Wellington skills helping quake rebuild

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2013
Peter Tonks
Fairfax NZ

LOOKING UP: Traffic Wise managing director Peter Tonks has invested $400,000 expanding traffic management into Christchurch, and is also expanding the business in Wellington.

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Wellington companies are being encouraged to consider opportunities in the $30 billion Christchurch market.

Jobs advertised online rose 22 per cent in Canterbury during the year to January while Wellington listings declined 2.2 per cent, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

But businesses in the capital are finding ways to get involved in the rebuild.

Staff from Wellington architects and engineers Stephenson Turner have been making regular trips to Christchurch in the past two years. About two Canterbury homeowners a week were contacting it a year ago about repair work, but principal Dennis Chippindale said residential inquiries had risen to 10 a week.

Wellington architects were sought because they were used to designing buildings with seismic strengthening provisions in mind.

"That's a skill we can bring to Christchurch. It is a little bit different to what Christchurch local designers are used to," Chippindale said, stressing it was important to work with the locals.

"They are really proud people and they've been through a hell of a lot. They're trying to do as much of it as they can themselves so you've really got to be able to bring something special and just muck in and help."

Ashburton-born Peter Tonks, who has been operating traffic management company Traffic Wise in Wellington for seven years, has invested $400,000 in expanding to Christchurch with six new trucks and 10 staff.

Traffic Wise has signed on to manage traffic around sewer and stormwater line surveying that City Care was performing and had other contracts with companies such as Downer.

Tonks was enjoying being "back home" in the South Island half the time by commuting between Wellington and Christchurch, and said the boost in Canterbury work was benefiting his business in both cities.

"In Wellington I did mostly traffic management for the film industry, which is not fulltime really. As a small business you need cashflow so you can fund employing people even if you're not making any money for a while. Thanks to the cashflow from Christchurch we were able to do that. Now we're starting to build the business in Wellington by moving into more infrastructure work and I've got a couple of new staff fulltime in Wellington."

Titan Cranes has added a 250-tonne crane to its Christchurch fleet in response to requests for commercial job quotes. Business development manager Bruce Whiley said it had hired three new Christchurch staff since the first earthquake.

"The full swing of the rebuild has not kicked in. Our guys have been very busy quoting future jobs and we believe the requirement will be for bigger and heavier cranes because the concrete tilt panels that go up in big commercial buildings are going to be bigger, thicker, heavier panels."

Grow Wellington chief executive Gerard Quinn is organising a March 4 forum about how local companies can access the Christchurch market.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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