New Zealand's buoyant construction economy is not only drawing home Kiwis from Australia but also attracting Australians who are coping with their country's struggling resource economy or coming from softening North American energy and mining markets. New Zealand's government has been actively recruiting in Australia, running job fairs for local industry employers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane
Over the past decade, many New Zealand workers have crossed the Tasman Sea to Australia due to its mining and energy boom. But, in July, Australian business strategy firm Newport Consulting Group reported the loss of 30,000 mining jobs there in 2014, with possibly equal cuts foreseen this year. The sector has been hard-hit over the past two years, with coking coal and iron ore under pressure because of weaker prices. Last year, Newport reported a five-year low in the sector's confidence. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the quarter ending June 2015 show growth in the economy slowing to 0.2%
Rapid population growth in Auckland and Wellington and rebuilding in Christchurch and its suburbs following the 2010 earthquake continue to boost construction demand. Work in the commercial sector could extend for the next 15 years. In the quake area, four out of five employers are finding big hurdles in recruiting skilled professionals. "We lost a lot of good people to Australia over the past five or more years," says Les Ward, president of the Institute of Quarrying New Zealand. "Middle management professionals could earn almost twice as much there than in New Zealand." He says many expatriates now are renewing memberships.
Peter Silcock, CEO of Civil Contractors New Zealand, says native engineers returning from Canada and U.S. energy projects "have been lured back by the prospect of working on big infrastructure projects in their homeland." He notes burgeoning transportation work and urban development, especially in Auckland. "There is also a lot of work pending in water supply, stormwater and wastewater management," says Silcock.
Natives returning from North America "have been working in drilling and fracking operations for the shale-oil industry and have great transferable skills that we need here," says Dave Connell, president of the New Zealand contractors group and managing director of Connell Contractors. "Having made the big money, they may have lowered their earning expectations in return for a long-term future here."