Government urged to ease restrictions on scaffolders

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The shortage of scaffolders in New Zealand risks slowing the country’s construction sector, and the Government needs to do more to reduce immigration hurdles, according to a leading industry body.

Scaffolding, Access and Rigging New Zealand (SARNZ) says the surge in construction activity around the country, particularly in Canterbury and Auckland, and a lack of suitably-skilled scaffolders is a major concern in the industry.

With tradesmen across the country being promoted into foreman/leadership roles too early in their careers, and lesser skilled labourers making key decisions, results could lead to more risks, injuries and a slowdown of construction across the country.

SARNZ, which represents the majority of scaffolding firms, is urging the Government to make it easier for skilled scaffolders from overseas to work in New Zealand to help alleviate the shortage many businesses across the country are facing.

There are currently only 1300 scaffolders holding current authority to build scaffolds over 5m in height. To meet future demand, experts in the industry are calling for significantly more scaffolders to be employed across New Zealand.

SARNZ believes that double the number of current scaffolders is needed to support the Canterbury rebuild and construction projects in New Zealand.

SARNZ president Nick Pfahlert says the Government needs to add Level 3 qualifications to the acceptable recruitment standards, and reduce the required years of experience if New Zealand wished to attract additional young scaffolders from abroad.

“Level 3 scaffolders are able to base out, erect and dismantle straightforward proprietary and tube fitting scaffolding structures, and can assure the compliance of the structures and move safely on them at heights,” Mr Pfahlert says.

“The complexity of the New Zealand Immigration web site is an additional barrier to skilled migrants wanting to work in New Zealand. Industry leaders from across the country are struggling to understand the steps needed to be taken to employ a skilled, qualified candidate from abroad.

“Although scaffolding is currently on New Zealand’s Immediate Skills Shortage List, it is difficult for overseas scaffolders to acquire a working visa,” Mr Pfahlert says.

“We’re calling on the Government to do more for the industry by making it easier for those firms looking to source skilled scaffolders and those wishing to work in New Zealand. We as a country have got to make it easier for companies to recruit people from overseas, or the shortage will slow down building across the country.

“Scaffolding is a true trade, equivalent to that of electricians, plumbers and builders. A prejudice or preconceived notion about scaffolders has been apparent in the efforts to hire skilled labour.

“While technology companies hire with ease from around the world, scaffolding companies struggle to find the support from officials needed to bring highly skilled labourers into the country.”