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

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