Local insights Report: March/April 2023

Te Purunga ki Te Raki Local Insights Report: March/April 2023.

You are welcome to quote from any report below – please attribute the Te Purunga ki Te Raki Regional Skills Leadership Group, an independent advisory group on regional skills and workforce development. ​

Top regional insights

Cyclone Gabrielle has really tested the resilience of the Northland workforce and business community. The Whangārei Mayor’s office has estimated the economic impact to Northland is well over the conservative figure of $1 million per day. Local hospitality and retail businesses are struggling due to the cumulative impact of Cyclone Hale, the Auckland Anniversary weekend flooding and now Cyclone Gabrielle.

Businesses dependent on seasonal summer revenue have been particularly hard hit. State Highway 1 is still only partially open, and the detour routes are deterring most of the travellers who would typically visit Taitokerau in summer. State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyn Hills, between Waipu and Brynderwyn, is closed in both directions from 17 April for approximately 2 weeks.

There are persistent supply chain and cost issues. The consequences of a poor road network in the region have now extended beyond the obvious industries, such as retail, transport and hospitality. Diminished and delayed freight impacts everything from costs of store stock to building projects. This is in addition to the expense of extra vehicle wear and tear on challenging diversion routes, as well as the cost to the routes themselves, which were not built to manage such high traffic loads.

Immediate impacts

Housing and Construction: Given existing labour market constraints across the construction sector, meeting immediate building demand will require reprioritisation of projects. The industry has emphasized that workers and materials will need to be diverted from other areas and other tasks to help with recovery efforts. As of March 8 2023:

  • 8 homes were red stickered and 17 yellow stickered
  • 17 roads were closed and 135 local roads were impacted by slips or down to 1 lane
  • 30 households had contacted the temporary accommodation service.

Infrastructure: Extreme weather events have had a severe impact on the roading infrastructure in the region. This has limited connectivity for workers and businesses alike creating supply chain issues, and additional costs for transporting goods to market. The March 2023 assessment compiled by Northland and Transportation Alliance on behalf of Whangārei District Council estimates the cost of repairs to improve Northland's local roading network as $250 million. This would create a safer, more resilient local road network.

Addressing regional workforce and skills needs

3 new programmes in Taitokerau will help to build the region’s construction workforce over time

  • Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust and Te Rarawa are developing a construction programme to create pathways for potential Māori workers with relevant skills and experience to gain employment through the rebuild of Kaitaia Hospital.

  • Prisoners at Ngāwhā Correctional Facility will soon be able to learn construction skills at a secure facility in the Ngāwhā Innovation and Enterprise Park across the road. The houses that they build will be available for the local hapori. Upon release, people can transition into Te Pūkenga Level 3 Certificate in Construction Carpentry.

  • Regent Training Centre is delivering the foundation Level 2 NZ Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades Skills. Participants are now assembling flatpack houses under cover, enabling them to learn regardless of the weather.

A replacement Te Pūkenga campus is planned for Kaitaia.  This is in partnership with Far North Holdings, who also partnered with Te Pūkenga in their Ngāwhā campus. The Kaitaia campus is currently in the planning phase and will offer potential mahi in the future. The new campus will improve regional access to training.

Northland planners, surveyors and architects have emphasised the need to develop infrastructure resilience planning skills and expertise on the management and diversion of storm water. About 70 Northland towns and localities are projected to be significantly affected by coastal flooding, erosion, and permanent inundation through sea level rise over the next 100 years and beyond. The Tai Tokerau Climate Adaptation strategy, adopted by Northland’s 4 councils and tangata whenua representatives in April 2022, aims to tackle the pressing problem.

Top sectoral opportunities and challenges


  • The building sector is concerned about the additional demand for workforce for remediation work across the regions that have been severely impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle, especially in the context of long-standing labour shortages.

  • $7.3 billion of construction is forecast in Taitokerau over the next 3 years but there is not sufficient labour to meet current or future demand. The sector is collaborating with iwi and government to address the workforce shortage, with an emphasis on wellbeing.

    Source for construction data: Waihanga Ara Rau Workforce Information Platform(external link)

Beef and dairy farming

  • Federated Farmers Northland reports beef and dairy farmers are under increasing stress as the roading challenges slow their ability to get their stock to the works.

  • Initial flooding destroyed farmers’ hay and silage stores, so maintaining animal welfare will become more difficult the longer stock is unable to be moved. Some farmers may need to feed imported palm kernels, further impacting cashflow.

  • Farmers are beginning calving and concerns are growing that they will not be able to get their bobby calves to market. This is compounded by the latest law change that no longer allows farmers to have bobby calves killed on farm. The longer calves are retained the greater the impact on their current pasture, and the need to buy supplementary feed.

  • Beef farmers are starting to let staff go because of the narrowing of farm margins due to increasing costs. This offers a redeployment opportunity as dairy farmers across the region continue to struggle to find trained staff. The 2 local meat works also have pre-existing shortages of both skilled and unskilled workers.

Regional workforce plan actions

The Te Purunga ki Te Raki Regional Skills Leadership Group will lead and coordinate implementation of the Regional Workforce Plan over the next 3 years. The Group is already making progress on actions that will help to equip Taitokerau for future weather events, including work on resilience, climate change and green skills development, and construction and infrastructure.

Te Taiao – Resilient Workforce and Enabled Whānau


Actively support increased collaboration and partnerships between Community and Industry for developing a resilient workforce


The RSLG has meet with Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust and discussed how the group can support a Trades Academy in Construction for schools in the Kaitaia area specifically for taitamariki. The RSLG is also supportive of the Department of Corrections’ construction programme for prisoners at Ngāwhā Correctional Facility.

Te Taiao – Responding to Climate Change and Green Skills Development


Champion green skills and prepare the workforce for the green transition owing to climate change impacts due to the Zero Carbon amendment to the Climate Change Response Act in 2019 through skills assessments, Emissions Reduction Plan and National Adaptation Plan


The RSLG has meet with Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust, Whangārei District Council, and the relevant workforce development councils such as Waihanga Ara Rau to better understand the green skills required in the region. The RSLG team is working with the Climate Change team within MBIE, Ministry of Environment, and Climate Connect Aotearoa to better understand that impacts of the green transition and how best we can support this given the recent extreme weather events. This research is being commissioned centrally by MBIE and the findings will be shared with the region, with input sought from key stakeholders.

Mātauranga – Construction and Infrastructure


Continue to tailor and grow vocational training to meet the construction and infrastructure needs of employers and communities, including those remote communities.


The RSLG is working with Waihanga Ara Rau Workforce Development Council to ensure alignment of priorities for the Taitokerau region. This includes alignment of TEC advice with Taitokerau needs as outlined in the RWP. The RSLG has engaged with Kānoa, Northland Inc and Te Whātu Ora to collaborate on the Whangārei Hospital Rebuild. We will be looking at how we can better support stakeholders, industry, and Iwi and Hapū to meet the needs of the region.

Taitokerau Regional Workforce Plan

Prepared by the regionally led Te Purunga ki Te Raki – Taitokerau Regional Skills Leadership Group.

For further information please contact taitokeraurslg@mbie.govt.nz

Last updated: 01 May 2023