Mancunians were offered a fresh start in New Zealand in exchange for help with the rebuild of Christchurch at an emigration expo over the weekend.
Officials from the city were in the UK, looking to recruit skilled Britons to repair the damage it suffered in the earthquakes of September 2010 and February this year.
Representatives from other parts of New Zealand were also in attendance, as were businesses and officials from Australia and Canada, as part of an ongoing effort to convince skilled English-speakers to move to their countries.
New Zealand has on the whole been resilient to the global economic crises, and Christchurch is one of the best insured countries in the world. Despite the tragic events, the residents are determined to bounce back.
Alex Bouma is the deputy chairman of Canterbury Employment and Skills Board (CESB), which covers the region including Christchurch.
"There is going to be a huge economic opportunity over the next three to 10 years,” he said.
“We will transform Christchurch into a world class city.”
The earthquakes that hit New Zealand’s second city left 181 people dead. Around 30,000 homes were destroyed, as was much of the business district.
Over the next 10 years, an estimated 30,000 skilled workers are needed for construction, engineering and IT jobs in Christchurch.
There is a wide range of roles that will need to be filled in order to repair the tectonic activity damage: from town planners and infrastructure engineers to plasterers and decorators.
Despite the country’s desire to recover, 10 days before New Zealand’s general election, the Labour party leader Phil Goff lashed out at the recruitment drive for favouring foreign workers over the nation’s residents.
"Why are we bringing in people from Manchester when we should be training young Cantabrians to rebuild their city?" he said.
"There are 10,000 young people not in employment, education or training in Christchurch who would love the chance to rebuild their city, but the opportunities have not been opened up for skills training.
"We've got to put our people at the top of the queue."
The area could still be volatile. Recent events in Turkey have shown that even in the aftermath of a disaster, Mother Nature can be relentless. Aid workers were among the dead when a second earthquake hit eastern Turkey, so a new life in New Zealand would not be without its perils.
The country, sometimes nicknamed the Shaky Isles, sits on the fault line between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates. It experiences around 200 noticeable seismic incidents each year.
Steve Blackman from Taranaki explained that many Kiwis fled the city after two major earthquakes, fearing further aftershocks.
He also said that there is a lack of skilled workers in the country because they go over to Australia, where New Zealanders are free to work as part of an agreement between the two countries.
“At these recruitment expos we try to get Kiwis to come back home and to get Brits to emigrate,” he said.
The benefit to New Zealand of bringing over skilled workers is that they will not need extensive training when they get there. If the Cantabrians were to be trained then the schedule for rebuilding the city would be drawn out further.
The advantage for Brits is that, while massive numbers have suffered redundancies in recent years as a result of the recession, they will be welcomed with open arms in Christchurch. Skilled workers from BAe Systems, for example, could apply their skills to the rewarding task of getting the city back on form and better than ever.
The message from the expo is that Christchurch is open for business. The people of New Zealand have taken a positive outlook on the hand they have been dealt. They see the devastation as a chance to start afresh, something to which Mancunians can surely relate after the city’s response to the IRA bombing in 1996.
For more information about the recruitments efforts, visit http://cesb.org.nz/