Foreign investors, workers look to solve NZ's construction industry crisis

The construction industry is in crisis, and foreign investors and workers are looking to be part of the solution following the first ever Asian Construction Forum in Auckland today.

The collapse of big construction firms, mass skills shortages and the high cost of building materials all put pressure on the industry, resulting in an increase in foreign investors and workers.

Forum organisers estimate around $7 billion dollars has already been invested into the New Zealand construction industry by Chinese developers alone.

Asian Construction Forum organiser and Construction Marketing Services general manager Iain Watt says for changes to go smoothly, the gaps between what he calls traditional parts of the industry, and relative newcomers, need to be closed.

"What we see at the moment is they tend to operate within silos and this is an opportunity to bridge that cultural and language barrier," Mr Watt said.

Noah Bian, Flourishing Property Company's design director, says, "Everyone is trying their best to communicate and to learn about local market and culture and how we can fit into the environment".

However, firms coming in from China must face their own challenges regarding "how do we resource materials, how do we find contractors," Mr Bian said.

Jeff Fahrensohn, Auckland Council's manager for inspections, building control, says it's about giving overseas firms "a better light in how we look at things and guide them".

"A lot of the time, it is just a knowledge gap or a technical decision," Mr Fahrensohn said.

Auckland Council says over half of inspections have some kind of Asian connection, which presents challenges of its own.

"Previously, we had some issues with translations on site being done by people with no building knowledge. Now, we're employing more Chinese speakers to help that sort of situation," he said.

Over 1000 people signed up to today's forum and the take home message is that the industry, government and councils all need to work together to tackle the challenges faced by the current influx of foreign investors and workers.

Real estate agents say to help solve the housing crisis, overseas investment is crucial.

Peter Thompson, of Barfoot and Thompson, says, "Give them some benefits to come here [and] build the property. We also need to make sure they are happy to work with us in conjunction".

It’s one of the big issues being discussed at the first Asian Construction Forum in Auckland today. Source: 1 NEWS

Man dies after falling from kayak near Whangarei

A man has died after falling from a kayak in Tutukaka east of Whangarei this evening.

At about 5pm he was seen struggling in the water and raised a distress flag just south of North Gable, police said in a statement.

Police and other emergency services were alerted and the man was found in a serious condition, and rescued by Coast Guard.

CPR was carried out, but the man in his 50s, sadly died at the scene.

Source: 1 NEWS


Retirement Commissioner calls for changes to KiwiSaver so man with Down syndrome can visit brother

The Retirement Commissioner is calling for changes to KiwiSaver rules so a man with Down Syndrome can access his money earlier than the age of 65.

Tim Fairhall, who has been working at Countdown for 14 years, wants to use his savings to travel overseas to see his brother while he is still in good health.

The 39-year-old recently starred in a video made by the Retirement Commissioner's office to champion his case for early access to his KiwiSaver funds.

Diane Maxwell, the Retirement Commissioner, says Mr Fairhall and his mother have been "to the Ombudsman, they've been through every avenue, [and] they've been back to the provider and they've still be told 'no'".

The money Mr Fairhall needs to travel with his mother is locked up in KiwiSaver until he turns 65, but Down syndrome means he is ageing faster than most.

Joan Fairhall, his mother and carer, says, "If Tim survives till he's 65, and it's quite likely he will, he'll be a really old man then - the equivalent of about 90".

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness, buying your first home or proving financial hardship are all accepted reasons for opting out of KiwiSaver, but a life-shortening condition such as Down Syndrome is currently not under consideration.

Mr Fairhall's family said the situation is unfair as he has worked hard, and his needs and those of others like him must be considered.

"He's probably going to have to retire somewhere around 42 or 45 if he's to have a bit of time to enjoy his retirement," Ms Fairhall said.

The Retirement Commissioner says some changes are needed, but the process is slow.

"Cases like Tim's, I suspect, represent a few thousand people who need something more and the risk is it falls into the 'too hard' basket," Ms Maxwell said.

Mr Fairhall and his mother have made a submission to a select committee looking at tax laws.

By the time Tim Fairhall reaches 65 to access his KiwiSaver, he’ll be “the equivalent of about 90”. Source: 1 NEWS