Highway rebuild attracts Kaikoura staff
Kaikoura businesses are struggling to find staff as workers head to higher wages and more hours rebuilding State Highway 1.
More than 1300 workers are involved in the earthquake repairs to SH1. The vital road is due to reopen before Christmas.
SH1 is being rebuilt by the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR), made up of several organisations including the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) and KiwiRail.
Kaikoura Building Centre and Alliance Beekeeping Woodware owner Sam Baker claimed NCTIR was ‘‘shoulder-tapping people’’ from local businesses to fill roles.
It was ‘‘unsettling at the very least’’ when it happened to his staff, he said. None of his staff left, but those approached told him about it.
Baker said he would not mind if staff applied for jobs advertised by NCTIR, as then it would be up to the individual if they went for it or not.
He aired his concerns to Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy when they visited Kaikoura on Tuesday.
Drummond and Etheridge, which sells and services farm and marine equipment, has been looking for a mechanic since the start of June.
Branch manager Rob Marshall said one of their previous mechanics had started his own business servicing machines used in the roadworks.
‘‘Money’’ was the reason the mechanic left, he said.
‘‘It’s good for him, gives his family a bit of a boost, but yeah, it is frustrating.’’
They had been advertising for a replacement, but it was hard to get anyone to move to Kaikoura because of accommodation shortages caused by the influx of road workers.
Kaikoura Bakery co-owner Sophia Smedley said they had one staff member leave to ‘‘go out on the roads’’ for higher wages and more hours of work.
Smedley said they would normally hire a tourist for the role, which was a front of house position, but tourists were also finding rebuild jobs.
‘‘What people are more concerned about is when the road does reopen, things will get extremely busy and the roading crews will still be up there, so we’re still not going to have staff.’’
Smedley said a lot of people would be looking for work when the road works dried up.
NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton said shoulder-tapping was not part of their recruitment policy. Their managers had been reminded of that and vacancies in the team would be advertised.
He was committed to employing locals as much as possible and ‘‘supporting Kaikoura and the surrounding towns in tangible ways’’.
‘‘Our whole vision is about moving mountains and reconnecting communities and part of that is actually growing the community as well.’’
Many rebuild workers were relatively mobile and would move to other places when the project was completed, while others would return to pre-earthquake jobs in Kaikoura and the wider region, he said.
Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray said he believed any people approached with job offers had probably been done so by subcontractors.
The shortage of staff was, in some ways, a good problem as they had been wondering if there would be any work for people over winter.
Baker asked for better communication between NCTIR and local businesses. In response, NCTIR will meet with some local businesses today.