Key defends convention centre job predictions as offshore contract raises fears

Prime Minister John Key is standing by his earlier statements that Auckland's SkyCity Convention Centre project would create about 1,000 construction jobs, as steel companies and unionists now fear building jobs will be lost.

Half the work on the frames has gone to a foreign contactor. Source: 1 NEWS

Their concerns have been sparked by the awarding of a contract for half the centre's steel frame work to a foreign supplier.

The contract, involving 8,500 tonnes of steel, will be a joint venture between Whangarei-based Culham Engineering and Thai Herrick, a United States-owned company in Thailand.

In 2012, Mr Key talked up the creation of local jobs with the convention centre.

"The SkyCity Convention Centre would create about 900 jobs in construction and 800 jobs working your way through it," he told Parliament at the time.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said: "The thousand jobs that were estimated were excluding steel and some contracting that might happen."

Rob Kirwan of Culham Engineering says it was a global bid for the steel contract, the company was successful and "I think we're doing good for the industry".

But Mike Sullivan of D&H Steel, another local player, says he's "pretty gutted for the industry".

"Inevitably, when we don't secure the big jobs, big firms like ours end up taking the smaller projects that the medium size and the smaller guys depend on. So it's the whole industry that really gets affected by it," Mr Sullivan said.

While steel companies accept international competition, they say it's workers in New Zealand who are being let down.

Joe Gallagher of the union Etu says it's a national disgrace "that we are not supporting our local manufacturers who employ local people on big local jobs".

But with foundations for the half billion dollar convention centre being laid, Graham Darlow of construction company Fletcher Building says many people will benefit from the project "and the wider industry activity that's going on at the moment".