NZ's largest aquatic centre could see further delays amid offshore worker shortage

The largest aquatic centre in New Zealand has joined the list of projects which can’t be completed without offshore workers.

Christchurch’s Metro Sports Facility is due to be completed in late 2022, but Ōtakaro Limited said that date may need to be pushed out further if a few critical workers can’t cross the border.

“The pool itself, it’s made in Italy. Some of it’s here, some of it’s not, but it needs to be erected by specialist people,” the facility's chief executive, John Bridgman, said.

Bridgman says some workers are approved to enter early next year, but others are still needed.

“You can work around it to a degree, but sooner or later, you run out of ability to flex,” he said.

The project needs a handful of specialists to finish the job rather than a huge number of workers.  

“We’re a bit at the mercy of Covid. More lockdowns will have a significant impact on the project,” he said.

Ōtakaro is working with Immigration to get workers through the border, but says quarantine facilities are full to the brim.

Few will be as disappointed by another delay as Ian Phillips.

Phillips is the president of the Canterbury Diving Club, which has dropped from 100 members to just two since the Canterbury earthquakes knocked it out of business.

“It’s going to be over 10 years now befrore we can practice our sport again,” he said.

Families currently have to travel to either Dunedin or Wellington, adding extra financial strain for those wanting to participate.

Phillips hopes others around the country will instead be drawn to Christchurch when the facility is built.

“It’s a destination facility, and certainly in diving circles, everyone’s keen to come to Christchurch.”

The project’s just achieved a major milestone, the heaviest lift of all the so-called ‘anchor’ projects in Christchurch’s regeneration from the quakes.

Two cranes heaved the 63-tonne, 43-metre-long roof truss into place yesterday, with four more yet to be installed.

It was originally set to open at the end of 2021, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 lockdown.


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