building and construction management firm had a five- year plan to grow existing annual revenues of about $30m to more than $100m.

From an employee total of 65 it planned to grow to between 100 and 150 over the next 24 months, and to more than 200 in five years' time. Jones said he agreed with a ball park estimate that Christchurch needed about 24,000 extra construction workers to help with the peak of the rebuild.

But Auckland's shortage of new homes would make it harder to attract tradespeople for the Christchurch earthquake rebuild, Jones said.

Of the 30 most recent hirings about 20 had come from the Britain.

The company had been successfully advertising online in Britain as well as using recruitment companies, with many employees bringing skills related to working on large northern hemisphere sites.

"Australia and the UK were obvious starting points for us, and we've had a lot more response from the UK," he said.

The company achieved revenues of $11m in 2011/12, building to $17m in 2012/13 and $30m forecast for 2013/14.

"We've hit our straps more over the last six years. So we've had 25-30 per cent growth even before the earthquakes," Jones said.

Micky Read, from Stafford in England, said he started with Corbel nine months ago as a foreman carpenter and was enjoying the positive sentiment of being part of the earthquake rebuild.

He had willingly come to Christchurch and had been attracted in part by a bunch of Kiwis he had met while travelling in Europe.

There had been the challenge of getting builder practitioner accreditation, under the Building Act 2004, so he could do structural and weather-tight work that in all cases had to be signed off by councils.

Jones said he was bullish about the rebuild and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's blueprint for the central city anchor.

"I think with $40 billion floating around the local economy there's a lot of money there to make it work and a lot of smart people to make it work. I personally think it will happen."