Perth funds future in paradise
Kaikoura plumber Dave Lewis advocates working in Western Australia and would recommend anyone take up the chance if they want to earn good money in exchange for honest work.
Dave’s decision to move to WA seven months ago was made for a number of reasons, but the driving force was economic opportunity.
‘‘I felt the global financial crisis had affected development in Kaikoura,’’ he says.
‘‘That had a flow-on effect to the building trades.’’
With not enough business in Kaikoura, Dave ended up having to resort to working in Christchurch doing earthquake repair jobs, but struggling to get money from EQC. He decided it was not worth the bother and began to think about alternatives.
‘‘Our apprentice went over [to Western Australia] to build construction camps for construction workers, and he told me he was earning good money. I didn’t have enough work on in Kaikoura so I had to go away, and if I had to go away I wanted to get paid, for a start, and also paid well.’’
Dave had heard from other friends who had gone to Australia and were earning well, and having spent a couple of years there in the late 1980s making decent money himself, he decided to discuss the option with Susan, his wife.
He has now been there since November, and the couple has grown used to the daily Skype calls and time apart. Their two sons have gone to boarding school in Nelson but with Dave’s schedule allowing one week off in every five, and with enough money to be able to come home, the family is still managing to spend some quality time together.
Dave is working for Decmil, near the town of Newman, about an hour and a half’s drive from Perth. The company specialises in building construction camps for sometimes as many as 2500 workers. While the hours are long – seven days a week at 10 hours a day – the work is not gruelling, and there is a strong focus on health and safety.
Living conditions provided for him are in a self-contained unit, or dunga, and he has all the home comforts he requires, with bars and a gym, and Sky TV in his room. Because his days are long, Dave spends much of his free time at the gym, but says some younger workers give in to alcohol instead and this can lead to trouble.
‘‘ There are absolutely strict rules on drug and alcohol consumption. We are breathalised each morning and it’s got to read zero . . . they also do on the spot testing for all kinds of things.’’
A breach of this rule can lead to an instant sacking, known as a ‘window seat’.
While Dave compares his new lifestyle to a cross between a kindergarten and a prison, he says the benefits are huge.
‘‘You get paid well, and you really can save while you are over there. Of course I send most of my money home because I’ve got kids and a wife to feed!’’
And he recommends it to anyone who feels like a change and a chance to get ahead.
‘‘There are plenty of different options. Even if you are unskilled you can go to Perth and gain some skills like truck driving. But people really need to get themselves over there first, then apply . . . for people with skills looking for a change there are some good opportunities.’’
He says he is there to make a difference to his life when he returns to Kaikoura, because that is what he, and dozens like him who have left Kaikoura for WA, plan to do.
Dave loves the lifestyle in Kaikoura but wants his family to be able to enjoy it properly. Others are the same, and will return to invest in the local economy, whether it be buying property or setting up business.
We may even see a shift in tide – Dave has been selling the idea of Kaikoura to a wider audience, telling anyone who will listen about the place, showing them footage of the local surf breaks and recommending fellow workers to buy property in New Zealand.
He encourages anyone who knows him or anyone else currently in WA to make contact and find out more about job prospects.
‘‘I feel very fortunate that I can do this now – the kids are at boarding school, Susan is fine on her own and has time to do her art. It has worked out really well.’’
Creature comforts: Dave Lewis enjoys a
cuppa in his Hapuku garden
on Monday during a break from working in