Bay of Plenty Times

Rents, living costs feed ‘dire’ labour shortage

‘We’re competing against other cities where housing is more affordable’

- Carmen Hall

The cost of living crisis is hitting the employment market with the high cost of housing in Tauranga deterring people from taking jobs in the city, employers say. A recent business survey revealed housing affordabil­ity and availabili­ty were the main barriers to recruitmen­t in one case a worker endured a year-long struggle to find a suitable home for his family after moving from Auckland. Employers are also increasing­ly looking overseas to fill positions after struggling to attract suitable candidates.

In the year to December, the cost of living increased by 8.2 per cent, while the net average wage rose by 6.24 per cent. Mortgage rates are rising and Bay of Plenty median rents reached an all-time high of $615 in January, but some tenants are more worried about putting food on the table than paying for a roof over their heads.

Harkin Roofing director Deborah Harkin said the job market was competitiv­e, with top roofing companies fighting for the same few people.

“We do get new people coming into town but the rental market is also tricky in Tauranga.

“We had one staff member move from Auckland, but it took him a year to be able to move his family due to not being able to find a suitable house.”

The company brought in skilled roofers from the Philippine­s after struggling to fill positions. “We are very happy with their skill level and their hard work ethic.”

Bay Sandblasti­ng Services had also started employing from overseas. Finance manager Michele Henderson said the company was seeking yardmen and blaster painters.

“We have got Fijians, Filipinos and people from Bangladesh. Everybody you talk to is saying the same thing because the good Kiwis are employed. It’s really hard.”

Bay Sandblasti­ng had tackled the housing shortage head-on by renting a house for workers.

The company also relied on backpacker accommodat­ion but that was proving difficult as most were full and were charging $245 a week with four to a room, she said.

Tauranga Business Chamber chief executive Matt Cowley said a straw poll of members this month showed 17 per cent identified staff shortages, retention and affordabil­ity as main business risks.

Housing availabili­ty and affordabil­ity was still the biggest barrier to attracting candidates while rising rents meant staff were asking for higher wages.

“We’re competing against other cities where housing is more affordable and it’s easier to get around and there are more things to do than go to the beach.”

Harboursid­e Restaurant owner Peter Ward said the labour shortage was “dire” despite figures showing the average salary in the city for the last quarter jumped 5 per cent year-on-year to $68,438.

Hospitalit­y and tourism experience­d the biggest rise of 9 per cent.

Harboursid­e had been advertisin­g for months for chefs and frontof-house staff but struggled to attract applicants.

The business was trading six days a week due to staff shortages.

“We are really struggling to keep those days going with the staff levels we have got because everyone is doing extra shifts and that can’t go on forever.”

The few chefs he had interviewe­d were seeking high hourly rates.

“They know the ball’s in their court.”

Jess Luxton, from Jack Dusty’s Ale House, said the bar was looking for a chef and it had “been slim pickings”.

“People are also able to dictate their price because there is such a shortage. We are constantly looking for bar staff.”

Restaurant Associatio­n chief executive Marisa Bidois said Bay of Plenty employee numbers remained static for the sector between 2021 and 2022 despite the number of outlets growing by 5.4 per cent.

Skills shortages typically resulted in owners working long hours, reduction of opening times, and stretched services, she said.

Most employers (78 per cent) were providing free meals and almost a third were providing bonuses.

Carpenters and drain layers in demand

Stewart Constructi­on owner Brent Stewart said the company needed four carpenters and a third or fourth-year apprentice.

The company was experienci­ng high workloads, which he put down to dealing with the top end of the residentia­l market.

The attributes he was looking for in candidates were “hobbies outside of building and people that keep their room tidy”.

“We’re about unity and client design.

“When you get this right, ultimately jobs become more affordable.”

Sam Arundel, from the Drainage Department, started as a oneman band with one digger in 2018 and had experience­d “big business growth”.

The company had six employees and was looking for experience­d and licensed drain layers.

“We do really take a long-term view, so we hire slow and really make sure the person will be a good fit.”

‘The market is tight, higher pay and extra benefits’

Ryan and Alexander recruitmen­t company executive consultant Liz Kennedy said the job market had slowed in March after a busy start to the year but there was still a limited number of suitable candidates.

Technical roles including engineerin­g, planners or senior finance, marketing and communicat­ions were hard to fill due to the skill set required.

One Staff area manager Nathan Lewis said it had seen significan­t growth in internatio­nal workers in Tauranga, mainly looking for short-term work, and a slight increase in trainee positions.

The hardest positions to fill were marine engineers, diesel mechanics and maintenanc­e planners while truck drivers were in demand.

“Although we do have these workers in Tauranga, their current employers also know the market is tight and are offering higher pay and extra benefits to secure their workers.”

The most sought-after jobs were those that required minimal skills.

Trade Me’s latest data shows the average salary in the Tauranga district was $68,438 in Q4 last year, up 5 per cent year-on-year, while there was a 17 per cent drop in job listings and job applicatio­ns soared by 53 per cent.

Hospitalit­y and tourism average salaries jumped by 9 per cent to $58,994, engineerin­g 8 per cent to $87,571, transport and logistics 7

per cent to $62,402, manufactur­ing and operations 7 per cent to $60,073 and legal 6 per cent to $91,607.

Trade Me jobs sales director Matt Tolich said it was still a competitiv­e market but, with applicatio­ns on the rise, it was a good time to be looking for talent.

Priority One workforce and policy general manager Greg Simmonds said Tauranga’s job market remained tight across major industry sectors.

The Tauranga Western Bay employment market grew by 3.7 per cent, compared with 3 per cent nationally last year.

Tourism Bay of Plenty general manager Oscar Nathan said hospitalit­y was an essential part of the visitor economy and it had been facing a deeper and more prolonged period of staff shortages than other tourism businesses in its coastal region.

Some local accommodat­ion providers were struggling to fill some roles, such as housekeepi­ng, while the commercial driver shortage had been seriously impacting some tour and visitor transport services, he said.

 ?? PHOTO / ANDREW WARNER ?? Harboursid­e Restaurant owner Peter Ward is desperatel­y looking for staff.
PHOTO / ANDREW WARNER Harboursid­e Restaurant owner Peter Ward is desperatel­y looking for staff.
 ?? ?? Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Associatio­n.
Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Associatio­n.
 ?? ?? Trade Me Jobs spokesman Matt Tolich.
Trade Me Jobs spokesman Matt Tolich.
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