Get­ting hands on with hous­ing cri­sis

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - JEN­NIFER EDER

The owner of two con­struc­tion com­pa­nies says Marl­bor­ough’s cur­rent hous­ing shortage is at cri­sis level and he wants to help fix it.

Ant Clarke said he was sur­prised and hum­bled to be nom­i­nated for the Marl­bor­ough Cham­ber of Com­merce busi­ness awards for his work in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try.

‘‘It was a big sur­prise, ac­tu­ally. It’s not some­thing I had re­ally thought that much about, there’s a lot of clever peo­ple around and I didn’t think I was in that cat­e­gory,’’ Clarke said.

As direc­tor of St An­drews Prop­erty Group, Clarke was in the process of open­ing the sec­ond stage of a sea­sonal worker com­plex when the nom­i­na­tion was an­nounced.

St An­drews Prop­erty Group bought the for­mer Coun­try Life mo­tel on State High­way 1 in River­lands, near Blen­heim, to turn into sea­sonal worker ac­com­mo­da­tion.

‘‘That was right be­fore the Kaiko¯ura earth­quake,’’ Clarke said.

‘‘We lost the big old house at the back.

‘‘We were re­ally sad be­cause we’d spent a lot of money on it, but un­for­tu­nately it got red­stick­ered.’’

Clarke, who grew up on a farm in the Awa­tere Val­ley, learnt his trade in Christchurch and moved home to Marl­bor­ough in 2007, launch­ing Clarke Con­struc­tion.

‘‘The con­struc­tion in­dus­try is cycli­cal, it’s usu­ally ei­ther boom or bust. But it’s been good to us,’’ Clarke said.

He and his wife Sarah pur­chased Haack Con­struc­tion in Au­gust this year, to cater to the com­mer­cial sec­tor.

‘‘You’ve got to re­spond to what’s needed in the re­gion, you’ve got to be re­silient and adapt.’’

The St An­drews project came about partly in re­sponse to Marl­bor­ough’s hous­ing shortage.

Sev­eral build­ings on the prop­erty were al­ready fin­ished and 30 Recog­nised Sea­sonal Em­ployer (RSE) work­ers ar­rived on Mon­day to move in.

An­other 50 would ar­rive next week, and as vine­yard work peaked with the start of prun­ing sea­son in April, con­struc­tion would fin­ish and St An­drews would be at to­tal ca­pac­ity, hous­ing 418 peo­ple.

RSE com­pany Vinepower also helped the work­ers get bank ac­counts, of­fered pas­toral care, pro­vided ve­hi­cles and man­aged ac­com­mo­da­tion.

A recre­ational hall was al­ready open, and soon some sports fields and courts would be added.

‘‘That’s 418 peo­ple taken out of res­i­den­tial houses, so that frees those houses up for lower so­cio-eco­nomic groups, and first home buy­ers who are get­ting pushed out of the mar­ket,’’ Clarke said.

‘‘The lack of hous­ing is just di­a­bol­i­cal re­ally, that’s why we de­cided to do this project.’’

That shortage also in­flu­enced Clarke’s de­ci­sion to get in touch with the Min­istry of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment.

He was look­ing at ways to part­ner with them in pro­vid­ing more so­cial hous­ing in Marl­bor­ough, to fur­ther ease the hous­ing cri­sis, he said.


Clarke Con­struc­tion founder and owner Ant Clarke has been nom­i­nated for a busi­ness award for his work in con­struc­tion.

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