Better pay lures skilled workers away from Bay

By Carmen Hall

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Tradesmen are quitting the Western Bay for better pay further afield causing a skilled worker shortage that will result in price increases for consumers, industry leaders say.


CBC Construction director Peter Cooney said there was "a big problem coming" as construction in Christchurch, Auckland and Queenstown put a huge drain on resources with qualified tradesmen being recruited from around the country.

"If it gets any busier and the market picks up in Tauranga we are going to have problems. Christchurch is only starting to get cracking so there is going to be a shortage of sub trades when that gets in to full swing ... a lot of people have already moved down because the money is better."

Lack of apprenticeship training since the 2006 global financial crisis had compounded the problem, Mr Cooney said.

Gartshore has its head office based in Tauranga but the construction, interiors and joinery company opened another office in Christchurch two years ago.

South Island manager Rob Gartshore said it had about 90 staff in Christchurch hired from throughout New Zealand, including nine from the Bay of Plenty. The firm bought a number of houses and offered work-accommodation packages as incentives as opposed to high hourly rates, he said.

"In terms of the hourly rates they are higher than the Bay of Plenty. But we secure our staff by consistent work, warm, comfortable accommodation with Sky TV and the internet plus flights for staff from outside the region so they can visit their families."

However, he admitted the Auckland residential market was "kicking off" and "only time will tell if we can hold our guys".

Tauranga Plumbing managing director Craig McCord said quality tradespeople had disappeared and prices would go up to attract them.

"It goes with the territory."

Mr McCord, Bay of Plenty/Coromandel Master Plumbers Association president said they've had a "devil's job" recruiting. Last month they advertised two positions and got one reply from an unqualified person in South Africa.

The situation was "absolutely" worse than it was a year ago, he said.

A search of online job site Seek showed 274 construction jobs in Canterbury with 68 of those paying more than $100,000 per year compared with 15 in the Bay of Plenty with only one for a quantity surveyor/estimator commanding the same money. Trades and services had 374 jobs listed in Canterbury with seven paying more than $100,000 for positions including a foreman carpenter and certified plumber and gasfitter. The Bay of Plenty had 59 jobs with none listed at more than $100,000.

Trade Me featured 394 jobs for construction and architecture and 147 had salaries over $80,000 compared with 32 in the Bay of Plenty with two paying more than $80,000.

In July 2012, a Tauranga painter and decorator who was heading south told the Bay of Plenty Times he could not resist the wages that were "up to 30 per cent higher".

Drainage trainees or lining technicians were being paid up to $26 an hour in Christchurch and could earn bonuses of up to $250 per week. Labourers could expect $13.50 to $14 in the Bay of Plenty compared with $18-$24 per hour in Christchurch.

Certified Builders Western Bay of Plenty president Mike Way said tradespeople may chase the dollar in other centres and that would cause flow-on effects in the city.

"The old supply and demand will kick in and if we have to pay more for workers eventually you have got to put your rates up to cover it."

Clients' jobs could be pushed out over longer periods, he said.

"The reality is customers may just have to wait until your time is available."

Master Builders Association Tauranga president Brian Foster said the situation was not "too bad" at the moment but it would get harder as demand increased.

"Christchurch and Auckland have already seen a big upsurge in permits and workloads so they are going to need more tradespeople. People from this area could definitely take up those opportunities."

There had also been talk of bringing in tradespeople from overseas, he said.

Electrical Works Ltd owner Colin Smith said tradesmen were "a lot lighter on the ground".

But the Electrical Contractors Association New Zealand Inc. (ECANZ) national vice-president said its training organisation dealt with declining apprenticeship numbers 20 years ago and was placed better than most.

"At the moment, we have about 50 to 70 apprentices in the Western Bay of Plenty. Our biggest issue is promoting it as a career as the trades is often seen as a poor option for kids."

The Skills Organisation head of specialist trades Paul Hollings said there was a positive outlook for trades training in Tauranga, which was supported by new government initiatives. In 2013, 46 new apprentices had started training.

Careers NZ said the average salary for a qualified carpenter was $44,000, an electrician $60,000 and plumbers/gasfitters/drainlayer started on $35,000-$45,000.

The callout rate in Tauranga for a electrician was $55-$65 per hour and a plumber $70 plus GST and call-out fee.


Tradesmen



  • There are 198 specialist trades apprentices training in Tauranga


  • 41 cranes


  • 28 drainlaying


  • 84 electrical


  • 16 gasfitting


  • 1 motor rewinding


  • 19 plumbing


  • 27 roofing


  • 2 switchgear


- Bay of Plenty Times

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