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Sat December 07 2019

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New Zealand crane numbers remain near record levels

24 Sep The number of cranes at work in New Zealand remains at almost a record level, though some construction sectors are seeing a drop in demand for their use.

The latest crane index from Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) has found that the number across New Zealand cities has eased slightly, with a net decrease of 17 from the record set six months ago. The Q3 2019 RLB Crane Index identified 131 long-term cranes across the country: 95 in Auckland, 10 in Queenstown, nine in Christchurch, six in both Wellington and Tauranga, four in Hamilton and one in Dunedin.

RLB director Chris Haines said: “While we’ve experienced an easing of crane numbers across NZ for the first time since 2017, and Auckland’s crane count is also down for the first time since 2014, overall construction activity remains strong and at record levels.’

“There has been a noticeable increase in infrastructure spending and projects with 22 long-term cranes now on projects nationwide, particularly in Auckland which has more than 90% of the country’s long-term civil cranes. This is a strong pipeline of work ahead for rail, water, runways, busways and public realm type works.”

However, RLB said that while infrastructure projects are increasing, the progress in the recent ‘mega’ building projects has seen crane numbers drop. The report mentions several major projects nearing or reaching completion: Precinct’s Commercial Bay, International Convention Centre and 277 Westfield in Newmarket. There are limited future building projects of similar scale to back-fill these in the current pipeline, said RLB.

The RLB Crane Index confirms that the country’s residential sector still accounts for 41% (54) of all cranes counted, highlighting the volume of apartment projects still under construction.

Overall long-term crane numbers on retail dropped significantly due to the opening of the NZ$750m Westfield Newmarket development, advanced progress at Commercial Bay and Sylvia Park, and the near completion of the new Ballantynes building in Christchurch. The number of cranes on retail projects across the country fell from 18 to six, with 12 cranes removed from projects across Auckland (nine) and Christchurch (three).

There is now only one education crane across the country, which perhaps signifies more uncertainty in the current tertiary sector, said RLB.

“One of the largest crane companies in the North Island, Tower Cranes NZ, went into receivership last month, adding to general uncertainty within the construction industry,” said Haines. “Some in the industry have said this was primarily due to their rapid expansion and ongoing debts from failed main contractors such as Eberts.”

The hotel sector encountered the greatest amount of churn these past six months with six new cranes erected and 10 removed, leaving 10 hotel cranes nationally. According to RLB, the biggest fall was in Christchurch with nine cranes removed from sites. There are now more long-term cranes in Queenstown (10) compared to the much larger city of Christchurch (9), as the resort town is boosted by on-going tourism related projects and infrastructure supporting growth in Central Otago.

The RLB Crane Index confirmed that Auckland is currently contributing more than 72% of all long-term cranes observed. The South Island major centres accounted for just over 15% of the country’s cranes.

Haines said: “The churn has been very high with almost 100% of cranes removed from sites across Auckland positioned on new sites, which highlights the ongoing buoyancy within the market.”

Auckland’s residential cranes account for 85% of all the residential cranes in New Zealand and 35% of all cranes nationally. New sightings included tower cranes on AUT’s Wakefield Street student accommodation project, and for the Auckland City Mission new accommodation shelter.

In the civils sector, there have been eleven new cranes placed; four for the Americas Cup (2021) wharfs and bases, two at the SH1 widening, busway and bridge works in Rosedale, the Ferry Terminal at Downtown and the Ameti busway, with a single crane at the Port of Auckland’s multi-storey car park.

Haines added: “The Auckland hotel sector has seen the dismantling of seven cranes during the past six months, and three new tower cranes equating to six currently standing. Many Auckland hotel projects have 2021 completion dates to coincide with both the America’s Cup Challenge in March 2021 and APEC Economics Leader’s meeting in November 2021.”

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