Questions raised about Chinese tradies building Auckland hotel

It has come to my attention that a Chinese company wants nearly 200 visas for short term tradespeople to come to New Zealand and finish a hotel project in Auckland.

Questions should be asked nevertheless. Anyone handling such a major construction project should know that it will have substantial and complex labour requirements.

I have concerns about this. Will Chinese labourers and the company they work for:

  1. Adhere to New Zealand labour law
  2. Not take dangerous short cuts in building the hotel that might compromise the physical structure
  3. Pay them New Zealand wages instead of whatever they might get in China

My concerns stem from a complex set of interacting issues that have arisen in New Zealand’s building sector over the last few years. They include shoddy earthquake repairs in Christchurch and Kaikoura, overworking of labourers by some companies, the importation of questionable steel from China and comments by a few non-New Zealand employers suggesting that they do not care or respect New Zealand laws and the custom of this country.

That is not okay. And New Zealand criminal law should reflect this in its sentencing regime.

New Zealand immigration need to be careful handling this. 175 individual visas need to be processed, but I also assume at some point the eventual holders of those visas will be screened to determine their suitability for the job. How will we know the credibility of the applicant in terms of whether they have a criminal record, their qualifications? Will they have some sort of insurance cover in case of an accident at work, elsewhere, ill health or being a victim of crime?

I accept that it might not be possible to find that many trades people in New Zealand to do the work without slowing down other projects, such as those related to the earthquake recovery in Christchurch.

I expect that somehow the trades people that come will have to demonstrate knowledge of New Zealand building practices, occupational safety and health before they can start work on the site. I expect that this will be done in New Zealand under the supervision of Department of Labour staff and the expectations made clear. In making this expectation, it is appropriate that New Zealand Immigration, Department of Labour and appropriate agencies have oversight of such a large application for visas.



Job creation: my view

Every election we hear about promises to get the economy moving again. New Zealanders hear the parties talking about how they will how get people off welfare and into jobs or training that can potentially lead to jobs. Both major parties are guilty of over promising and under delivering, which is something they know well, but admitting so would be to admit their last stint in office was a failure.

We need more people in the trades. Of that there is no doubt – drain layers and plumbers, electricians and carpenters. Without them, New Zealand cannot have the quality homes they need and the assurance that the basic services in the house that they hope to grow old in . I do not think that there will ever be an over supply of trades people in New Zealand without completely choking academia and telling academics to retrain. Perhaps the biggest problem is the chequered records of many with a run in with the cops here, a bit of drug dealing there – and maybe a bit of a side habit to boot – seemingly unaware or ignorant of the curtailment effect this may have on future plans to travel

New Zealand also needs academic researchers at universities. Contrary to the ill informed view for example that Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has never held a real job down and is called “just an academic”, is to ignore the fact that she used to work in the office of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

With potential for developing hemp based building materials, I think a whole industry potentially awaits for companies wanting to revolutionize their products and not just think about concrete and steel. I am not sure what the Building Code says about hemp products, but if there is no provision made for it, then – assuming a certified testing regime could be developed – perhaps the Building Code is in need of an overhaul.

Another example where I think New Zealanders could significantly improve job opportunities is through investigating the use of waste material as potential fuel sources. Biofuel is one that particularly fascinates me. It follows from research done sometime ago where a south Canterbury couple with a fish and chip shop were able to develop a blend of biofuel suitable for their vehicle. They used the waste oil and cooking fat from their deep frying unit. Given New Zealanders propensity for fish and chips and so forth on some nights, the economics of a nation wide – or at least an our bigger cities – biofuel programme might be worth investigating.

Doing the research into all of this and certifying the results will create desk based jobs of various sorts – data entry, administrator, project manager, accountant – as the reporting requirements develop in complexity.

It is not just scientists and tradespeople that New Zealand needs though. Police, doctors, teachers and care givers all have hugely important roles to play. I have dealt with these in other articles at some point or another.

But there is one group that New Zealanders say that they care much for, yet employers and individuals seem hugely judgemental towards. That is the disabled, unwell and intellectually impaired. Yes they might not cope with a full time job, but many of them are able to do lesser jobs.

I therefore propose that:

  • Funding for the sciences increase from 1% of G.D.P. to 2%
  • Narrow funding to a few main streams, such as renewables development and medicine
  • Have a touring science expo go to every high school in New Zealand as a joint project between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment
  • A job programme for disabled and unwell people, ┬ásuch as mowing the lawns and weeding gardens and do administrative tasks.
  • A rate of financial compensation for special needs jobs would need to be negotiated and it should supplement their social welfare support rather than be a part of it
  • Remove the discriminatory wages that were introduced by National for those in training


Remembering Helen Kelly

On Friday New Zealand workers lost a friend, an advocate and one to make their number truly proud.

Helen Kelly came from a background strong on politics. Her Dad was President of the Wellington Council of Trade Unions and her mother organized anti-Vietnam War protests. It is not that she did not consider politics as a means to advancing her cause. She was offered a spot on the Labour Party list when she considered standing in 2014, but as it had so many other times, worker causes got in the way.

Whether one is a unionist or not, one has to respect the work Ms Kelly did over the years, tirelessly standing up to businesses and notable New Zealanders on behalf of workers rights. Ms Kelly went after Federated Farmers, the management of Pike River miners, forestry operations among others. Some of the campaigns were not universally supported, whilst others resulted in significant drops in work place accidents, changes in what were understood to be best practices

When Ms Kelly was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015 the fighter who stood up for vulnerable and hard done by workers and their families began a new and much more personal fight. She became a voice for the legalization of medical marijuana and in the months up to yesterday morning, she graciously gave up time she could have spent privately, allowing the media to interview her. She was interviewed showing how she prepared a marijuana brew illegally and talking about how it mitigated the physical pain she was on. I have long thought medical marijuana should be legalized, and if evidence was needed to swing the public opinion, this had to be it.

Helen Kelly is gone now, but the fight she rightfully involved herself so heavily in representing the interests of the worker goes on. The many issues still to be resolved and and vulnerable and hard done by workers needing a voice still need an advocate – still need another Helen Kelly.

Ms Kelly’s efforts on behalf of workers won her respect from both sides of Parliament. Prime Minister John Key called her a tenacious fighter. And at her C.T.U. leaving function Opposition Leader Andrew Little called her fearless.

Thank you Helen. Thank you very much.

Rest In Peace.