Construction World

New Zealand is calling out for expert help from South Africa to fill a massive construction skills and talent shortage as it struggles to cope with the largest infrastructure and housing build in the Pacific nation’s history.

The new Labour-led Government is introducing a special “KiwiBuild” fast track visa system to facilitate the search for top construction talent, spearheaded by an innovative international recruitment campaign called LookSee Build NZ.

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

Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has also announced a new NZD2-billion housing programme for the construction of 10 000 homes a year for 10 years, as well as a programme of infrastructure works in addition to the existing pipeline.

Spokesman and construction consultant Aaron Muir says it is the first time New Zealand’s public and private construction sector have combined in a single cause but the need for top talent is so acute it required an innovative approach to talent procurement.

LookSee Build NZ are seeking bid managers and supervisors, civil engineers, commercial directors and managers, planners, operations managers, traffic, roading and tunnel engineers, design coordinators and managers, power grid supervisors, structural engineers, surveyors and draughtspeople among a wide range of specialist construction roles.

As a sweetener to entice South Africans to migrate, the campaign is offering a range of quintessential ‘Kiwi experiences,’ such as fishing, surfing and canoeing safaris, cultural events and the chance to see stunning sites of natural beauty, Muir says.

If people do get a job as a result of LookSee Build NZ their airfares to New Zealand will be repaid, he adds.

Over the past month, LookSee Build NZ has seen unprecedented interest from South African construction professionals looking to relocate to New Zealand, even though the campaign had not been launched in the Republic: “A lot of South Africans will have countrymen and women already living in New Zealand and our culture will be a known quantity to construction professionals over there, so we believe directly targeting them will generate a great response,” says Muir.

Former South African Jacques van Heerden, Team Leader Contractor Safety at Housing New Zealand Corporation, a LookSee Build NZ partner, moved to New Zealand 18 months ago, lured by a peaceful and corruption-free environment and the presence of his son and daughter, both of whom had migrated a few years earlier.

As well as family, Van Heerden and his wife, Tania, have found the New Zealand lifestyle a revelation: “My wife is an enthusiastic fisher and for the first time in our lives, we’re able to afford an ocean-going boat and go fishing off Kawakawa Bay (45 minutes from Auckland’s CBD) and out to the Coromandel – it’s fantastic.”

Contractor safety is a key focus for Housing New Zealand and Van Heerden ensures health, safety and security legislative requirements are met by the Crown agent’s multiple building contractors in construction, property reinstatement and chemical decontamination.

Housing New Zealand has other South African emigres working in the areas of health and safety, residential housing development management across multiple delivery programmes, business analysis and procurement. Housing New Zealand provides housing services for people in need. It owns or manages more than 64,000 properties throughout New Zealand, which more than 185 000 people call home.

Van Heerden says the biggest challenge for South African construction professionals is the cultural differences but there are professional contrasts as well: “In South Africa everyone is driven by results and many professionals are used to operating in a dog-eat-dog environment but New Zealanders are more input driven and how you get the result is important.

“With a small market and a small industry where everyone knows everyone, you need to be adaptable and have a practical approach when you get here,” van Heerden says.

Muir says the ‘Kiwi experiences’ won’t of themselves persuade construction professionals to make the move but “it will give them a real taste of the lifestyle that is available if they choose to live in New Zealand”.

More information about the recruitment campaign can be found at

About LookSee Build NZ

LookSee Build NZ is an innovative international talent procurement programme that turns the traditional recruitment process on its head by taking the opportunities in New Zealand to the world and, in turn, bringing the world back to New Zealand.

It is specifically designed to address an acute skills and talent shortage in the construction sector and future-proof the building industry as the country gears up for the largest infrastructure and housing build in the nation’s history.

Acting on behalf of a range of participating employers, including public and private sector entities, the LookSee Build NZ campaign is targeting highly skilled professionals from the US, particularly seismic and structural engineers, to assist them in becoming ‘New Zealand-ready’ before match-making candidates who are interested, qualified and available with the appropriate employer.


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