Backpackers recruited for rebuild

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 08:11 13/02/2013

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A national recruitment firm says it could be filling an extra 20 positions a week for the Christchurch rebuild if enough suitable people were available.

AWF Group chief executive Mike Huddleston said the completion of the commercial rebuild was likely to lengthen significantly.

"I notice it was originally being talked about as a seven-to-10- year rebuild. Now it's being talked about as a 20-year one, and I think that's probably more realistic," Huddleston said.

A significant part of Christchurch's rebuild staffing needs was being met by backpackers from around the world, plus migrants on temporary visas, Huddleston said. The backpackers generally worked as temporary workers for the labour-intensive, less-skilled jobs.

"If we had 20 more people, even labourers, every day we would be able to place them. So there's a shortage of supply, there's no doubt about that," Huddleston said.

"There has been a resurgence of backpackers coming back to Christchurch; it's probably a saviour."

Source countries for many backpackers included Chile, Argentina, Ireland, Germany and eastern European countries. Australians tended to stay only a couple of weeks.

The NZX-listed AWF Group had traditionally specialised in temporary placements of blue-collar workers for the construction industry but in recent years had diversified into supplying workers to different sectors.

AWF Group will attend expos in Dublin and London hoping to bring in 60-80 permanent workers, Huddleston said.

"We're advertising offshore only for tradespeople."

So far about 40 tradespeople had come in on working permits for six or 12 months, with some then applying for permanent residency.

Such workers, at least the good ones, usually came under pressure from their new employers to become fulltime staff. As a result AWF built clauses into its contracts with clients to recover costs if they chose to take a permanent position.

Demand for rebuild workers would get "significantly" greater as the rebuild progressed, he said. AWF was New Zealand's largest provider of temporary staff by a long shot, he said.

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- The Press

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