Perth funds fu­ture in par­adise

Kaikoura Star - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA DANGER­FIELD

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.’’

Photo: EMMA DANGER­FIELD

Crea­ture com­forts: Dave Lewis en­joys a

cuppa in his Ha­puku gar­den

on Mon­day dur­ing a break from work­ing in

Western Aus­tralia.

Dave Lewis

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