South African plumber waiting for 2.5 years to start Tauranga job will arrive next month
Warren Blunden and his children Tyrell and Skyler are looking forward to coming to New Zealand. Photo / Included
South African plumber Warren Blunden was about to start a new life with his family in New Zealand — he was so close he could almost taste it.
Blunden flew to New Zealand
in 2019 and accepted a position at Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing. He got his plumber’s license, rented a house, and bought tools and a new ute.
He then returned to South Africa and sold his business in December. In February 2020 he sold the family home and shipped a container to Tauranga with all their household items in preparation for his start at Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing.
Then everything collapsed.
Covid 19 began to spread around the globe and borders – including New Zealand – were closed.
Blunden and his family were homeless, without possessions, without income and with no clear idea of when they could start a new life in New Zealand.
“We were days away from flying into the country but unfortunately we were late,” he said.
The couple then had to apply for visas again.
“The feeling of selling our business, home and life without our belongings was extremely distressing. Then the 2.5 years of trying to make ends meet while spending our hard-earned savings didn’t make things any easier.”
Packed and ready for the passport, Warren Blunden will start his plumbing job in Tauranga next month. Photo / Included
Since 2020, the family has been living out of a suitcase in his wife Lisa’s parents’ house in Johannesburg.
The 35-year-old told NZME he can’t wait to land in Tauranga.
“We chose Tauranga because it feels very much like home with added bonuses like beautiful views, clean streets, lots of outdoor activities and a sense of freedom. We enjoy being able to walk and feel safe and secure.
“We are also very happy to be able to raise our children in a country that offers them a positive future.”
The situation had been difficult and he wanted to thank his employer in Tauranga for all his efforts along with others who had supported him throughout the trip.
He harbored no animosity towards Immigration NZ but said he was “grateful for the opportunity”.
Employers say there is an ongoing struggle to find workers like Blunden, made worse by border closures during the pandemic, and there has now been a “mass exodus” of traders going overseas and immigration “hasn’t gone far enough” to achieve this for the deficit.
But Immigration Secretary Michael Wood said it has simplified hiring and streamlined company application processes to make it easier for employers to hire and attract migrants for certain high-skilled, hard-to-fill jobs.
Seek data shows job openings are up 32 percent from August 2021 to last month in the Bay of Plenty. In the three months to August, the median salary for trades and services nationwide rose 3.6 percent to an average salary of $71,000
Construction climbed 3 percent to an average salary of $110,000.
Find New Zealand Country Manager Rob Clark. Photo / Included
Seek NZ Country Manager Rob Clark said trade and services have been badly hit by the pandemic and labor migration.
“Without these workers, there just isn’t enough local talent to fill all the roles.”
Craig McCord, managing director of Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing, said it had been a long struggle to get Blunden into the country, even though the company was immigration accredited.
“We are very happy that he is coming. His family cried for joy.”
Tauranga Hardware and Plumbing Managing Director Craig McCord. photo / file
McCord said that as part of immigration requirements, he advertised for plumbers nationwide for two and a half years and received no response.
”It was a waste of money. The most important thing right now is manpower and we really need to bring a pipeline of manpower into the country.”
There was also a “mass exodus” of young tradespeople taking their OE overseas and to Australia.
“We’re losing more trades across the board. We win one and lose two.”
McCord said there were three positions left.
Sarah Jamieson of BOP Plumbing & Gas said an ad has been running continuously for more than 12 months.
It has managed to recruit a few skilled/nearly skilled artisans, but these are few and far between, she said. At the moment the company was still looking for a fitter, gas fitter or drainage layer.
“It’s definitely not your standard recruiting process where you receive applicants, make a shortlist, interview, and then choose the best candidate. You literally tune in what comes through the door before anyone else does and evaluate it as quickly as possible in the 90 days you have.”
Plumbing was on the skill list but gas installation was not, and there was a severe shortage of qualified and experienced gas fitters.
“It’s still not easy to recruit staff from overseas as they have to have their qualifications assessed by the Plumbing, Gas and Drainage Boards to know what license they’ll get when they get out of here.”
Foley’s North Regional Manager Wayne Fahey said most regions of the country are facing labor shortages.
“Our industry has high standards for who can do plumbing, gas and drainage work in New Zealand and overseas trained personnel must be assessed against those high New Zealand standards.
“It’s necessary, but it’s an additional complicating factor when it comes to hiring staff who haven’t been trained in New Zealand or Australia.
“The difficulty of finding qualified personnel to fill our vacancies creates challenges in terms of scheduling and the ability to maintain the high level of service that we are proud to offer our clients.”
Bay Electric owner Dickie Burns said he spent six months looking for an electrician or apprentice.
He advertised online about 30 days ago, but many applicants were not suitable.
“These are unskilled workers or people from other professions who want to trade, trades. I really only had a few qualified people, but I haven’t completed anything yet.
“I think all the good guys got caught by other companies.”
Bruce Jeffries, manager of AJs Electrical Services, said the company has seen solid growth over the past 18 months.
He attributed this to word of mouth, did a good job and diversified into heat pumps, solar and electric vehicle chargers, new housing and service work.
There are currently positions to be filled in the solar division and the general electrical division.
“We are very careful to get the right people on board. We work really hard to make our employees happy.
“Some of them have been here for a very long time and we attribute that to the company’s team values.”
Master Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Drainlayers NZ Managing Director Greg Wallace. Photo / Included
Greg Wallace, CEO of Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers NZ said that despite the slowdown in housing, they are in catch-up mode.
He said renovations, repairs and maintenance, and commercial construction are strong.
“I asked Plumbing World and Mico last week who our main suppliers are and their budgets have increased by 10 percent year on year. They’re still on budget and that’s really good proof that sales are still going strong at the moment.”
The greatest challenge is still the shortage of skilled workers and immigration is still a long way from where it belongs.
“We compete in a global market and the wages you can earn in Australia and abroad are much higher. she [government] Plumbers greenlisted, but not gas fitters or drainers.”
“You can count on one hand how many people come into our sector because it’s really difficult to get accreditation.”
Master Builders chief operating officer Chris Chainey said some of his builders work on both new construction and renovations and he knows renovation work is going strong.
“We encourage our members to consider diversification where practical. But that’s not the answer for everyone as many companies only specialize in building houses and not renovations, so it depends on the mix of skills of each company.”
“Building the skills New Zealand needs”
Minister Wood said it had simplified recruitment and streamlined application processes for companies while ensuring wages and working conditions were improved for all.
The new simplified work visa for accredited employers made it easier for employers to hire and attract migrants for certain high-skilled, hard-to-fill jobs and provided eligible workers with a guaranteed faster and simplified route to residency.
“A key feature of the realignment is the focus on building the skills New Zealand needs, as opposed to the old system which focused on large numbers of low-wage workers in some sectors.
“Immigration alone cannot solve labor shortages, and broader structural change and labor turnover are the key mechanisms to address systemic bottlenecks.”
Housing, Building and Construction Minister Megan Woods said she was aware of the significant shortage of low-skilled labor across the sector, similar to other countries such as Australia.
“We developed an agreement for the construction sector to give migrant workers a route to lower-skilled and lower-paid jobs. This will allow the sector to continue to supply the homes, buildings and infrastructure that New Zealand needs in the short term.”
Immigration in Numbers
* As of September 12, INZ has received 11,008 employer accreditation applications since applications opened on May 23. 10,251 applications were approved.
* Applications for the Job Check were opened on June 20th, as of September 12th, INZ has received 8,274 applications, equivalent to 53,627 positions. Of these, 7,045 job check applications were approved, corresponding to 46,578 jobs.
* Since work visa applications opened on July 4, 6,397 visa applications have been received from migrants and 2,551 have been approved.