Bay tradies swamped as new home builds skyrocket

By Carmen Hall

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Master painters NZ BOP president Riki Nelson  says most of its members are booked up for months while his workload has increased by 50 per cent in the last  year. PHOTO/ John Borren
Master painters NZ BOP president Riki Nelson says most of its members are booked up for months while his workload has increased by 50 per cent in the last year. PHOTO/ John Borren

The Bay's residential building boom has reached new levels as sub trades report massive workloads which may mean some homeowners will have to wait months for house repairs or renovations.

Industry experts also told the Bay of Plenty Times they were struggling to find qualified staff with some workers being ''head hunted'' by rival firms with the lure of more money.
Moon Civil and Drainage owner Rob Moon said he had hired six staff in the last year and kept a running advertisement due to demand.

''Getting the right guys is not easy.''

''Obviously the work has increased over the last few years and it's a boom that has gone to another level. Everyone in town is busy and trying to keep up and meet the programmes, it's pretty hard and everyone is in the same boat.''

The company which did residential and civil drainage, residential and earthworks and civil works did do private work, Mr Moon said but that had slowed because ''we are kept busy with all the new stuff''.

Master Painters NZ Bay of Plenty president Riki Nelson said feedback from its members indicated ''the majority are booked up for months in advance'', with most of the work in new housing.

His own business The Decorating Company had increased its production by 50 per cent compared to the same time last year - and hired three employees in 2016.

''Without a doubt we are pretty confident. The housing groups that we work with have significantly increased their sales...the sales they are doing now will take six to eight months to build so we have all that work lined up.''

A1 Exteriors director Sam Neilson said it had employed three new staff this year but said it was hard to source qualified staff.

Bay City Fencing owner Graeme Ward said the business, which his family took over 20 years ago, did 80 per cent of its work with builders and 20 per cent for homeowners - a shift from a 50/50 spilt in last two years.

They were booked up for three months and Mr Ward said he was preserving the seven staff he had by having bigger lead in times.

''Trying to satisfy everybody is impossible. The hardest part is turning people away but I am comfortable going forward as I have seen the rises and falls and it doesn't really daunt me in anyway.''

But there was big competition for experienced staff and ''if somebody spies someone that is particularly good they will probably head hunt them and offer them more money.''

''Generally most builders have come to the view that it's no good stealing workers from everybody because the only thing you are doing is driving up wages and that adds to the cost of a house.''

Helen Anderson from Mount Maunganui Roofing said the company which specialised in new roofs, re-roofing, spouting and repairs had work booked in for the next four months.
The majority of business nowadays was new roofs in the residential building market which accounted for about 60 per cent of its workload as opposed to 20 per cent ''through the tough times''.

It had 14 staff and she said one of the biggest challenges was finding experienced workers.

''We'd love to be able to hire more but there is a huge shortage of people, even experienced labourers.''

Winter compounded the situation as it was unsafe to work on a wet roof and often it proved difficult to the meet tight deadlines required on new builds.

''It concertinas our work and it has really got quite crazy.''

''We can't see it slowing down anytime soon as we are busier than ever pricing on all the new plans that are coming through.

Meanwhile a homeowner that needed to fix a leaking roof could have a wait period of up to six weeks because of demand, she said.

Cally's Building and Maintenance Services owner/operator Tony Callaghan said he was booked up until November.

The licensed builder and qualified tradesman worked alone and said ''the last two years have been flat out''.

Replacing or upgrading bathrooms and maintenance jobs for real estate companies took up the bulk of his work although he might be able to complete a small job in a couple of weeks.

He believed there could be opportunities in his sector and ''there is probably room for a few more businesses because when the house builders are busy they don't want to do the little stuff''.

Figures from Priority One show from January to June 2016 the total value of consents issued by Tauranga City and Western Bay District Councils hit $513.71 million and smashed the previous high of $375.69 million in 2004 when records began.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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