Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Quake city providing the gold that Australia doesn't have

Eng Chuan Tang sees a future in rebuilding Christchurch. Photo / Martin Hunter
Eng Chuan Tang sees a future in rebuilding Christchurch. Photo / Martin Hunter

Canterbury handyman Eng Chuan Tang thought of making Australia his permanent home after hearing stories about its endless opportunities and a job market that was "paved with gold".

But after an exploration trip to Melbourne last year, the 54-year-old - who moved to Christchurch from Malaysia more than 20 years ago - decided to stay in Christchurch.

Despite his own home being hit by the city's devastating earthquakes, Mr Tang said the quakes had given him work opportunities that Australia never would.

Mr Tang makes his living by providing general repair services and doing basic construction and demolition.

"It has been three years since the first earthquake, but there's still a huge demand for me to demolish damaged homes and properties," he said.

He repairs any items that could be salvaged from the properties and sells them as "extra income".

Mr Tang, the father of two teenage children, has never been on the dole in New Zealand, but said he didn't like the idea that Kiwis were shut out of the social security safety net in Australia.

"I'll just be a second-class citizen if I moved there," said Mr Tang, who took up New Zealand citizenship eight years ago.

Mr Tang's home in Dallington was hit by the second earthquake that hit Canterbury in 2011. It was assessed as badly damaged enough to warrant a pay-out.

He considers the Christchurch rebuild as his "pot of gold" and believes it will give him work until he decides to retire.

"The rebuild process is incredibly slow, but that is not necessarily a bad thing," Mr Tang said.

"It just means that there will be jobs, employment and opportunities for many more years to come."

- NZ Herald

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