Filipino workers housed in old forestry camp

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 08:57 19/11/2012
Arthur Adlaon
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
SKILLED WORK: Filipino Arthur Adlaon at work for Leighs Construction at Christchurch Hospital. The company has switched from using contractors to employing its own workers.

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Filipino carpenters helping with the rebuild of the city are being accommodated at Eyrewell in a former forestry camp.

So far 25 of the carpenters hired by Leighs Construction have made their home at the camp, first moving in late September before the purchase was even settled.

Each day the construction workers will make the 40-minute trip into Christchurch on transport provided by Leighs.

Other companies have also been looking at the need to source accommodation to house overseas workers. The Government has ruled out building work camps to house new recruits.

Leighs Construction has selected the property near Rangiora costing a seven figure sum to house up to 100 new staff.

"We have created a very comfortable home there for our people to live in," Leighs Construction managing director Anthony Leighs said.

"There are three buildings comprising bedrooms and bathrooms, plus a communal lodge area and kitchen facilities."

Electricians, plasterers and plumbers had been engaged to help upgrade the 50-year-old facilities, which Leighs would use for five to 10 years.

The property was needed after a recruitment drive in the Philippines, England and Ireland, but with Filipinos so far the focus in terms of those hired.

The construction firm had been very keen for the migrants, aged between 27 and 53 and with a good level of spoken English, to be integrated into the community and would work with them to help this happen.

"They've had barbecues, fishing trips up to Kaikoura, they've done all sorts of stuff."

There was already a Filipino presence in the area, with a number of immigrants working on dairy farms.

The company had weighed up several options which included renting accommodation or building it themselves.

After six months workers could choose to stay or make their own living arrangements, he said.

They would have to start paying after staying at the camp for six months as part of an employment contract agreement.

Many at the camp were working on sites in the city including Christchurch Hospital. They had been chosen from an initial 450 applicants.

"Leighs Construction has tried to employ suitably qualified tradespeople from other parts of New Zealand but was unable to attract sufficient numbers . . . this is an exciting move for us, following a process which has taken over a year's effort."

The company had changed its focus from using contractors in the trades sphere to employing workers directly.

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Staff numbers had grown from 42 to 100.

- The Press

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