Chch rebuild team to meet Spring Creek miners

By Kurt Bayer, Laura Mills of the Greymouth Star

The earthquake damaged Christchurch Central Red Zone. Photo / Geoff Sloan
The earthquake damaged Christchurch Central Red Zone. Photo / Geoff Sloan

The organisation leading the Christchurch rebuild will meet out-of-work Spring Creek miners in Greymouth tomorrow, offering a glimmer of hope in a dismal week.

Scirt (Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure), representing about 80 contractors, has been charged with fixing the city's `horizonal' infrastructure - water, wastewater, sewerage, stormwater and roads.

General manager Duncan Gibb, who has a strong background in mining, said ``hands on'' miners were the people they were after.

For now, details were not available of what exact jobs were on offer, or levels of pay.

Mr Gibb said all of the 80 contractors were looking for staff and wanted people who used plant and equipment.

"They are looking for people who are not afraid of hard work, with a clear understanding and awareness of health and safety.

They should work well and effectively in teams.''

Mr Gibb said he understood mining well and he believed the skills were interchangeable.

The Christchurch-based work could be 50 hours a week. However, like mining, people could commute to work in the city.

The average pay would not be the minimum wage, he said.

"Construction pays people fairly for the work they do.''

The work needed to be completed within five years, but the larger rebuild could last for 20 years, and the miners' skills would again be transferable to the vertical (building) rebuild, he said.

The current workforce was aged over 50, and supervisors were older again, which meant there were great opportunities for people transferring to a new industry.

"It's a strong industry, not subject to the fluctuations in the international coal price.''

Meanwhile, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union has called the men to a meeting at Runanga tonight. Earlier, the union was to meet Solid Energy to start the formal consultation over redundancy payments.

Union organiser Garth Elliott said it would talk to his members, listen to their concerns and discuss `where to from here'.

It was hard to gauge how the diverse workforce would respond to the Scirt job offer tomorrow, he said.

Convicted crims won't be hired

It was also revealed today that jobseekers with serious criminal convictions will be refused work on Christchurch's earthquake-damage house repairs programme, as part of a new six-week trial designed to put homeowners' minds at rest.

Fletcher EQR is looking to weed out criminals wanting work on the rebuild.

Anyone with convictions for crimes involving violence, dishonesty, or using or manufacturing class A or B drugs over the last seven years would be immediately rejected.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) ordered its project manager for properties with quake damage of $15,000 to $100,000, Fletchers EQR, to introduce the trial to give property owners "greater assurance".

A spokesman for EQC said Fletcher EQR was already checking its qualifications and reputation of its contractors, which gave them "a significant degree of assurance of their character".

However, for the past six months they had been relying on self reporting of previous criminal convictions, and the new trial is aimed at shoring up its vetting process.

"The trial was jointly agreed between EQC and Fletcher EQR with the objective of understanding the potential impacts on the project," says Bruce Emson, EQC general manager customer services.

"Fletcher contractors are expected to take care in the choice of their employees, and if it became apparent that there were issues with their staff, it would result in a review of the contractor's ongoing involvement with the project.

"Nevertheless, it is hoped that more in-depth vetting will provide greater assurance if the trial proves it to be practical."

Anyone found with minor convictions would be assessed on a case by case basis, EQC said.

The scheme would look only at new tradesmen and did not apply to existing contractors who had already voluntarily declared any past convictions.

- APNZ

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