New Zealand CEO apologises for remark about Irish workers

Construction chief pointed finger at Irish for shoddy foundation work in Christchurch

Irish construction workers were directly targeted by the New Zealand government in a recruitment drive following the two major earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. Photograph: Thinkstock

Irish construction workers were directly targeted by the New Zealand government in a recruitment drive following the two major earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 and 2011. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

The chief executive of a New Zealand building company has apologised for comments he made on Wednesday where he appeared to blame Irish workers for poor construction work carried out on earthquake damaged homes.

After a government report found one-third of homes repaired after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch did not met the country’s building requirements, Graham Darlow, chief executive of Fletcher Construction, told a media conference broadcast on Television New Zealand: “There may be a few that we can’t find the contractor, maybe they’ve gone out of business, maybe they’ve gone back to Ireland.”

Mr Darlow issued a statement today apologising if his comments were “interpreted as being critical of builders of Irish descent”.

“New Zealand could never have rebuilt Canterbury at this pace and to this high standard without the huge contribution of builders and contractors from Ireland and many other international countries,” he said.

Skilled Irish tradespeople and construction professionals were directly targeted by the New Zealand government in a recruitment drive following the two major earthquakes, which left much of Christchurch destroyed.

Twitter and the Irish People Living in New Zealand Facebook page, which has more than 10,000 followers, were flooded with comments on Wednesday from people working in Christchurch expressing their anger at Mr Darlow’s remarks about Irish workers.

According to New Zealand news site stuff.co.nz, the country’s Human Rights Commission has received ten formal complaints about the comments.

Niamh McMahon, Honorary Consul General for Ireland in New Zealand, said she had spoken to Mr Darlow directly about his comments on behalf of the Irish community, who had expressed their “anger and frustration”.

She said the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee had also phoned her today to express his gratitude for the contribution the Irish have made to the Christchurch rebuild.

“The Irish that have come to Christchurch have made a huge contribution and they are very welcome in the Christchurch community…. from my perspective, the numbers of Irish who turned up across all professions and have put their head down and getting on with things have been fantastic,” Mr Brownlee told the Mike Hosking Newstalk ZB radio programme in New Zealand.

Brian Maye, a builder from Cork who has lived in New Zealand since 2007, told The Irish Times that support for Irish builders in the country remains strong. “Today I have received nothing but positive comments from the people of New Zealand. Going forward I hope my reputation speaks for itself.”

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said in their report that much of the work that fell short of the housing requirements was “relatively minor and easy to fix”.

Fletcher Construction said they will recheck the repair work of 5,700 out of the 69,000 homes involved in the repair programme. It’s estimated that 1,200 will need to be repaired, and Fletcher Construction have assured customers that all costs will be covered by the company.

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