The number of cranes across Australian city skylines rose to 691 in Rider Levett Bucknall’s latest count, the first increase in two years, as education and infrastructure projects pushed the number of cranes on non-residential work to its highest level since counting began in 2013.
The modest gain of just 16 new cranes from 675 in the consultancy’s last count in the third quarter of last year resulted from the lift in cranes on projects other than pure residential work to 282 – more than 40 per cent of the total – from 227 six months earlier.
The continued decline in residential work has pulled the total number of cranes down from the 757 peak in late 2019, but in a sign of changing lifestyles – a move accelerated by the pandemic – the demand to live and work in the same place is now the biggest driver of new construction projects, with mixed-use cranes increasing the most – a net gain of 26 – across the country’s skylines.
Rich Lister Max Beck’s Caulfield Village project in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs currently has four cranes up on the site of the former Members’ car park outside the racecourse, as Beck Property Group works through the third stage of a four-part masterplan.
The $300 million tower underway comprises 437 build-to-rent dwellings to be owned by US private equity firm Blackstone, a 3800sq m full-line Coles supermarket and 18 specialty shops. Completion is due in the second half of 2022, with the development targeting the growing demand for a high level of amenity.
“When people are working from home more they want an environment they’re living in that’s not just the four walls they’re sleeping in,” Beck Property Group managing director Sam Beck told The Australian Financial Review.
The evolving landscape was clear in Melbourne, where the city’s first increase in total cranes in two years came as decreasing numbers of cranes on residential CBD projects were replaced by growing numbers of mixed-use – as well as some straight residential in the city’s northern suburbs – cranes spreading out into suburban areas.
Greater Melbourne’s total increased by a net 16 to 193 from the last count in the third quarter of last year. Mixed-use cranes made the greatest single increase – by 15 to 39 – and residential cranes fell by 12 to 81. Cranes on civil projects such as Melbourne Metro Tunnel, West Gate Tunnel, and the Level Crossing Removals, as well as education and health projects, increased.
Cranes in Sydney, the largest city, fell for a fourth straight count, slipping by a net 11 cranes to 286 as a drop of 32 cranes in residential work alone (to 195) and smaller declines in health, commercial and leisure projects offset gains in education and infrastructure work.
Sydney’s total of residential cranes is now at its lowest since late 2015. Even so, this sector still accounts for more than two-thirds (68.2 per cent) of the cranes in the NSW capital.
Mixed-use work in Sydney also increase, with a jump of 10 new cranes – six of them alone on the $828 million Sydney Football Stadium redevelopment project – lifting that city’s mixed-use total to 14.
Brisbane stood out for an increase in pure residential construction not seen in the other cities. An increase of 12 residential cranes in the Queensland capital accounted for more than half of the city’s net gain of 21, which lifted its total to 71, the most in two-and-a-half years.
Mixed-use cranes in Brisbane also increased by four to 21, with the $3.6 billion Queens Wharf project alone accounting for nine cranes. The total of Gold Coast cranes fell by five, reflecting a reduction in mixed-use and residential work.
Perth’s total fell by six cranes to 30 from the last count, reflecting fewer on education and commercial projects. There was no net change in the total of 15 residential cranes as 10 existing ones were dismantled and an equal number of new ones put up.
The effect of stimulus measures focused on detached residential housing and public infrastructure work was clear from the changing crane landscape, Domenic Schiafone, RLB’s Oceania director of research and development, said.
“The federal government’s stimulus measures have assisted the economy but the impact on construction is seeing the industry operate at two speeds,” Mr Schiafone said.
“Residential detached housing, assisted by both federal and state incentives, does not appear to have suffered from any COVID hangover at this stage. Government-sponsored civil projects continue to expand across the nation while education and civic projects also have grown sharply this edition.”
Canberra slipped in total by one crane to 26, as the net loss of six residential cranes was largely offset by five new cranes on civic projects such as Canberra Airport’s 6 Brindabella Circuit business park.
Adelaide flatlined with 10 cranes, while Hobart and Darwin’s totals also remained flat – with no cranes – for the second report running.
The demand for mixed-use property was likely to continue, Beck Property Group director Barry Shepherd said.
“There is no doubt we’re seeing inquiries from people saying ‘I want to be able to live close to where I work’, whereas before they were saying ‘I want to live close to public transport to get close to my work’,” he said.
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