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Construction boom ‘exciting’

With construction activity in the Gisborne region full speed ahead — to the extent that non-residential consents doubled in value to $53 million over the past 12 months — Sophie Rishworth talks to some leaders in the sector to build a picture of what’s happening . . .

With construction activity in the Gisborne region full speed ahead — to the extent that non-residential consents doubled in value to $53 million over the past 12 months — Sophie Rishworth talks to some leaders in the sector to build a picture of what's happening . . .

“It's exciting for Gisborne,” is how Civil Project Solutions owner Russell Moylan describes the amount of work going on in the construction industry right now.

Construction companies are booked up for six months to two years. There is a shortage of skilled tradespeople, then when jobs are filled from outside the district there is a shortage of accommodation for them.

Getting concrete before Christmas on the day you need it is also problematic, and that's the case for other supplies too. But the challenges of a busy construction period are mostly good problems to have when you see what it is doing for the economy.

Gisborne was the only region in New Zealand to record economic growth in the 12 months to September, according to Infometrics — buoyed by building jobs in the commercial, industrial and residentail sectors.

CPS staff numbers had increased by 60 percent to 22 staff on the team now, to contend with the “huge amount of work out there”, said Mr Moylan.

Another construction business owner said he was booked up to July next year, and was looking forward to Christmas so he could have a holiday.

JB'Z Construction owner Jason Birrell said he was booked out for the next six months and that was with no advertising.

“It's hard to get concrete and supplies at the moment, you almost can't get it before Christmas and not on the day you want it.”

There was just huge demand in Gisborne with so many big projects on the go, he said.

Gisborne's construction sector was benefiting from across-the-board private as well as central and local government work — notably Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) projects. The PGF had provided a huge pipeline of work for local contractors, however this was entering the final stages for some of these projects which had an end date of mid-to-late December.

There were also builds funded by the Ministry of Education, Kainga Ora social housing projects, Ministry of Health work, plus iwi settlements from a couple of years ago meant a lot of marae were getting upgrades now as well.

An Infometrics quarterly economic report for September 2020 said the Tairawhiti economy saw sustained and solid economic growth in the September quarter as activity surged post-lockdown. Economic activity here, from preliminary data, was seen as growth of 2 percent per annum in the September quarter; making us the only region in the country to record economic growth over the past 12 months — compared to a 3.3 percent decline nationally.

Non-residential consents to the value of $53 million were issued in Gisborne over the 12 months to September 2020, double the value of non-residential consents issued over the previous 12 months and also a peak in activity looking across the past 10 years.

Nationally the value of consents was down 7.6 percent for the 12 months to September.

These region-wide numbers were consistent with what they were experiencing, said Currie Construction project manager Mark van Wijk.

Their staff numbers had jumped over the past 12 months and they recently took on three apprentices to make a pool of 20 apprentices.

“Long term we are expecting to be busy for another 12 months to two years.

“We already have projects on the go now and others would be running through to 2022.”

McCannics owner Robbie McCann said the biggest problem was the shortage of tradespeople.

“We need more manpower — there are not enough skilled tradespeople around.”

McCannics had advertised outside the district for tradespeople and hired two new full-time people from outside the region just last month.

“But then the next issue is no accommodation for them.”

Mr McCann said his company was booked up for the next two years as well.

He said the Resource Management Act (RMA) needed to be reformed.

“It doesn't work. And the consent process doesn't work either. They take to the end of the 20 days they've got and then ask a question. It holds up progress.”

Lack of qualified staff a challenge for sector

New to the construction industry is plumber and gasfitter David Tamanui. He graduated at an online event hosted by the Apprenticeship Training Trust, one of the country’s largest apprentice training organisations.

Work was “flat out and crazy”, he said.

“There are so many new houses going up, and everyone is doing up their houses.

“It’s mad. We could work seven days a week if we wanted to.”

The 28-year-old saw a job advertised on Trade Me five-and-a-half years ago for an apprentice plumber and gasfitter.

“Once you’re qualified the money is good, but there are a few hard years of being on the minimum wage before you get there.

“You have just got to stick at it for four years.

“Once you get qualified it’s good money, and if you do the hours you can get paid pretty well.”

David said he always knew he wanted to do a trade. Plumbing was something he definitely recommended.

“We need more plumbers coming through, there’s so much work on. It’s a good trade.”

Working on people’s drains could take a little getting used to, but wearing personal protection gear and keeping everything clean — you got used to it, he said.

CPS'S New Building: Civil Project Solutions project manager Stu Buscke at the company's new build on Aerodrome Road . . . . CPS recently finished managing construction of the new Gisborne Airport terminal, Rua Bioscience's Gisborne facility and Weatherell Transport's new depot in Makaraka. Some of the team have moved on to Aerodrome Business Park — with multiple projects there keeping a lot of local trades busy right now. A number of other projects are in the planning phase and some aren't yet in the public arena. Picture by Paul Rickard
BIG PROJECTS: The concrete walls of the NZ Post building went up on September 18 this year. The new building on the corner of Bright Street and Childers Road will be the NZ Post headquarters in Gisborne. It is one of the big projects keeping the construction industry busy right now.Picture by Liam Clayton
NEWLY QUALIFIED: Gisborne graduates Joel Baty (left) and David Tamanui (right). Joel is now a qualified plumber and drainlayer and David a plumber and gasfitter. Picture supplied