Frustrated tradesmen are leaving for Australia for work because it is taking too long to get the massive rebuilding effort in Canterbury going after the earthquake.

Billions of dollars will be poured into the rebuild required after the damaging 7.1-magnitude quake in September and subsequent aftershocks - and it is hoped it will provide a much-needed boost for the whole economy.

But an Auckland building contractor, who asked not to be named, said he and fellow workers went down to Canterbury, but were "twiddling their thumbs" with no work to do. He said high quality workers were not prepared to wait around.

"They are actually losing a lot of guys to Queensland and Australia because of the fact that they can't get a clear answer when they are going to start," he said.

"You've got to have a bit of urgency about what you are doing. If you compare it to what's going on in Australia, they have got off the ground quite quickly and there's adverts all over the place looking for [workers]."

"They are going over there and getting top dollar ... and you're left with a lot of the rubbish that is floating around."

President of the Canterbury Registered Master Builders Association, Richard Field, said the work was not yet coming through for Cantabrians, let alone workers from further afield.

"There's no future for people jumping in their car and driving down [to Canterbury]. The work's not being processed and insurance companies aren't releasing it."

The Insurance Council said some rebuilding work was taking place. Chief executive Chris Ryan cautioned against tradesmen looking to Australia for work, saying his understanding was that places like flood-ravaged Queensland already had enough workers.

Fletcher Construction, which is managing the repair of about 60,000 Canterbury homes for the Earthquake Commission, said it had so far "engaged" with the owners of about 1000 properties.

Spokesman Barry Akers said it was understandable that people wanted to see repairs happening much sooner, but the planning had to be done to make sure everything went smoothly. This would be the case in Australia's disaster recovery as well, he said.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said it was clear that for many Christchurch people in the most damaged areas, confusion still existed around timeframes and consent for rebuilding.

"I want to reassure residents that the recovery programme is making rapid and significant progress, that many of the issues that concern our community are well understood, and action to resolve these issues is under way."

All major parties in the quake recovery are due to meet on February 19 to discuss progress.