Plumber, Gasfitter and Drainlayer
Kaiwhakarerewai, Kaiwhakarerekorohū, Kaiwhakatakoto Paipa Wai
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers assemble, install and repair pipes, drains and fixtures and fittings that supply water and gas or remove waste.
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers usually earn
$16-$38 per hour
Source: Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission research, 2017.
Pay for plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers depends on experience.
- Apprentice/trainee plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers usually start on the training or adult minimum wage. This increases as they progress through their apprenticeship, gain skills and unit standards, and take on more responsibility.
- Newly licensed plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers usually earn $25 an hour.
- Licensed and experienced plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers can earn between $28 and $38 an hour.
People specialising as drainlayers typically earn a little less than plumbers and gasfitters.
Source: Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission research, 2017.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers may do some or all of the following:
- measure, cut and shape pipes
- install, join and seal pipes and fittings
- install and maintain hot water and heating systems such as hot water tanks, central heating, gas heaters and heat pumps
- lay or repair drains, and get consents from local councils to do the work
- install and repair roofing pipes and spouting
- replace or repair damaged or blocked water, sewerage and gas pipes
- install fixtures such as gas stoves, toilets, basins, septic tanks and air-conditioning systems
- run their own business.
Skills and knowledge
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers need to have:
- knowledge of plumbing and drainage materials and methods
- skill in interpreting designs, plans and instructions
- knowledge of building and safety regulations
- knowledge of the Building Code in relation to plumbing, gasfitting and drainage
- soldering and welding skills
- some knowledge of electrical systems.
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers who are self-employed also need business skills.
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers:
- usually work regular business hours, but may be required to work evenings and weekends, or be on call
- work in homes, offices, commercial and industrial buildings, schools, hospitals, and on building sites and farms
- may work outdoors in all weathers, and in conditions that can be dirty, messy, smelly, cold, wet, hot or confined
- travel locally to job sites.
What's the job really like?
Plumbing is not all dirt and muck
"A lot of people think plumbing is all blocked toilets, but the whole time I've been doing my apprenticeship I've only had to unblock two or three, so it's not all dirt and muck," says plumber Josh Boyce.
"Most of the time you're working on putting pipes in new houses, renovating older houses or working on commercial job sites, which is actually pretty clean work."
Working with copper pipes is Josh's favourite part of the job
While Josh can't name a part of the job he dislikes, he does have some favourites. "I love working with copper pipes, doing the brazing and welding with copper. That's when you heat it so it melts to join two pieces together. When you take pride in your work it really shows with copper. It's almost a shame to cover up the walls!"
As for the future, Josh is looking to work overseas. "One of the best things about a plumbing and gasfitting apprenticeship is that plumbers and gasfitters are needed everywhere, not just all over New Zealand. I can see the world and earn money while I'm doing it."
Ben talks about life as a plumber - 1.11 mins. (Video courtesy of Got a Trade? Got it Made!)
Being hands-on has massive appeal for what I looked for in a job. I meet 10 different people every day and I work with sparkies, electricians, builders. You’re never stuck on the same job, I might be redoing this kitchen today and then tomorrow I’m working on a commercial boiler unit. We just go out and solve problems and we come up with solutions, and it takes a bit to get there but once you’re there there’s so many options.
I definitely feel a few steps ahead of my peers. I know I have a lot of people who look at me and see, “Oh look, he’s got the house, he’s got the car, he’s all sorted, ready to rock 'n' roll”, and that’s just the way it is when you’re earning and learning.
My name’s Ben, I’ve got a trade and I’ve got it made.
To become a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer, you need to:
- complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate (Level 4) in plumbing and gasfitting or drainlaying
- be registered with the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board.
A driver's licence is also useful.
The Skills Organisation oversees plumber, gasfitter and drainlayer apprenticeships. ATT and Masterlink employ, train and place apprentices.
- ATT website - information on plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprenticeships
- Masterlink website - information on plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprenticeships
- Skills website - information on plumbing, gasfitting and drainlaying apprenticeships
NCEA Level 2 in English, maths, physics, design and visual communication, and construction and mechanical technologies is useful.
Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry and gain relevant skills by doing a National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Levels 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.
Year 11 to 13 students can also gain industry experience through programmes such as Gateway.
These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.
- BConstructive website - information about the BConstructive programme
- Skills website - information about the Gateway programme and other options for school students
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers need to be:
- patient and accurate, with an eye for detail
- skilled in using and caring for equipment
- good communicators
- organised, able to follow instructions and skilled at problem-solving
- able to work independently or in a team.
Useful experience for plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers includes:
- work as a drainlayer's assistant
- work in the building or heating and ventilation industries
- welding and sheet metal work
- work as a boiler maker.
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers need to be fit, healthy and reasonably strong, as some lifting is involved. They need to be comfortable working at heights or in small confined spaces.
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers must be registered with the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board and hold a practising licence.
Find out more about training
- 0800 187 878 - www.att.org.nz
- 0800 502 102 - www.masterlink.co.nz
- Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board
- 0800 743 262 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.pgdb.co.nz
- The Skills Organisation
- 0508 754 557 - www.skills.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Strong demand for plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers
Opportunities for plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers are good due to:
- a lack of apprentices training in these areas
- a construction boom that is predicted to continue until at least the end of 2020, meaning more building work, which requires plumbing
- the post-earthquake rebuild of Christchurch
- building work needed to upgrade leaky homes and earthquake-prone buildings.
Increase your chances of getting an apprenticeship
Because many plumbing businesses are small and/or very busy, they are not always able to take on and train apprentices. You can increase your chances of getting an apprenticeship by:
- being proactive and contacting possible employers
- dressing smartly and showing you are keen when you visit employers
- volunteering to work with a company to understand what the job involves, or asking a plumber if you can shadow them (spend a work day with them), to see exactly what they do.
Although completing a pre-trade course (such as Gateway and BConstructive through school, or later through a tertiary provider) can show you are keen, it is not essential and it will not shorten your apprenticeship.
Plumbers and drainlayers needed to rebuild after Canterbury earthquakes
Although over 8,000 people work as plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers in New Zealand, there are not enough to meet demand.
As a result, plumber and drainlayer appear on Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled plumbers and drainlayers from overseas to work on the rebuild in Canterbury following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Most plumbers and gasfitters run their own businesses
About 90% of plumbers and gasfitters are self-employed or work for small companies with up to five employees.
However, only about half of drainlayers are self-employed. Others work for small to medium-sized businesses that employ between one and 20 staff.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List', accessed August 2017, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Jenkins, K, operations manager, Masterlink, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, May 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission), 2015.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Future Demand for Construction Workers', July 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Mitchell, P, 'Industry Experts Expect Plumber Shortage as Demand Soars', 9 May 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers may progress to become certifying plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers, who can set up their own businesses and train apprentices.
They may also move into design, consultancy or teaching work in the industry.
Last updated 1 November 2017