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200 Chinese tradies to complete Akl hotel

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 7/02/2018
The Park Hyatt hotel under construction in Auckland. © RNZ / Tom Furley The Park Hyatt hotel under construction in Auckland.

Up to 200 tradespeople from China will be flown in to complete a high-end Auckland hotel.

The more than $200 million Park Hyatt hotel in the city's Wynyard Quarter is set to be finished by March next year.

Beijing-based property developers Fu Wah said a shortage of skilled workers in the construction sectors meant their project could be delayed for months if they did not provide their own workers.

Its New Zealand general manager, Richard Aitken, said they planned on bringing up to 200 workers from China to help the 300 local staff already on site.

"There'll be a number of skills mainly around fine decorating including stone work, tiling, wallpapering, painting, veneer work - there's quite a lot timber veneer within the hotel, so they'll bring those skills to us."

He said they had worked on similar hotels in China and would be involved in fitting out the front-of-house areas as well as the hotel's 195 guest rooms.

Mr Aitken said the immigration process was already underway with the first of the workers due to arrive next month on short-term work visas.

Most of the workers would come in June and July and and stay until February.

"Whilst those skills do exist in New Zealand and local workers are very well qualified for this - we need a number of people for a concentrated period of time and we need them in large numbers.

"That's really why we're looking for this workforce to supplement the local labour force that we have working on the hotel."

The Park Hyatt hotel under construction in Auckland. © RNZ / Tom Furley The Park Hyatt hotel under construction in Auckland.

Mr Aitken said the workers would be earning the usual New Zealand market rate.

Building Recruitment managing director Kevin Everett said for the past year his recruitment firm had more jobs than people to fill them.

"There's astronomical demand, there's shortages everywhere from skilled to semi-skilled, to labours. We just can't get reliable people. "

"The feedback we're getting for 2018 from our clients is that they're all expecting a big year this year and that's putting pressures on everyone because they just can't get the manpower."

Mr Everett said 200 workers was one of the largest bulk foreign recruitments he'd heard of in the sector but he also said companies were often left with no choice.

"I've heard of people going in and getting 40, 50 people in one hit. We're looking at doing a campaign just now to go across to the UK, so we're going to go to London, Manchester, and Glasgow and try and bring people in. We're looking for at least 100 people in all different skill sets, in residential and commercial."

He said there were risks involved in bringing in overseas workers including communication, health and safety, quality control and understanding New Zealand's building regulations.

Specialist Trade Contractors Federation president Graham Burke agreed companies had no choice but to look overseas for the short to medium term.

However, he said lessons had been learned from the Christchurch rebuild, where quality issues sprang up as a result of foreign workers.

"The lesson from that is the need to make sure people are actually aware of the systems and standards that we adhere to in New Zealand and that there is quality management systems and supervision in place to make sure standards are met."

It was also important the industry and government worked towards training people to fill the gaps in the long-term.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway would not comment, nor would Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa or Employment Minister Willie Jackson.

Under Labour's immigration policy another 1500 skilled tradespeople will be allowed in under its KiwiBuild Visa scheme.

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