Migrant Tales – Working in Christchurch. ‘She’ll Be Right’ Won’t Do: “Kiwi’s are renowned for being lazy though so it all made sense”


Forget the rat race, a move to New Zealand could be more like frying pan to fire.

Welcome to our popular Migrant Tales series, first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand.

A reader sent us a link to this migrant tale, first published on reddit/newzealand two months ago (around May 2017).

The author migrated to New Zealand to escape the European ‘rat race’ only to find that Christchurch has tested them to their limits. After the earthquakes a lot of their time has been spent finishing off and putting right the shoddy work. Despite the devastation caused to earthquake prone buildings it appears that few people follow the Building Code and are working to antiquated standards.

If you’re emigrating to one of the earthquake damaged areas of New Zealand (whether to live, or help with the rebuilding), or if you’re a tradesperson thinking your skills are in short supply you need to read this article:

Working in Christchurch

I headed over to Christchurch a few years back when I found a job there. A lot of Brits and Irish were heading over in the hope of escaping the rat-race of life in Europe in search of a new life on the other side of the world. The years have now passed and I can safely say that Christchurch and the CCC’s that live there tested my patience to the limit.

The city had been destroyed along with a lot of lives. The Cathedral was still crumbling and many of the streets were bare while others were well under reconstruction. I was eager to get to work and looking forward to what lay ahead. I had no idea that I would spend the entirety of my time there putting right other peoples mistakes and finishing off other peoples work. That becomes a bit of a drag after a while, especially when you’re told to follow on behind apprentices.

I worked with a few companies during my time, partly because I would get fed up with my employer and partly because I wanted to expand my experiences. I found that a lot of companies think they’re ‘building success’ in the midst of destruction, all I saw was the kiwi attitude of ‘She’ll be right’ alive and well. Not only that, I discovered that building apprentices learn their trade from a book. Every now and then an ‘Assessor’ stops by to go over what they have been doing, then they leave. The apprentice rarely has any guidance from a senior ‘tradesman’ (I use the term ‘tradesman’ very loosely. There’s no men in the trade and no tradesmen in the building industry) and really, what good would that do anyway if they have gone through the same process?

Poor Quantity Surveying was prominent on most jobs as was poor workmanship. I hadn’t ever straightened a wall with a ‘buzzer’ in nearly 20 years of being a Carpenter. Not only that, I haven’t ever packed a wall with Malthoid to remove a hollow. That’s kind of stupid as well as Kiwi’s glue the Gib to the studwork and I couldn’t get through to anyone I worked with that putting glue on the Malthoid means the Gib isn’t fixed to the timber. That same scenario happened with structural ply on a very big flat roof. The trigger happy builder stapled Malthoid to the joists to take out a 1 or 2mm bow then proceeded to glue the ply down followed by screws at 100mm centres. The complete brain dead attitude of that action time and time again is enough to send anyone with an ounce of sense mad. I’m not sure the structural Engineer would be impressed either. The inspector didn’t notice because it was obvious he didn’t really know what he was looking at.

I asked a couple of my foremen for some information regarding NZ Building Code. What I was told was that they have a new book with all the relevant information in it but that no one uses it, they instead prefer to reference the book from 10 or so years ago.

I had one decent boss while I was there. He looked after everyone and kept an eye on things as best he could. A lot of his employees took advantage of his good will and had ways of hiding things from him though.

I could go on all day about what I witnessed, plumbers cutting huge notches out of studwork and ceiling joists to run their pipes through. Electricians doing the same. I guess it’s too much hard work to drill a hole through the centre of a stud or joist. Kiwi’s are renowned for being lazy though so it all made sense.

If I were to offer any advice to people thinking of heading to Christchurch in the hope of starting a new life, I would say to think very carefully about what you hope to achieve and how far you are willing to drop your standard to do it. If you’re a Carpenter with half a brain who enjoys what they do, perhaps Christchurch isn’t the place for you. As far as my experience has gone, finding a decent company who does what they advertise is a struggle. On top of that, homes aren’t worth half what they cost either and if you end up buying a ‘villa’, be prepared for it to fall down around your ears, they’re rotten and aren’t worth the paper they’re drawn on. As far as new homes go, 90mm insulation all round still makes for a very cold and damp internal atmosphere, it’s not enough in such a cold country.

In conclusion, poor ‘tradesmen’ and poor design is rife so I’d steer well clear.

Here’s some of the replied it generated at r/newzealand

TessierAshpoolSA Dude, fuck you. If all Kiwis are lazy and stupid, then all Poms are a bunch of winging cunts who can fuck off back to Pommyland to get blown up by a homegrown jihadist fuckwit. Dont like that comment? Then dont be a cunt. I actually know a bit about the stuff you are talking about and basically you are full of it.

Kiwi_Cog You can criticise without being a cunt. You can even criticise and be a cunt, but you really can’t be surprised people are offended by you calling NZers lazy. It’s pretty fucking rude, and as many others in this thread have said, you can gladly fuck off back to wherever you came from. Besides, NZ’s refugee quota is tiny, and the person you’re replying to mentioned home-grown terrorists anyway, sooo not refugees? Although that is a little off topic imo.

Original poster: Who said I was surprised?! Can’t handle a but of criticism without whinging about it. As for ‘home-grown’ terrorists…just as a heads up cause you’re obviously not aware: how do you think these terrorists become home-grown….? It certainly didn’t happen last week bub.

Wakachangi That’s the problem with moving to a new country that I’ve noticed from people posting similar things here. You think you’re doing it to get away from your old problems. And sometimes you do. But there are always new problems here too. We’re not a utopia. I guess you have to weigh up whether moving here is better overall.Purely anecdotally, but I’ve heard the repair standards are fucking terrible and a lot of kiwis are unhappy with what’s gone on too. A family member in the business told me it’s the Wild West down there.He’s thinking of starting a new company in Auckland that does renovations. A lot of people have just bought shitboxes needing doing up because of the housing shortage. Something to think about.

saint-lascivious Yeah, you’re not wrong.
It is a clusterfuck here in Christchurch with the rebuild and repairs. In many ways, really. That there are still people out of pocket and waiting for their repairs this far down the line is somewhat sickening.
I know of cases where not only are people still not yet made whole by their insurers, but also further out of pocket several thousand dollars through having to pay for several independent assessments and legal fees through trying to resolve their disputes.
The quality of the repairs and the rebuild really seems quite hit and miss. Where I am in Waltham the majority of the houses didn’t seem too badly affected but some of them were completely and totally fucked. Some of them on comical leans through the foundation sinking. Some of them bent like a banana. Some of them shifted right off the foundations.
I was talking to one of the contractors taking care of two of the aforementioned “banana houses”, where the foundations of the houses had sunk in the middle and needed to be excavated, jacked up, refilled and reenforced, etc. …I digress, anyway, he was saying that of all the contractors doing similar foundation repair in Christchurch his method was the only one actually able to be reinsured as “as new or better”. I guess now that I think about it he had no reason not to be biased but he questioned the quality of the workmanship on most of the four strengthening and foundational work being done and even called out a lot of it as plainly unsafe.
One thing I do know is that I didn’t think there was any way in hell those houses were ever being repaired. I had seen houses that didn’t look half as bad, at least immediately obvious structural damage, that had been unquestionably demolished.
wakachangi You know what’s bad? Having an earthquake. Ok, it happens but we can fix shit right? Cool.
You know what would be monumentally fucking stupid though? Rebuilding/repairing all those houses to a state that when (not if) another big one hits, those houses are far less structurally sound and far more people are killed.
I don’t often get to use this phrase but the magnitude of the stupidity and recklessness just warrants it:
An absolute cunt up.
jpr64 That’s the problem with a natural disaster and subsequent building boom. All the tradies flocked to chch in the hope of making a quick buck.
There’ll always be cowboys but chch ended up with more than its fair share due to the huge need for staff.
I was looking at a flooding issue in a house up in Mt Pleasant the other day. Surprise surprise a nova flow drain at the back of the house was exposed, not wrapped (allowing sediment in), and laid higher than the floor level so was fucking useless in draining anything.
That being said there are some damn fine tradesmen in this city and at the very least in my company we pride ourselves on our work, train and treat our apprentices well and the ones who turn out to be good receive constant offers from other companies.
I went to one site yesterday only to find a newbie digger operator had ripped up a 100mm waiter main, sub mains, and data cables. Savage.
Gyn_Nag I must admit, returning to New Zealand houses from Europe has been a shock. It’s true that they did seem to be pretty safe in the quake itself though.
You can read the rest of the discussion here: Working in Christchurch




4 thoughts on “Migrant Tales – Working in Christchurch. ‘She’ll Be Right’ Won’t Do: “Kiwi’s are renowned for being lazy though so it all made sense”

  1. Look how butt hurt ‘TessierAshpoolSA’ is. Truth hurts doesn’t it pal?

    The amount and level of vitriol this poster got for just giving his honest experience of the shit show that is Christchurch is not surprising at all.

    • The comments from Cantabrian people are no surprise at all. I admit there were a few mega friendly people who were than more than helpful. But they were outnumbered by two-faced, vindictive assholes (not normally a word I would use for people) who would try to find any fault to suck off just to ruin your day. My experience in Christchurch in the last 5 years socially disgusted me by what I experienced. A big problem was landlords renting out old housing with no heating to “professional” people. Add on to that shared buildings with bedbug infestations and psychotically disturbed people. Nice….

        • I f you have years of expertise and want to work for bosses with no background that they are managing then Christchurch is right for the right person. Blatant disorganisation and poor resourcing goes hand in hand. Travel to other cities north in the country and you will find it is no different. Depressing….

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