Southland project to assist Chch rebuild

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2012

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Tapping into Southland's seasonal workforce could be one of the keys to help with the Christchurch rebuild.

More than 100 business representatives attended a meeting yesterday to discuss how Southland could take part in the rebuild under the Southland Supply Initiative. They were given a strong message that contracts for work would not come easy.

Social Development Ministry regional commissioner John Allen said he expected the number of people in Invercargill on the unemployment benefit would rise but if meatworkers were recruited and upskilled for the off season, they could become part of the rebuild process.

"Welfare reforms are aiming to get 57,000 people off the benefits and into work, this is a great opportunity to do something about that," he said.

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds said SIT had received $60 million in additional funding for 130 EFTS for priority trades training at the institute. However, it had struggled to fill the extra spaces on the course because people had not seen the demand for skilled workers but once they did, she was confident places would fill up.

About 20,000 additional workers would be needed and SIT wanted to be part of that, she said.

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said until now the time had not been right to lend support to Christchurch but the enormity of what needed to be done would become apparent to Southland in the next three or four months.

It was essential for business to form relationships to build a successful collaboration, he said.

Arrow International procurement manager Nathan Fisher said work would not just fall into the lap of Southland businesses.

It would take hard work and research and Arrow would help create allies with Christchurch-based companies. The company held all contracts for the residential rebuilds for Southern Response (previously AMI) insurance, which made up 35 per cent of all residential rebuild work in Christchurch.

Work is expected to start in the next three to six months and would be at full capacity within the next year. Opportunities for Southland included labour supply, consultancy, administration, accountancy and training.

The company did not want to diminish the region's resources, so the best way to collaborate would be through material supply and pre-manufactured supply, he said. They had yet to figure out the most cost-effective way to transport materials to Christchurch.

Southland Chamber of Commerce president Dave Rohan asked Venture Southland chief executive Paul Casson what would happen next. "I would assume it would be a co-ordinate approach driven by Venture because you guys have the cash and the information," Mr Rohan said.

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Mr Casson said the next stage of the iniative would include an evaluation and a feasibility study.

Venture Southland would take the lead, working with the Southland Chamber of Commerce and the Otago-Southland Employers' Association, he said.

"We [Venture] will put financial resources around this initiative," he said.

- The Southland Times

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