Christchurch rebuild ups wages

By Susan Edmunds

Staff are being recruited countrywide. Photo / APN
Staff are being recruited countrywide. Photo / APN

Christchurch's rebuild is lining the pockets of workers who have stayed in the city, the latest Seek salary statistics show.

Data released by the recruitment website shows Cantabrian salaries have increased 3.6 per cent in the first six months of the year, taking average pay to $66,415 a year.

By comparison, salaries across the rest of New Zealand were flat for the same period. Annual growth of 1.4 per cent for jobs advertised on the site increased the national average to $71,731.

Jason Walker, managing director at recruitment firm Hays, said the salary increases were driven by huge growth in demand. New businesses that had moved in to provide services for the demolition efforts and eventual rebuild were shaking up the employment climate, encouraging staff turnover and higher salaries.

The demand for workers meant staff often had to be recruited to the earthquake-ravaged city from other parts of the country - usually with a better pay packet.

Where Christchurch firms seeking staff would previously have been responsible for about 12 per cent of his business, they were now 40 per cent. And he expected that to continue. "We haven't even hit the tip of the iceberg yet. They're still demolishing the CBD, they haven't even looked at rebuilding yet."

He said only small civil projects worth less than $2.5 million had been approved - the major projects had not even started - and there was already a skill shortage.

The demand for workers was not just in construction, Walker said. Office support, management and administration roles were also hard to fill. "There is huge demand for experienced, skilled, qualified staff."

He said companies that were not in a position to compete on a salary basis were offering other benefits, such as vehicles, mobile phones and flexible working hours. Some were offering fly-in, fly-out roles for skilled people who did not want to move to Christchurch permanently. Family-run firms that had previously relied on loyalty to keep their staff had to improve the packages they offered. "Before the earthquakes, Christchurch had a very loyal workforce.

"It wasn't uncommon for people to stay with an employer for 20 years. Now, businesses are having to invest a lot more in retention because turnover has increased markedly."

He said workers were benefiting from the newly competitive marketplace. Janet Faulding, general manager of Seek New Zealand, said the salary increase in Christchurch was not a surprise. "To attract workers to the region, higher salaries are one of the additional perks favoured by many firms."

Seek statistics showed the highest-paid industries were mining, consulting, IT, engineering, construction and banking. Administration and office support, call centre and retail jobs were paid the least.

- Herald on Sunday

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