There are $ 3.4 billion in projects underway during the year, but there is a 138 percent labor shortage. Photo / RNZ

By Harry Lock from RNZ

Doubt is cast on the deliverability of large construction projects in the capital, where there is a deficit of around 140 percent in the number of construction workers.

Across the country, it is estimated that 65,000 additional workers are needed to complete the work program initiated by the private and public sector.

Some are now wondering if many projects will not be delivered due to lack of manpower.

The situation is particularly precarious in the capital, where it is expected to spend $ 18 billion over the next four years on projects.

Around the Wellington area over the next decade, councils are looking to invest several billion dollars in Three Waters alone, to upgrade its aging and increasingly failing pipes.

Construction Contracts Ltd – which does some of this work around Wellington – employs around 50 people.

Given the pipeline of projects ahead of him, chief executive David Howard said he could do more.

But it was not as easy as it seems.

“We’re still looking to increase a bit, but at the moment we would increase a bit more, so what I mean by that is we’re looking for probably 10 people,” Howard said.

“And we have a hard time finding someone, whether it’s a beginner, a change of profession or people with experience.”

Wellington is not the only region in difficulty

The data comes from the recently launched Workforce Information Platform (WIP), which was led by the Building and Construction Industry Training Organization.

WIP was first launched in Otago to assess the viability of the local workforce before the construction of Dunedin Hospital, but was later expanded nationwide.

The database shows the amount of work undertaken both in the state and in the private sector, and projects how many workers will be needed to accomplish that work.

He then compares that with the number of workers there actually are.

A Wellington recruitment agency says it is advertising 30% more jobs now than before the pandemic.  Photo / RNZ
A Wellington recruitment agency says it is advertising 30% more jobs now than before the pandemic. Photo / RNZ

The results show that nationally in 2021, there is a labor shortage – an under-supply of 27.83 percent or 65,000 workers – to be able to complete the $ 70.7 billion in projects.

A regional breakdown shows that different regions are in different situations. While Canterbury has a surplus of construction workers (3,377 additional workers), Hawke’s Bay faces the most severe deficit in proportion to the amount of work expected (3,463 workers missing).

Wellington city faces huge labor shortage

While across the region Wellington has a 45 percent worker shortage, the city of Wellington faces a much bigger problem.

There are $ 3.4 billion in projects undertaken during the year, but there is a 138 percent labor shortage.

James Brownlee is the director of engineering and construction agency Grada Recruitment and said they post around 60 to 70 job postings each month.

That’s about 30% more jobs than they did before the pandemic, showing the increase in demand.

But filling in the space is another matter.

“[The jobs are] quite difficult to complete at the moment.

“Wellington in particular is quite difficult to fill, where there’s a lot of work going on in the build space, but there hasn’t been that much talent there. “

Howard said the shortage spurred competition.

“I think the biggest potential impact will be the cost. Because to maintain what we have, we’ll have to pay more, I guess.”

Two staff members have already been lost to other companies in the past six months, he said.

Too promising and under-deliverable

WIP project manager Mark Williams said there was another consequence.

“The number of projects that are planned, in the Wellington area there is a percentage of them that will not be able to go ahead given the available manpower.”

In Wellington, the city council is roughly responsible for about 15% of projects, with the private sector making up the rest.

Over the next 10 years, the council plans to spend hundreds of millions on cycle paths, strengthening the central library and its water infrastructure.

But advisor Diane Calvert said she has questions about the actual deliverability of the projects.

“I see how much has been invested in our long term plan, and given that the advice from our agents is that there is a real problem, not just here in Wellington, but across the country, to be able to achieve construction projects, I have real concerns that we over-promise and that we don’t keep. ”

Indeed, this has already happened for the board.

A new document for the board’s finance and performance committee showed it had underestimated its capital projects by more than $ 80 million.

Calvert said the council risked damaging its reputation, as well as wasting effort if money was put into planning but never acted on.

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This notice was published: 2021-06-13 21:58:00


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