17 November 2017
New Zealand Army engineers are helping Manawatu people into homeownership by being part of a local initiative to build affordable homes.
The carpenters, plumbers and an electrician from 25 Engineer Support Squadron are being assisted by two apprentices from the School of Military Engineering in the task of building four one-bedroom and two two-bedroom homes in Palmerston North.
The affordable housing initiative called Homes for People is the brainchild of husband and wife team Darren and Cheri Birch.
The initiative has taken five years to get to the building stage but the first new homes are now going up fast thanks to the support of the New Zealand Army and local businesses.
“It’s our response to the growing housing need in provincial New Zealand, and having the New Zealand Army on board is a win-win situation for all of us,” said Mr Birch.
He said there was a lack of skilled labour in the region for such a project and no other construction business was doing anything similar.
The possibility of utilising the New Zealand Army, which could in turn use the project as part of course training for its apprentices, was something that had benefits for both parties.
“It was a very attractive proposal for us to be able to use this project to expose our trainees to new build experience,” said Lieutenant Colonel Terry McDonald, Commanding Officer of 2nd Engineer Regiment at Linton Military Camp.
“It is also a real privilege to be part of an innovative and community minded initiative. It fits with many of our core vales of being good New Zealand citizens and making a positive impact regionally, nationally and internationally.”
Corporal Chad McDonald who is in charge of the working group said that while many of the team members had been part of humanitarian and disaster relief tasks in the South West Pacific, it was good to work on local projects and this one was particularly rewarding.
“It’s good to know you’re making a difference in someone else’s life so close to home.”
Mr Birch said the contribution the New Zealand Army was making to the project was significant.
“It’s a very positive work site. There’s a good attitude here among the team. It’s great to have the Army on board as part of this home ownership scheme that will lead to financial security for many people.”
He said he hoped there would be further opportunities for the two parties to work together in the future.