Getting hands on with housing crisis
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.