According to Westpac Bank, 14,000 construction jobs could disappear in the next few years unless the region makes plans for thousands of extra construction workers not needed by 2022, when the rebuild is completed. In research released this week, Westpac economists have predicted that the shrinking of construction jobs in Christchurch will start late next year. Also of interest is that, contrary to popular belief, the bank’s analysis estimated that 80 per cent of the 22,000 extra workers in Canterbury since the earthquakes were Cantabrians entering the workforce, not migrants from overseas or workers from other parts of New Zealand.
This research has largely been dismissed by local Canterbury businesses as well as the Canterbury Employers’ Chambers of Commerce. These organisations have pointed out that there is still 60 per cent of the rebuild to go, which will be worth approximately $24 billion. This includes large public projects which are yet to start, including the Christchurch Hospital development and the Convention Centre. Locals were also surprised by Westpac’s assertion that most of the extra workers in Christchurch were Cantabrians. Leighs Construction boss Anthony Leighs said in his experience “there’s been heavy use of immigrants and also people coming from other parts of New Zealand”.
Regardless of what view is taken, it is unlikely that the rebuild, and the jobs that go with it, will “fall of a cliff,” but will gradually wind down over time. Exactly when this wind down will occur remains to be seen.