Head start sought on painters for rebuild

TRADESMEN: Christchurch will need 6000 painters for its rebuild.
TRADESMEN: Christchurch will need 6000 painters for its rebuild.

An employer wants to bring 50 painters to Christchurch to combat a shortage of workers.

FBG Developments managing director Fletcher Glass has applied to Immigration New Zealand to bring the painters from Southeast Asia.

Based on projections by the Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC) last year, Christchurch will need an additional 24,000 tradespeople, including 6000 painters, at the peak of the rebuild next year.

Glass said he was preparing for the rebuild peak by hiring workers now.

"You can't train skilled tradespeople in two years, and even if you could train 24,000 tradespeople, you would over-saturate the market after the rebuild," he said.

"If you get tradespeople from other parts of the country, you will deplete those places of tradespeople, and that will drive rates up. That will make house prices go up, so buying a house would be even less achievable.''

Hiring overseas workers would prevent Christchurch from turning its problem into a nationwide problem, he said. "If you need 6000 painters at the peak of the rebuild, that's every painter in Dunedin and Wellington."

He aimed to hire overseas workers on 12-month contracts and would pay for their return airfares.

Immigration New Zealand general manager Stephen Dunstan said the department was advising migrants their skills may be needed only during the rebuild peak.

CDC work force strategy manager Simon Worthington did not believe large numbers of overseas workers were needed yet.

"Some painting companies are turning away applications. The rebuild hasn't really started, and the projection figures are five months old," he said.

"The December 23 earthquakes set us back. The number of 24,000 tradespeople was based on the worst-case scenario, but I don't think it will come to that.

''If more people move away, it means fewer houses need to be rebuilt or repaired, so the number will change."

He said the number would drop because semi-retired tradespeople might work fulltime, and new trainees would also decrease the demand. The CDC is working on a new projection model for the rebuild.

Worthington said the figures should be available by the end of this month.

Between last July 1 and March 1 this year, 140 people were granted visas to work on the Christchurch rebuild.

The Press