Anger as convention centre jobs go overseas

News that some of the steel framing for the new convention centre will be built by a US firm has sparked fury.
Photo / File
News that some of the steel framing for the new convention centre will be built by a US firm has sparked fury. Photo / File

Fletcher Building has hit back at claims half the work on steel frames needed for the SkyCity Convention Centre will go to a foreign contractor.

The order for the 8500 tonnes of steel frames needed for the convention centre, as well as the fitting contract, has gone to CH Steel -- a joint venture between Whangarei's Culham Engineering and US company Herrick.

The Government has often pointed to local job creation as a key benefit of the controversial deal, in which the casino agreed to build a $402 million convention centre in exchange for a change to gambling law.

Initial projections said there would be 800 jobs on completion, 1000 jobs during construction and $90 million of economic benefits to New Zealand.

Green Party gambling spokeswoman Denise Roche said it needed to be made clear how many construction jobs linked to the project would go overseas.

"The economic justification for the dodgy convention centre deal has always been full of holes, and now it's completely falling apart.

"The Government said construction would create 1000 jobs, but an independent report for Auckland Council cast doubt on that number, and now we're learning that some of these jobs won't even be in New Zealand."

Fletcher Building responded to the claims this morning, saying at least 50 new jobs would be created in New Zealand.

It said Culham had a proud 58-year history of steel fabrication in Northland. The company employed 230 people and as a result of the contract it would be gearing up to hire more staff.

Culham general manager and director Rob Kirwan said a very conservative estimate was for at least 50 new jobs to be based in New Zealand.

He said he was "thrilled to have won the contract as it is helping bring new technology and training opportunities to Whangarei".

Culham was training 17 apprentices and five of those were hired this year as a result of the convention centre work and other contracts, Mr Kirwan said.

"The apprentices will start their training as steel fabricators and will have the opportunity to receive specialist training in the use of new high-tech equipment. This will include specialist training in Europe."

Mr Kirwan said Herrick is a leading US steel fabricator and has specialised knowledge about high-rise towers, convention centres and other large scale commercial buildings. Culham Engineering is sending employees to the US to train with Herrick and Herrick workers will also come to New Zealand.

"Culham Engineering has invested substantially in new equipment to undertake this contract and is likely to be one of the most technologically advanced fabrication plants in the country."

E Tu union industry coordinator Joe Gallagher said it was "a disgrace" that this work would go overseas.

"There is no protection for local industry and local jobs on a big project like this and there should be."

Labour leader Andrew Little said it came at a time when the New Zealand steel industry was already under threat because of the potential closure of the Glenbrook Steel Mill.

"More than 2000 metal manufacturing jobs have already been lost under this Government," he said.

"John Key should have negotiated a clause in his deal with SkyCity to ensure that convention centre work went to Kiwi companies and Kiwi workers. It beggars belief they didn't make sure this work stayed in New Zealand."

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, who is overseas, has been contacted for comment.

After the Government ruled out extra money to meet increased construction costs, Sky City chief executive Nigel Morrison said the company would try to cut costs by tweaking the centre's design, starting work sooner and getting better deals on procuring materials.

The concessions SkyCity received in the deal, which included 230 additional pokie machines and a 28-year extension to its gambling licence, were not affected by the redesign.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 29 Sep 2016 05:32:17 Processing Time: 952ms