Working under the Sun.
Question: How can you tell the difference between a construction worker and road worker in Christchurch? Answer: Every road worker must wear full-length clothing at all times, regardless of the weather. In stark contrast to the road crews, the vast bulk of tradespeople working in my neighbourhood are wearing as little as possible. Rugby shorts and the obligatory hi-vis vest seems to be their uniform du jour. Some elderly residents have lodged complaints about “indecent exposure”, while other curtain-twitching matrons apparently consider the spectacle aesthetically agreeable – and over-heat themselves. But isn’t it ridiculous that thousands of tradies can choose how to cope with the summer’s double-edged sword, while SCIRT- contracted road workers have been straight-jacketed into submission, forced to wear long-sleeve tops and full-length pants. And in most cases, it’s bulky, full-length clobber. A space suit would probably be cooler. No wonder most of them are sweating like Bucharest brothel keepers, as they battle the baking bitumen and boiling mercury. Of course, SCIRT’s mandatory clothing requirements are designed to avert the incidence of skin cancer. But what about heat exhaustion? Surely the road workers should be allowed to at least roll up their sleeves or wear knee length shorts, and slather their skin in sunblock, to help combat the soul-sapping heat. I’ve spoken to several builders who opt for light and sleeveless clothing. As a trade-off for exposing more of their body to the sun, they routinely get their skin checked for any trouble spots. All SCIRT road workers will be downing tools on Friday for a fortnight, before they return to the oppressive toil and boil of summer’s sticky heights. No other Christchurch workforce is more deserving of a chilled-out Christmas.
As the housing crunch continues to bite hard in Christchurch, does Ngai Tahu have a role to play, to help take the steam out of the rental market? Even though Ngai Tahu is not in the business of being a glorified welfare agency, their prowess in the property game is formidable. As a gesture of good corporate citizenship, I wonder if Ngai Tahu should have set aside 10% of its residential developments at the likes of Wigram Skies and Linden Grove, for low-cost housing. However, in conversation with Sir Mark Solomon, I was delighted to learn that the iwi has partnered with trusted agencies like the Methodist Mission to provide affordable housing to vulnerable families. Ngai Tahu Property has sourced the land. The “Hapori Whare” project will deliver affordable and sustainable housing, with the wider aim of helping more families climb the ladder to home ownership.
Mike’s weekly column in The Press. Dec 17. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/columnists/mike-yardley/