While Sydney remains the primary hub of commercial and multi-residential expansion throughout the construction industry in Australia, the latest crane count reveals a number of hotspots of activity.

Released last week, Rider Levitt Bucknall’s (RLB) March 2014 RLB Crane Index™ revealed the number of cranes currently in use on commercial and residential building sites across the nation rose 15 percent to come in at 307, based on those it could count.

Numbers in New Zealand, meanwhile, jumped from 10 at RLB’s last count in 2012 to 71 last month amid strong demand in Auckland and high levels of activity on the Christchurch rebuild.

Driving the gains was a resurgent multi-residential sector, where a 25.2 per cent rise in the number of dwelling units approved throughout the 12 months to February last year has seen the number of cranes in use for this type of construction surge by 42 per cent and 33 per cent in Sydney and Melbourne since RLB’s last count respectively.

Recent momentum in commercial building, however, has yet to translate into more cranes in the sky for building offices, factories, warehouses, shopping centres, hospitals and schools. Crane numbers in use for such projects fell back by four per cent (or three cranes) since the last count.

RLB director of research and development Stephen Ballesty attributes the rise in crane count relating to apartment construction not just to increases in housing activity but also to a broader trend toward multi-residential living.

““The once ‘great Australian dream’ of owning a quarter acre block is shifting with a preference for apartment living with increased investor activity,” he said.

crane count

Other findings:

  • With a massive increase since the last count in October 2012 (from 10 to 71), New Zealand is the biggest Trans-Tasman hotspot, with 25 cranes in Auckland, 22 in Christchurch and five in Wellington. Unlike Australia, only 24 per cent are being used for high-rise apartments, with 40 per cent being used for commercial building and 29 per cent for road building.
  • In Australia, Sydney is the biggest hotspot with 125 cranes in total and 60 within five kilometres from the GPO alone. Barangaroo, Barangaroo South and Barangaroo Hedland Park are the biggest areas of activity in commercial, while residential cranes are being found on sites in Alexandria, Barangaroo, Birchgrove, Erskineville, Forest Lodge, Harold Park, Moore Park, Ultimo, Surry Hills, Sydney CBD, and Waterloo. Health project-related cranes are located at Blacktown, Hornsby and Randwick Hospitals while outside of Barangaroo, commercial cranes are also being found at the Convention Centre, Martin Place and Wynyard.
  • Brisbane has seen a 51 per cent increase in cranes and now has more than 50 cranes in the sky as new residential cranes have gone up in Bowen Terrace, Bowen Hills, Fortitude Valley, Hamilton, Kelvin Grove, Milton, Newstead, Toowong, West End, Windsor and Woolloongabba. Additional cranes have been erected on existing sites in Montague Road, West End; Russell Street, South Brisbane and Skyring Terrace in Newstead. Commercial developments have seen a net increase of three cranes with cranes going up in new commercial developments at 180 Ann Street, 480 Queen Street, 1 William Street, Apollo Road in Bulimba and Benson Street in Toowong.
  • Cranes keep rising in Perth with five more erected since the last count and new commercial cranes being seen at City Square, 933 Hay Street (one apiece) and Kings Square (four cranes), and others on continuing commercial projects within Perth including City Library, May Holman, Old Treasury Development and developments in East Perth, Herdsman, Subiaco and West Perth. New residential cranes, meanwhile, have gone up at the Ascot in The Springs and the Halo in Mount Street, while cranes in this segment are in action in developments in the CBD, East Perth, South Perth, Coburn Central and the Leach Highway.
  • Crane activity in Adelaide (14 cranes) has remained constant in the past six months, with the addition of cranes at the new Cbus 50 Flinders Street development, Flinders University CSEM at Tonsley and Aria Apartment developments (offset by the removal of others) and continuing cranes at the New Royal Adelaide Hospital, Convention Centre, Art Apartments, Fischer Street and the iBis Hotel sites.
  • Canberra has seen four more cranes added (making a total of nine) thanks to developments in Civic.
  • Notwithstanding its strong performing economy, Darwin has seen a slide in the number of cranes to seven with cranes having been removed from residential waterfront projects and residential developments in the city.
  • While a new courthouse on Hunter Street has Newcastle’s only visible crane, RBL says a $400 million makeover of the city centre should lift activity in that city going forward.