A multi-million dollar temporary village shipped in from Australia to house workers helping on the $2billion rebuild of earthquake-battered road and rail around Kaikoura has awarded a lucrative catering contract to controversial Compass Group.
The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) alliance, set up to oversee the unprecedented repairs to State Highway 1 and the rail line north and south of Kaikoura after the giant November 14 quake, announced the decision to build a workers village earlier this year.
Seventy five prefabricated units have been shipped over from Australia to form the basis of the village at corner Mt Fyffe and Ludstone Rds that will house more than 300 workers frantically trying to have the critical Kaikoura coastal route opened by the end of the year.
It will take 105 truckloads from Lyttelton, via the Inland Rd through quake-battered Waiau, before it's expected it will take a month for them to be assembled.
Each of the 75 units will have four self-contained bedrooms with ensuites.
There will also be recreational facilities, including a dining hall, laundry, gymnasium. Cooking facilities will be on site for workers to use if required.
Steve Mutton, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) earthquake recovery manager, says Compass Group's track record of delivering large-scale facilities and willingness to work locally with Kaikoura businesses and suppliers made them "the obvious choice to deliver this crucial part of the Kaikoura recovery".
"Compass is ensuring that good, competitive commercial arrangements have been made with local Kaikoura businesses and suppliers so local people will benefit from this the most," Mutton said.
"They are working with local businesses and the Kaikoura District Council to fill food, transport, cleaning and management services for the workers village."
The village will employ around 21 local staff to cook breakfast, clean and run the facility, as well as local suppliers to provide transport to and from the sites and provide lunches and dinners, Mutton said.
The price of the contract is not known, with the NZTA saying it's "commercially sensitive".
Compass Group is one of the world's biggest catering companies, and supplies nearly half of all public hospital meals in New Zealand.
Last year, hundreds of people protested outside Dunedin Hospital after Southern District Health Board began outsourcing hospital meals through Compass Group.
Patients called the food "slop", prompting a stream of complaints, and the doctors' association threatened to sue the SDHB over the food quality.
And in March this year, Canterbury District Health Board announced it will not renew its contract with Compass Group, which had provided meals since 2004.
Compass also holds a catering contract with the New Zealand Defence Force.
Compass has been approached for comment.
The North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR), made up of NZTA, KiwiRail, Fulton Hogan, Downer, Higgins and HEB Construction, has been working with Kaikoura District Council and local accommodation suppliers "for some time to determine if Kaikoura had enough accommodation" to cater for 300 to 400 NCTIR staff and sub-contractors.
A survey concluded that there were not enough rooms to house all of the workers needed for the road and rail rebuild and also ensure that Kaikoura accommodation would still be available for visitors to the town over the next 18 months, Mutton said.
"As a result, the decision was made to bring in a prefabricated facility, all ready to be assembled and connected to core services on its residential site near the town," he said.
Once operational, the NCTIR Accommodation Village will be used 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a range of staff working for NCTIR across projects to reopen the transport corridor.
During a typical day, the majority of workers will leave the site between 5.30am and 7am and return between 6pm and 8pm, NZTA said.
Workers using the village will be given an information booklet on "the expectations of driving and vehicle use in the community", especially around the school.
It's also understood that there will be a need for accommodation to house approximately 40 workers north of Clarence but a site is yet to be confirmed.