Spring Creek miners' Aussie hopes fade

By Christine Linnell of the Greymouth Star

File photo / Greymouth Star
File photo / Greymouth Star

As former Spring Creek miners search for jobs after the mine closure, hopes of finding work in the Australian mines are quickly evaporating.

Kumara resident Peter McGill, who worked with Solid Energy for two or three years, has been unemployed since the mine closed. He is looking for work on the West Coast and sent his CV to four or five recruiting agencies in Australia, but has received no solid offers. There might be a job prospect with engineering company Curtain Bros, in Queensland, but the managers are struggling with weather conditions and may not come through.

Mr McGill said he knew of at least five former miners in a similar position.

"All we're waiting for right now is the phone call. As soon as we get the call, we're gone."

Mr McGill, 57, is competing with men half his age for jobs. He invested his life savings in his house, but does not plan to sell before he moves because the real estate market is flooded.

"You couldn't give this place away. I'm just going to walk out the door, lock the door and walk away. I'll pay the rates, and maybe a year or two down the track I'll rent it out."

Despite the sluggish economy in Australia, he thinks the prospects are better there than in New Zealand.

"If you have worked all your life and you want to work and go forward in life, New Zealand is just not handing it out."

If he can get to Australia, work for a couple of months and get settled, he will then send for his wife and dogs and stay there until he retires.

His former co-workers did not have much faith in finding work in Christchurch, and if they did they would have to work for less pay and spend money on a small, expensive flat and petrol money, possibly in addition to paying rates for a home on the West Coast.

"It's less than being on the dole."

He guessed that more than half of the former Spring Creek workers would eventually try to go to Australia.

"Spring Creek has left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths."

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