Plenty of work while students away

A tertiary education building boom is bringing contractors working on the Christchurch rebuild back to Dunedin.

Large projects over the summer include the $3.8 million refurbishment of Selwyn College, the refurbishment of Arana College, a $6.25 million child-care centre, conversion of the former LivingSpace hotel building into Te Rangi Hiroa College, refurbishment of OUSA's recreation centre and the creation of a student hub in Otago Polytechnic's F and H blocks.

Smaller earthquake-strengthening projects are also being done and many landlords are taking advantage of the summer break to carry out repairs and refurbishments on flats.

Arrow International project manager Sam Cadden said the spike in university-related projects over the summer had been ''hugely important'' to the industry over the past four years, given the ''scarcity'' of work throughout the year.

''I have had numerous contractors come and tell me that without the university work at the end of the year, they would be in serious financial trouble,'' Mr Cadden said.

That reliance was ''across the board'' and included large contractors and smaller scale carpet and furniture suppliers.

While in previous years it had been ''quite easy'' to get staff at short notice, this year it had been more difficult because the whole construction sector had picked up, meaning workers were busy on other projects.

Dunedin-based tradesmen working on the Christchurch rebuild had been brought back to the city to help on projects.

The fact the majority of university-related work was confined to the summer months meant staff would be sent back up to Christchurch come February.

Arrow, which is managing Selwyn College and Arana College and work on University of Otago flats, had brought back 20 to 30 staff from Christchurch, he said.

At any one time over the November to February period, between 90 and 120 people would be working on Arrow's university-related projects.

Naylor Love chief executive Rick Herd said the company had not been forced to move staff back from Christchurch, but it had managed to keep its Dunedin staff ''fully occupied'' - something that was ''pretty difficult'' six months ago.

This was not only as a result of university-related work.

''In the last 12 months, we have seen a significant turnaround in the industry from the recession created by the global financial crisis.''

The spike in summer work was also a boon for smaller tradesman, including builder Laurence Prattley, who was working on refurbishing a flat in Brook St.

''This is a complete rebuild. We are taking chimneys out, walls out and installing two new bathrooms and a kitchen,'' Mr Prattley said.

The work in the student quarter was largely confined to the November to mid-February period, with ''only maintenance'' being carried out through the year.

-vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz