West Coast building boom

27 February 2023
Development West Coast
Building boom creates 74 new jobs on the West Coast, but more tradies still needed.

Jobs in the building sector on the West Coast have jumped from 1,127 to 1,201 (7.2% of total jobs), according to data from economic consultancy Infometrics.

The sector contributed $98m to the region’s GDP.

Development West Coast chief executive Heath Milne said the region has been struggling with a housing shortage.

“It’s great to see a lot of activity and quality new builds underway.”

268 residential consents were issued in the region during 2022 - a 22.9% annual increase compared to the national rate of just 1.1%.

“On top of the demand for residential builds there are some major projects underway that are not only contributing to the building boom but adding vitality to our towns,” Milne said.

Construction is underway on a new $28m visitor centre in Punakaiki. Work has also begun in Mawhera Greymouth on the first of the Pounamu Pathway experience centres – a $34.5m project with four hubs planned across the region.

Pounamu Pathway Mawhera building Feb 2023
Artists impression of the Mawhera Greymouth Pounamu Pathway experience centre

Optimistic despite national headwinds

Commentators are projecting New Zealand’s building boom to fall sharply over the next two years due to rising interest rates, rising material costs, and falling house prices.

“The risk that new builds could cost more than what they sell for is discouraging buyers from committing to building,” said Nick Brundson, senior economist at Infometrics.

“To some extent, we would expect the same national drivers to drive down new dwelling consents on the West Coast. In the West Coast’s favour, housing is more affordable than any other region in the country, and prices are still rising.”

The median house price on the West Coast is $382,400, compared to $934,761 nationally, according to Quotable Value Limited. For the past three months the West Coast was the only region to see increases in house prices – with 5.7% growth, while the rest of the country saw a 1.7% decrease.

Brundson said “rising, or at least not falling, house prices help shore up demand for new builds, as it gives some confidence that new build houses aren’t going to cost more to build than what they are worth.”

The building sector on the West Coast is feeling optimistic.

Frank O’Toole, managing director of Jennian Homes West Coast, said “the building industry is performing extremely well on the West Coast in spite of the difficulties experienced in the industry nationwide over recent years.”

“Building supply difficulties are largely resolved now and the handbrake which has previously been holding some key projects back are well and truly released. We have some very busy times ahead of us.

However, staff shortages remain an issue.

“We’re subject to the same labour resourcing constraints that the rest of the country is facing and we could definitely do with many more good tradies making the move to this great place we call home,” O’Toole said.

Fijian builder finds new opportunities on the Coast

Brian Kenny shifted to New Zealand from Fiji in 2019.

“I was looking for an opportunity in my trade as a builder … I was trying to further my career in building in New Zealand,” Kenny said.

After a stint in Rotorua in the forestry industry, Kenny moved to the West Coast last February where he took up an opportunity as a building assistant for Jennian Homes West Coast and is working towards his building qualifications.

He couldn’t be happier with his move to the Coast.

“The people were friendly, and the scenery was good, and they just made you feel at home.”

Cut out for the Coast

O’Toole believes there are great work/life opportunities in the region.

“I’m sure everyone who has made a successful move to the West Coast has found that this slice of paradise very soon enters your heart and can be extremely hard to dislodge.

“From a trade perspective the projects are many and varied presenting many great opportunities to challenge yourself and professionally develop your construction career,” O’Toole said.

Heath Milne said “there are a lot of great job opportunities across all industries for those looking to skip a few rungs on the career ladder.

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