Construction industry warns Government its agenda at risk unless worker shortage solved

The Government is being warned that homes, schools and hospitals won't be built unless it simplifies the border exemption process for construction workers.

The industry has called crisis meetings with ministers and a report leaked to Newshub shows more than 3000 workers are desperately needed.

Building a new bridge over a harbour is a complex task made harder if there are not enough hands to do it.

The head of New Zealand construction company McConnell Dowell, Fraser Wyllie, says there's a crisis looming for his industry.

"This is a critical issue and it needs critical attention," he says.

He's one of many big industry bosses begging for a solution to the labour shortage.

"It's the most dire it's been in arguably 60 years," Wyllie adds.

Unemployment is near record lows, meaning there's not enough people looking for a job.

Plenty of apprentices are taking to the tools but the industry is lacking experienced staff to train them. And construction firms are already paying staff up to 30 percent more - a cost some say is crippling.

A report obtained by Newshub reveals there's more than 3000 construction jobs being advertised right now. 

For those companies hiring, 66 percent of them say no one in New Zealand has applied.

"What we're finding is we've tapped out the New Zealand market," ACE CEO Helen Davidson says.

"We're looking at roles, like professional services, so engineering and architecture, to site managers, right through to builders."

The Government has allocated 60 spots in managed isolation hotels for construction workers each month but the industry says the immigration process to fill them is too hard, with some firms having to apply multiple times.

"The system is very difficult to work through at the moment. We've got a three-phase system where you get a border exemption, then you get a visa, and then an MIQ position," says Civil Contractors NZ CEO Peter Silcock.

The industry has asked the Government for:

Immigration assistance with the process

The addition of construction jobs to the 'approved classes of workers' list

And a lowering of the salary threshold for work visas from $100k to around $80k

"We'd really like to see action now to help us bring in the workers that we need," Davidson says.

Because without them, the construction sector has a warning.

"We won't be able to deliver on the Government's agenda," Silcock says.

Meaning schools, hospitals and houses may not be built as soon as promised by the Government.