Construction companies move staff to Christchurch

Dunedin construction companies are sending staff north for the Christchurch rebuild because of a lack of work in Dunedin.

Construction companies spoken to by the Otago Daily Times yesterday said they were sending up to a third of their staff north to work on projects at any one time, with some staff permanently moving to Christchurch.

Otago Chamber of Commerce president Peter McIntyre said it was ''positive'' for Dunedin that construction companies were able to maintain staff levels in the city by sending some staff to Christchurch for short periods.

However, if the construction sector did not pick up in Dunedin, there was a danger more skilled staff would be forced to move permanently, Mr McIntyre said.

The construction sector was flat in part because the Dunedin City Council had finished major infrastructure projects, including Forsyth Barr Stadium, leaving little room for future spending, he said.

Lund South managing director Russell Lund said it was expanding its presence in Christchurch and in the ''near future'' up to 12, or a third, of its Dunedin workforce could be working there.

Cook Brothers Construction regional manager Blair McGill said he had just moved a team of four carpenters to Christchurch.

''We've had teams of guys in Christchurch for the last six weeks helping out in our branch office up there, just through a lack of things happening in Dunedin.''

He hoped this would be a temporary situation, but it was possible some jobs could move north for good if the situation did not improve.

Naylor Love Dunedin regional manager Ian Mckie said it had been sending up to six staff at a time to carry out jobs in Christchurch.

Being able to send staff to Christchurch and other parts of New Zealand for short-term projects allowed it to maintain staff levels in Dunedin, Mr Mckie said''The market is just flat. You can't just lay it all on the council not spending; it's all sectors,'' he said.

Queenstown-based Naylor Love regional manager Justin Calder said it was facing a similar situation, with a flat construction sector causing it to look for work elsewhere.

At any one time it had up to 10, or just under a third, of its staff in Canterbury and it was just about to start a ''very large project'' in Ashburton, Mr Calder said.

Arrow International southern director Nick Hamlin said four or five staff from its offices in the lower South Island, including two from Dunedin, had moved to Christchurch permanently, but if anything ''too many'' had shifted.

''We have got quite a lot of forward workload so we are actually looking to bring construction managers and project managers into Dunedin at the moment.''

Opus International manager Chris Fox said some staff from Dunedin had been ''going up and down'' to assist the Christchurch office since the earthquake, with a few making a permanent move north last year.

However, Opus was ''reasonably comfortable'' with the number of projects it had in Dunedin at present, Mr Fox said.

Octa Associates director David Booth said it had made a ''conscious decision'' to continue supporting its Dunedin office, but staff were moving north for short periods.

''We are rotating staff in and out of Christchurch. We have two guys at the moment out of our team doing that.

''There isn't a huge amount of work beyond the university for large capital projects within the Dunedin area,'' Mr Booth said.

Amalgamated Builders Ltd director and area manager Richard Johnston said it had ''enough work in Dunedin'' to keep its staff here.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

 

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