Builders tread water waiting for the boom

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 18/07/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Canterbury builders say they are "treading water" until the region's residential rebuild begins in earnest.

Master Builders Association Canterbury president Clive Barrington said plasterers and painters were busy, though not as busy the rest of the country seemed to believe.

Most of the building was taking place on the city's outskirts and was being run by big companies, Barrington said.

Some small to medium-size building companies were "treading water" or even having to lay people off.

"Things are starting to pick up but we're not yet into the good work that we can really sink our teeth into."

Land issues, insurance and infrastructural repairs were slowing things down. He expected it would be next year when business picked up.

Insurer IAG said its project manager, Hawkins, had completed 23 new residential home rebuilds and 90 commercial rebuilds.

Southern Response had completed 12 residential rebuilds by the end of June.

Fletcher EQR was repairing 100 homes a day, with the cost of its work to date totalling $573.4 million.

Hawkins Construction South Island operational manager Steve Taw said the market was "difficult to put your finger on".

"Twelve months ago, we said in 12 months we'll be so busy we won't know where to turn. We're nowhere near where people predicted," he said.

Anthony Leighs, of commercial building company Leighs Construction, agreed things were slow on the residential building front.

"It has started - however, the start isn't necessarily what everyone wants to see. They want to see all of a sudden this construction boom on the go," he said.

"It will take time for significant momentum to build."

Leighs has started recruiting internationally.

He said he expected that activity would start to increase after the Central Christchurch Development Unit blueprint was completed, but that would not mean foundations would be poured the following month.

"It will be early 2013 I think, at the earliest, that we start to see a heightened momentum in the market."

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said yesterday that there were "a number of issues" affecting Christchurch's suburban areas.

"We've got 3000 to 4000 households caught up in discussions with insurers and EQC. I do think the insurers need to shift themselves. I think some of their processes are unacceptably long-winded now.

However, "short of the Government nationalising everything", it could only add pressure through regular talks, Brownlee said.

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