More than 800 construction professionals have registered to apply to work in New Zealand in the past few days following news coverage of the unprecedented recruitment push to fill thousands of jobs needed for the biggest infrastructure and housing build in the Pacific nation’s history.

The flood of applications to the LookSee Build NZ website represents a 98.6% increase in registrations, while the number of visitors to the site has risen 111.4% compared to the two-week period following the campaign launch.

LookSee Build NZ is a consortium of government organisations, local body entities and private companies. The aim of the campaign is to attract some of the more than 56,000 staff, including 2,200 high-end specialist construction positions, it is estimated New Zealand needs for the more than NZ$125 billion programme of infrastructure works over the next decade.

Recruitment spokesman and construction consultant Aaron Muir says his team is delighted at the level of professional interest in the recruitment offer, which includes a range of quintessential Kiwi ‘experiences’ such as fishing, surfing and canoeing, cultural events and the chance to see stunning sites of natural beauty.

“New Zealand is open for business because we need and want the best the UK construction sector can offer,” says Muir. “We’ve got the support of the New Zealand Government, which is introducing a special KiwiBuild fast track visa scheme, and we’re partnering with Immigration NZ to make the whole process as smooth and as seamless as possible.”

In addition to the pre-existing $125 billion of infrastructure works, new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a NZ$2 billion KiwiBuild housing programme for the construction of 10,000 homes a year for 10 years and a range of new infrastructure projects.

It is the first time New Zealand’s public and private construction sector have combined in a single cause and global engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon Regional Director, Carl Devereux, says the need for top talent is so acute it required an innovative approach to talent procurement.

“The opportunity to be able to recruit in such a creative way by giving candidates the opportunity to come and experience the country for themselves is what attracted us to LookSee Build NZ,” says Devereux.

“Aurecon has a strong pipeline of work, including some of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure projects and hiring global talent ensures we have diversity of thought sitting around the table to solve the complex challenges the engineering industry faces today and into the future,” he says. “Diversity means not only gender but also culture, qualifications and even age – we believe diversity of thought helps us to develop innovative solutions to the problems our communities face today.”

Auckland Transport chief infrastructure officer Greg Edmonds says the recent downturn in British construction activity created an ideal employment environment in which to make a pitch to potential migrants to New Zealand.

There was much food for thought in the Queen’s speech, which took place today. Touching on key areas of our sector, on subjects such as housing skills, energy and infrastructure, the speech piqued the interest of construction professionals throughout. Buildingspecifier takes a look at what industry experts have to say in response:


The Government’s Immigration Bill must ensure that British business has access to sufficient levels of EU workers or major construction projects will grind to a halt, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said in response to the Queen’s Speech.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said “In terms of today’s Queen’s Speech and the focus of British business, all eyes are on the Immigration Bill. As suspected, we now know that the Bill will end the free movement of people but that begs the question: what will replace it? The Government has not set out what our post-Brexit immigration system will look like but it is crucial that key strategic industries, such as construction, are able to draw upon sufficient numbers of EU workers. EU tradespeople have come to play a crucial part in plugging the industry’s chronic skills gap and if the ability to employ non-UK workers is curtailed, the Government’s housing and infrastructure plans will be no more than a pipe dream.”

“Already, we’re starting to see a dramatic drop off in immigration from the kinds of countries that have typically supplied the construction sector with skilled talent. Statistics released today by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory show a 35% fall in the number of national insurance numbers being issued to nationals from the ‘EU8’ countries that joined the EU in 2004. A lack of certainty over what rights EU citizens will have in the country post-Brexit will undoubtedly be a factor behind this decline. Given the ongoing need to recruit from abroad, we need a clear message from the Government that non-UK skilled workers are welcome now, and will be welcome come what May.”

“The sector stands ready to work with MPs to shape the Immigration Bill into something that serves the economy and provides vital human resource to British business. The construction industry is also ready to significantly upscale the training and recruitment of UK construction workers so we welcome the recommitment to a proper industrial strategy and high skilled learning. In the longer term, being able to train more of our own workforce is without question part of the solution to our enduring skills deficit. Nevertheless, the Government must be pragmatic and introduce an immigration flexible system that allows skilled EU nationals to work in the UK with relative ease.”


Responding to the Queen’s Speech, RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said “We welcome the Government’s commitment to a new modern Industrial Strategy. Wind, wave and tidal energy are new industries which are already creating highly-skilled, high-paid jobs, exporting around the world. Renewables can and should be the engine room of the Government’s flagship Industrial Strategy, driving our low-carbon economy.

“The need to reduce energy bills for consumers was also rightly highlighted in the Queen’s Speech. Renewable energy technologies are making record-breaking cost reductions, and clean energy tariffs are now competing with traditional low-cost tariffs to provide consumers with lower bills – we should continue this trend.

“It was important that the Government reaffirmed its strong support for action on climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement. President Trump’s decision to turn his back on this has been greeted with bafflement and incomprehension in the US energy sector, as the global renewable energy market is worth $290 billion a year. The UK Government is showing leadership on energy policy and environmental issues which matter to the majority of the British public”.


Responding to today’s Queen’s Speech, Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said “We need an ambitious, long-term plan to tackle our housing crisis so it is encouraging to hear the government’s commitment to get more homes built and to bring forward the measures outlined in its housing white paper.

“But it’s not just about building more homes, it’s about building more affordable homes for people on lower incomes. We believe more investment is urgently needed in genuinely affordable homes to rent. Figures released this week revealed that the number of homes for social rent built with government funding dropped by 51 per cent in 2016/17. One of the new government’s priorities should be rebalancing the housing budget – affordable housing currently accounts for just 16 per cent of total direct investment.”

She added “CIH has been calling for a ban on letting agent fees so it’s good to see draft legislation being brought forward to tackle this issue.”

Terrie Alafat said the continuing uncertainty over the future funding of supported housing risks undermining government moves to provide appropriate services for our ageing population. She said “We are still waiting for the consultation on the government’s proposal to extend the Local Housing Allowance cap to supported housing, which is designed for people who need extra support, such as older people or people with a mental or physical disability. It’s absolutely vital that the government moves quickly on this issue. Supported housing schemes provide homes for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and our ageing population means that demand is only increasing. We know that many supported housing providers will have put sites on hold while we wait for a decision on future funding and continuing uncertainty could be very damaging.”


Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s UK Head of Infrastructure, Building and Construction comments “This is a critical investment that will enable Britain to build the infrastructure needed to rebalance our country’s economic wealth.

“Today’s announcement connects more of our major cities to a high speed rail network, and takes us a step closer to creating a Northern Powerhouse.

“The commitment recognises the dismal state of links between the heart of the UK and its Northern cities today. This should finally turn the tide and help the North regain its historic prominence in the UK economy.

“Government, local political and business leaders now need to come together and develop the connectivity that HS2 offers into an overall vision for the development of the North.
“The objective is clear – a vibrant, successful and integrated northern economy that our children will be proud to inherit. Today’s announcement brings us an important step closer to that.”

CITB has helped secure convictions against a father and two sons who provided jobs for 180 illegal construction workers.

Baljit Rai, 55, and his two sons, Mandeep Rai, 32, and Daljit Pai, 34, from Littleover, Derby, were jailed last week for a total of 17-and-a-half years for supplying the illegal workers throughout the country.

Derby Crown Court heard that Mandeep was “the driving force behind the employment of most workers” and also created fake documents. He was jailed for seven and-a-half years, while Baljt and Daljit were both sentenced to five years.

CITB’s card fraud team supported the Home Office Immigration Enforcement and the Police in the investigation.

Ian Sidney, CITB Fraud Investigator, said “CITB takes illegal activity extremely seriously and it is critical that we continue to stamp out the fraudsters.

“I hope this conviction sends a strong message to anyone else that may be taking part in illegal activities, and highlights the seriousness of fraud in construction.

“We simply do not tolerate any fraudulent behaviour that puts people’s lives at risk or brings the industry into disrepute.”