Migrant departures putting pressure on NZ building industry

The AM Show 22/05/2018

Migrants are heading back overseas, which could be devastating for the country’s building industry.

The New Zealand Building Federation (NZBF) says the industry is desperate for workers, with many jobs in the industry still needing to be filled.

However figures from Statistics NZ shows the number of non-New Zealand citizens leaving the country is up 23 percent from last year. Statistics also show a 14 percent fall in arrivals on residence visas, compared to last year.

We do need that skilled labour available to us.

NZBF CEO Bruce Kohn told The AM Show there's a need for more builders in Auckland.

While Mr Kohn acknowledged the lack of training local workers as an issue, he argued that the underlying problem is the “boom-bust nature of the industry”.

"There have been a range of predictions of shortfalls to two or three years out and these suggest a shortfall in excess of 50,000," he says.

He said that training local workers for building peaks – such as KiwiBuild homes – is not always an option.

“So I don’t think there’s a problem with topping up with skilled immigration,” he told The AM Show.

And Christchurch could be to blame for the increase in migrant workers leaving the country, as the recovery winds down.

"The Christchurch rebuild having come to an end, that may lead to some of those who came out specifically to work on connected projects are leaving after their period in the country," Mr Kohn says.

Mr Kohn says he hopes this isn't an ominous sign for the future.

"We are in need of skilled workers, there's no question," he says.

"So we hope this is not a bad portent for our labour - and skilled labour in particular - needs."

Watch the full interview with Bruce Kohn above.

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