New Zealand infrastructure means nothing without a capable workforce

The devastation wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods brought into stark relief the consequences of decades worth of underinvestment in infrastructure.

The devastation wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland floods brought into stark relief the consequences of decades worth of underinvestment in infrastructure.

Key transport routes, the lifeblood of the economy in the Hawkes Bay, Tairawhiti, Northland and parts of Auckland need to be rebuilt to withstand more frequent extreme weather events.

Electricity and telecommunications networks likewise need hardening against natural hazards and in some cases, such as the Redclyffe electricity substation which was subsumed by floodwaters, critical infrastructure may need to be rebuilt elsewhere. So it was great to see the $71 billion infrastructure package announced in Budget 2023 to support medium- and long-term infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Much of that will go towards repairing roads, bridges and rail links, as well as strengthening telecoms and electricity infrastructure, as the Government seeks to ‘build back better’. That spending is on top of considerable existing capital expenditure such as the $6.2 billion worth of projects Te Whatu Ora has at the design and construction phases, aimed at modernising our ageing hospitals and clinics.

Who will do the work?

This flurry of work will serve us well in the long term. But in the short term it will require mobilising a workforce that doesn’t currently exist. We will need electricians and construction workers, linesmen and engineers. With record-low unemployment and chronic skills shortages in some industries, the domestic skills pipeline just can’t provide workers in sufficient numbers to undertake this ambitious infrastructure programme.

The immigration pipeline has started to flow again since the lifting of border restrictions last year. But we can’t rely solely on skilled workers seeking out New Zealand as a potential destination to live and work. We need to go out to the world to find the workers we need, to support them on their path to New Zealand and accelerate the process so our infrastructure projects aren’t held up by labour shortages.

For years, Sunway Global has been recruiting from one of the largest and most educated pools of talent in Southeast Asia: the Philippines. Our assistance has allowed thousands of Filipino linemen and skilled workers to play a role in the success of projects in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. We have also been able to supplement projects with remote workers in the Philippines, who can carry out accounting, admin support, marketing, telesales and web design work at competitive rates and to a high standard.

We have extensive networks in the Philippines and a proven system of pre vetting procedures that streamline immigration processes for workers and employers alike. But more importantly, our work in the Philippines has given us a deep appreciation for attributes Filipino workers bring to the table.

Here are five key advantages of recruiting Filipinos to undertake skilled work on local infrastructure projects:

Skilled and Educated Workforce:

The Philippines workforce has a strong foundation in engineering, construction, and other relevant sectors. Filipino workers are known for their technical proficiency, adaptability, and strong work ethic. They often possess a solid educational background and receive extensive training in their respective fields. This expertise enables them to integrate quickly into the New Zealand work environment, ensuring high-quality and efficient workmanship.

English Proficiency and Cultural Compatibility:

English is widely spoken in the Philippines, so communication and coordination between Filipino workers and New Zealand project managers and stakeholders is smooth and effective. Furthermore, Filipinos are renowned for their warm and friendly nature, allowing for easy integration into New Zealand's work culture.

Cost-Effectiveness and Competitive Advantage:

While maintaining high standards of workmanship, Filipino workers often come at a lower cost compared to workers from some other countries. This cost advantage can help keep project budgets under control, leading to increased efficiency and greater financial viability. Leveraging this competitive advantage allows New Zealand to stretch its infrastructure budgets further.

Bridge Building - Strengthening Bilateral Relations:

Recruiting workers from the Philippines to contribute to New Zealand's infrastructure projects not only benefits the New Zealand economy but also strengthens the bilateral relations between the two nations. It fosters cultural exchange, enhances understanding, and builds long-term partnerships. These relationships extend beyond the immediate project duration, creating opportunities for future collaboration and trade between New Zealand and the Philippines.

Cultural Diversity and Innovation:

Diverse teams bring different perspectives and ideas to the table, fostering innovation and creativity. Filipino workers bring with them their unique cultural experiences, problem-solving approaches, and innovation-driven mindset. By embracing this diversity, New Zealand can unlock new solutions to complex challenges in infrastructure development, leading to improved project outcomes and long-term benefits for the country

Time to think creatively

Only a proactive approach to expanding our workforce will help us achieve the infrastructure overhaul the country so desperately needs. It requires us to think creatively and tap global sources of skilled labour. We’ve found the best attributes in workers desired by our customers resides in the people of the Philippines, and many of them are looking for opportunities to grow professionally and personally in our part of the world.

As New Zealand continues to invest in its infrastructure, recognising the value of Filipino workers can significantly contribute to the country's development goals while forging lasting partnerships.