Big camps planned for rebuild workers

CHARLIE GATES AND ANNA TURNER
Last updated 14:34 05/09/2012
Christchurch developer Jamie Thomas, of JGM Group, wants to build temporary accommodation for rebuild workers on the  Turners & Growers site.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

WORKERS' CAMP: Christchurch developer Jamie Thomas, of JGM Group, wants to build temporary accommodation for rebuild workers on the Turners & Growers site.

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Building accommodation for rebuild workers will create up to 200 jobs for Cantabrians.

JGM Group's announcement that it will build on four central Christchurch sites to house more than 1000 workers involved in rebuilding the city means good news for local job seekers.

Spokesman Sam Fisher said there would be work for carpenters, electricians, joiners, plumbers, painters and suppliers.

"To support them, landscapers, maintenance staff and site workers will be required,'' he said.

''All up across the three or four planned sites there will be jobs for up to 100 locals. Construction will employ 80 to 100 workers. Each site will have 10 fulltime jobs and 15 part-time staff."

While it would be great to use only Canterbury workers to rebuild the city, Fisher said, it was estimated there would be demand for 36,000 workers more than the local workforce could provide. 

"With accommodation required for new workers at the same time as people are replacing their houses or needing temporary accommodation, high-quality villages that can attract skilled professional workers are essential," he said.

Proposal gets mixed reaction

The bar closes at 8pm, alcohol is discouraged, visitors must be signed in and if you misbehave, your boss will be told. Welcome to Christchurch's new accommodation for rebuild workers.

The proposal got a mixed reaction from the building industry, with one of New Zealand's largest construction companies raising concerns about how "large-scale worker camps" will integrate with the community.

JGM Group director Jamie Thomas said the first labourer accommodation site could be open in March next year.

The complex would include suites, a bar, catering, a small football pitch, basketball hoops, a communal lounge and pinball machines. Thomas said there would be 24-hour security on site, with swipe-card access to the facility and alcohol controls.

"It will be a very controlled environment for alcohol. It will be available during dinner hours and after that it is dried out and shut down," he said. "There will only be a certain amount of alcohol allowed per person for each unit. We are not encouraging stockpiling."

Tenants would have to complete background checks before moving in. The construction company would sign the tenancy, with any misbehaviour treated as an employment issue.

Thomas is in talks with the city council about putting 250 housing units on the Turners & Growers site in central Christchurch.

The site is earmarked for a stadium in the new city blueprint, but the accommodation units could occupy it in the meantime.

Thomas is in negotiations for three other sites just outside the four avenues.

Leighs Construction managing director Anthony Leighs has raised concerns over the proposal. His company is looking to buy property to house rebuild workers.

"We don't think large-scale worker camps are the way to go," he said. "We want to be more integrated into the community and a bit friendlier and more manageable. Putting large numbers of individuals into a camp will have to be carefully managed."

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Nikau Contractors director John Paul Stil welcomed the plan. The demolition firm is renting eight flats and three homes for about 35 out-of-town workers in Christchurch.

"The lack of housing and the high rents are making it very difficult on the contractors," he said.

McConnell Dowell regional manager Colin Lahana said he was considering the worker housing for early next year.

Christchurch police inspector Richard Bruce said security issues at the complexes could be addressed with good design and operation. Police had been consulted on the proposals.

"We understand if there is some apprehension among the surrounding community. However, there's no indication at this stage that there will be issues," he said.

Thomas said the first housing complex would be called Cressy, after the ship that brought workers to build Christchurch more than 150 years ago. "Now we are doing it all again," he said.

JGM Group gives more detail on their proposal:

Who is paying for this?

The private sector is funding these developments.

Who will negotiate the tenancies?

Employers of the skilled workers. Occupation rights will be held with construction and other companies, which will enter into an agreement for a number of suites. Part of those agreements will tie occupancy to employment. 

What will it cost?

This will vary from site to site and the commercial arrangements in each case.

How many jobs will the site create?

Including construction, fitouts, services, security and then operations, we expect the first site will employ 30 to 50 people, with 30 direct and indirect jobs created to manage, operate, secure, cater and clean. 

How long will the buildings be there?

We estimate 10 years at The Cressy Village site. Other sites' tenure will vary.

How big will the buildings be and how will the site look?

Single-storey, with landscaping; it will look similar to a hotel.

Will neighbours get a chance to have a look at the plans?

Yes, we will be in contact with neighbours.

Who will own the land?

JGM will rent the sites from existing landowners.

When will this be operating?

The first site can be operating by March-April 2013, provided there are no further delays affecting JGM or the sites.

What will JGM Group do with the buildings and the sites once work has finished?

The site has a long lifespan but after The Cressy Village is closed the land will go back to the owner of the site. When the village is passed back to the owner of the land, JGM intends to donate six units to the Women's Refuge and four units to the City Mission.

How will JGM Group manage safety in The Cressy Village?

The site is designed in accordance with CEPTED guidelines (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) and there have been regular meetings with police on site and resident security. 

How can JGM Group manage problems with residents?

Occupation rights will be held with construction and other companies that will enter into an agreement for a number of suites. Part of those agreements will tie employment to occupancy and general responsibility to employers. Adecco, with HR and employment psychology, and security advisers, will assist through these situations.

For residents who breach occupancy rules there will be follow-up. Where serious breaches occur or there is unlawful activity there will be immediate removal from the village. For less serious behaviour there will be one strike before the worker is out. All situations will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and if necessary in consultation with local authorities.

How will JGM Group prevent other issues on the site?

We want to build recreational activities and ensure there are facilities on site and in the area for workers. Site management will include monitoring social cohesion.

Can visitors come to the sites?

Yes, but there will be rules around this - the best comparison is with a hotel; the same general rules will apply.

Who is JGM?

We're a team of local successful businessmen who are dedicated to getting Christchurch back up and running. We have backgrounds in construction, development and HR.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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