Tech workers take free trips, get new jobs in New Zealand
Country’s capital city seeks to boost growing tech hub.
It sounds almost too good to be true: A free trip to New Zealand to interview for a job in the tech sector.
But that’s what local authorities and businesses in the capital, Wellington, are offering to 100 talented workers from around the globe as they seek to boost the city’s growing tech hub. The idea has caught fire, with 12,000 people completing applications so far and thousands more registering interest ahead of the March 20 deadline.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said the city’s tech sector has been growing at an annual rate of 14 percent over the past five years.
“The problem we need to solve is that we have a whole lot of businesses that are struggling to keep up with recruitment,” he said.
The LookSee campaign was first promoted in tech hubs like San Francisco, which is more than 6,000 miles from Wellington.
About one-third of the applicants are from the U.S. but that mix is changing as more people from other parts of the world find out about the offer, said David Jones, who is helping to oversee the campaign at the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency.
“This is the first time a city has approached recruitment in this way,” Jones said. “We’ve been absolutely amazed at the level of interest.”
Successful applicants get free flights to New Zealand and free accommodation during their four-day stay in Wellington. They also get to see some of the sights and meet tech leaders. They are expected to apply for three jobs each but aren’t obliged to accept any offers.
The $588,000 cost of the campaign is paid for by a combination of taxpayer money and contributions from local businesses.
Nick Piesco, 40, moved to Wellington from another American tech hub, Austin, two weeks ago to take a job as a developer at Xero, an online accounting software company.
He said his wife, Reneau Skinner, had loved Wellington when she visited more than a decade ago for an eight-month working holiday and that they made the decision to move to the city before the LookSee offer.
He said people in New Zealand seemed to really value having a life outside of work and that he was making some life changes, including forgoing a car.
“I can walk to work, I can walk to the shops. I live between two breweries, so I think I’m pretty well situated,” he said. “The fact that you live in such a beautiful city in such a beautiful country means that you are urged to get outside and enjoy it.”
He said the timing of his move soon after President Donald Trump was elected was “coincidental but fortuitous.” sions that they were behind schedule before finally moving in November to partially terminate its $31 million contract with Cobb, which had been tasked with handling mechanical and plumbing systems for the luxury highrise.
The partial contract termination called for Cobb’s crews to stop work on the hotel’s podium — its first seven floors — and focus instead on the upper floors of the hotel tower.
Hunt says it was required to secure a replacement subcontractor, “incurring significant additional costs.”
“The subcontract provides that Hunt is not required to sit by and wait while delays and damages mount up,” the suit states.
So far, Hunt alleges, Liberty Mutual has refused to reimburse Hunt via the performance bond the insurer issued.
Hunt describes the hotel as a “fast-track oriented project.” Construction is sequenced, so when one company — such as Cobb — falls behind, other work is delayed, as well, Hunt said.
In addition to allegedly not having enough workers on site, Hunt says some of Cobb’s workers were responsible for “quality issues,” such as supposedly not resealing a temporary roof structure before a rainstorm, penalty, contending that owners were entitled to restitution through the criminal court. But the Justice Department and VW argued that the company agreed to pay $11 billion in restitution to owners through a civil lawsuit, and that was sufficient. That was part of a $15 billion civil settlement with U.S. environmental which led to “significant” damage.
The suit accuses Cobb and Liberty Mutual both of breach of contract and seeks more than $27 million in damages, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.
A trial date has not been set.
Last month, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation involving the Fairmont project after a metal bracket fell from an external construction elevator at the site at East Cesar Chavez and Red River streets, where the $370 million project is underway.
Asked last week about any update in the probe, Juan Rodriguez, deputy regional director in the Office of Public Affairs for OSHA, said there was nothing new to report.
“The investigation is open and ongoing,” Rodriguez said in an email.
In a written statement about the incident last month, Hunt said: “This morning a small metal bracket on an external hoist fell to the ground. No one came in contact with the bracket and there were no injuries. The matter is being investigated, but there have been no prior safety issues with the hoist.” authorities and car owners approved last year.
Although the cost is staggering and would bankrupt many companies, VW has the money, with $33 billion in cash on hand.
Under its agreement, VW must cooperate in the investigation and let an independent monitor oversee compliance for three years.
Separately, seven Volkswagen employees have been charged in the scandal.
Booker preaches ‘courageous empathy’
If political junkies were looking for fighting words and calls to arms from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, they instead got the oral equivalent of a big, firm hug.
In a South by Southwest Interactive opening presentation that followed the conference introduction from Forrest, Booker said that the Trump presidential era has ushered in some of the toughest times of his political career.
But he stressed that love, “courageous empathy” and understanding is more important than mere tolerance — “I tolerate a cold,” he joked — in a talk that was built for inspiration in divisive times.
For about 20 minutes, Booker addressed SXSW attendees on his feet before a sit-down interview with Google senior counsel on civil and human rights Malika Saada Saar.
As a representative of a major tech company, she asked about the role of social media on coarsening (or perhaps enabling positively) the culture and pushed back slightly on the idea of “loving resistance” in the face of ugly politics.
The session addressed immigration, racial bias and the criminal justice system, media consumption (he said watches Fox News to learn about those he disagrees with) and whether he has plans to run for president.
“I don’t know what the future holds. But at this time in American history I want to be a fearless truthteller,” Booker said, when asked about the possibility of a White House run.
The talk could help set the tone for a SXSW year that figures to be heavy on politics, including a Sunday presentation featuring former Vice President Joe Biden.
An artist’s rendering of the 37-story Fairmont Austin, currently under construction. Officials behind the project say the hotel, which will be Austin’s largest, will open Aug. 9 despite the general contractor’s legal action against Cobb Mechanical Contractors, which it accuses of having too few people on the job and subpar work.
Nick Piesco, 40, posing for a photo in Wellington, New Zealand, moved to the city from another tech hub, Austin, to take a job as a developer at Xero, an online accounting software company.