Prime Minister John Key visited three major construction sites in Christchurch today which are being hailed as evidence that the post-disaster city has turned from demolition to construction.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee took his leader on a whistle-stop tour of three buildings, which will be worth around $100 million once completed.
The construction sites visited today were a six-storey office commercial building at 70 Gloucester Street, a three-storey building at 219 High Street, which will house offices with a bar/retail shops on the ground floor, and a day-stay hospital and medical consulting rooms at 137 Kilmore Street.
The three sites will employ around 500 workers during the construction phase and Mr Key was keen to find out where they were all coming from.
Ireland was the answer given to him by Fletcher project manager Eugene Duggan, himself an Irishman.
He said his countrymen were coming over for long-term stints working on the rebuild.
Mr Key, who has lived in Dublin, joked about the Guinness not being as good here, while the All Blacks were a superior rugby team.
He asked Mr Duggan, project manager on the new three-storey hospital site, which is being built with quake-absorbing rocking steel, if accommodation was proving difficult for his immigrant workers.
Mr Duggan replied that it was getting tougher and more expensive.
The Prime Minister also asked whether Mr Duggan was getting any apprentices through CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology).
There were seven working on his site, which Mr Duggan welcomed.
The three projects visited - two of which will be completed in the next six months, and the other within a year - reinforced the view that the badly-hit central business district is moving out of the demolition phase and the construction phase is "gearing up", Mr Brownlee said.
"Over the past 12 months, a total of $800 million worth of commercial consents has been issued in greater Christchurch and this will no doubt increase exponentially over the coming months as the rebuild gains momentum," he said.
Of more than 1100 buildings damaged by the earthquakes within the four avenues of the Christchurch CBD, there are now only 67 remaining, or just six per cent, that require full or partial demolition.