Britain heads list of nationalities assisting rebuild

Britain, the Philippines and Ireland head the list of countries providing labour for Christchurch's rebuild.

The three nations account for more than 80 per cent of the 440 visas issued by Immigration New Zealand to workers helping rebuild the earthquake-hit city.

Britain was well ahead of the rest with 214 visas, followed by the Philippines with 80 and Ireland on 69.

The United States contributed 29, but no other country reached double figures.

The numbers are for all visas issued between July 2011 and August this year.

An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said 11,795 British and Irish working- holiday visas were also issued in the past financial year, and some recipients could be working on the rebuild.

The most popular occupations were insurance loss adjustor (60 visas) and quantity surveyor (50).

Engineers rated highly, as did core construction jobs such as carpenters, joiners and painters.

Canterbury Employment and Skills Board chairman Alex Bouma said British and Irish links to New Zealand were strong, and Filipinos were also well-suited.

"We've got some really good cultural synergies [with the Philippines]. There's a lot of English spoken there," he said.

"There's an excellent, highly skilled workforce that we can tap into. They can come in, do some work, add some scale and then leave again."

He said from Manila that it was clear the country was in a construction boom.

"Every direction I look in there are high-rise buildings popping up. It's absolutely going ahead leaps and bounds," he said.

Christchurch-based Leighs Construction was recruiting Filipino carpenters and planned to have 25 on its books by the end of the year.

Using local expertise when the rebuild picked up would be critical, Bouma said, but further foreign recruitment was a given.

"We're inevitably going to have to look offshore. There just simply aren't enough arms and legs in New Zealand with that sort of skill," he said.

"Quantity surveyors is the key one. There's only so many of them and you need them for every single project."

Canterbury Registered Master Builders Association president Clive Barrington agreed.

"Quantity surveyors are pretty sought after at the moment and now that the recovery's starting, I can see more and more tradesmen coming here."

The rebuild would start to take off by mid-2013, he said.

The Press