Crane numbers hit new highs across Australia

  • Crane numbers hit new highs across Australia
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Domenic Schiafone


Domenic Schiafone

According to today’s release of the Q3 2023 RLB Crane Index, construction crane numbers have hit new highs across Australia and in the cities of Sydney, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

Domenic Schiafone, Rider Levett Bucknall’s Oceania Director of Research and Development said, “The Australian construction industry has experienced a huge six months, with crane numbers rapidly expanding across the country.”

“We’ve seen 303 new cranes added to new projects and 257 removed from buildings nearing completion. With 46 additional cranes dotting the skyline in the last six months, the number of cranes across the major regions has hit a record 882, equating to an increase of 5.5% since our last publication,” he added.

The large number of cranes observed correlates with national activity. Total construction activity across Australia for the 2022 calendar year was up by 1.8%, or $3.9B, compared to 2021, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Construction activity in Q1 2023 continued this trend, rising 3.9% or $2.1B year-on-year.

First edition to go digital for a better historical view

The Q3 2023 RLB Crane Index® is the first edition to go digital. With more than a decade’s worth of data behind us, RLB is taking the index online to give the industry more granular information and a better historical picture of activity within each construction market across Australia.

Maps offer a pictorial representation of the collected data for each city using a pin locator for the approximate location of cranes. Existing crane activity analytics (data, trends and commentary across cities and sectors) is now presented online.

Sydney still the main driver of crane count

Domenic continued, “Looking around the country, Sydney continues to be the main driver of the crane count. Of the 882 cranes sighted across Australia, 401 were in Sydney, 178 were in Melbourne, 85 were in Brisbane, 61 on the Gold Coast, 50 were in Perth, 22 in the Sunshine Coast, 21 in Canberra,17 in Adelaide, 15 in the Central Coast, 15 in Newcastle, 13 in Wollongong, 3 in Darwin and one crane in Hobart.”

According to RLB, the residential index reached a record high of 178, up two index points from the previous high of 177 in Q3 2017. This index represents 554 cranes, up from 530 in the last count. 176 cranes were added to residential projects with 152 removed from sites.

The non-residential index rose from 266 to 285 index points, the second highest level recorded. Cranes on non-residential sites now number 328. This is 22 more cranes than the 306 counted in Q1 2023. The non-residential proportion of cranes across the country is 37%, the same proportion as the last count.

First Australian city to exceed 400 cranes

Eight cities recorded higher crane numbers for Q3 2023. The number of cranes in Sydney increased by 10% to break 400 cranes for the first time, making Sydney the first Australian city to record this achievement. Cranes within Sydney now number 401 – a rise of 36 cranes.

Sydney’s non-residential sector saw a significant increase in crane numbers, particularly compared to the low of 41 cranes in Q1 2017. There are currently 140 cranes on non-residential projects across the region, the highest recorded.

The projects with the largest number of cranes in Sydney include: One Sydney Harbour (six cranes at Barangaroo), Westconnex (five cranes at Rockdale), Western Sydney Airport (four cranes at Badgerys Creek), Mason & Main Merrylands (four cranes), and Viciniti & Destination (four cranes at Macquarie Park).

Residential cranes dominate on Gold Coast

The Gold Coast RLB Crane Index® continued its upwards rise, increasing from 373 index points to a new peak of 407 points. A total of 15 cranes were added across the region, with 10 cranes removed. The net addition of five cranes brings Gold Coast’s new record crane number to 61. Residential cranes continue to dominate the skies, accounting for 90.2% of all cranes in the region.

The Sunshine Coast RLB Crane Index® increased to a record 220 index points, a significant growth on the 160 index points recorded 12 months ago. The region saw the removal of six cranes, and the addition of eight cranes, to record a total of 22 cranes. The residential sector remains the dominant sector, with 21 of the 22 cranes recorded.

The number of cranes in Sydney and South-East Queensland (SEQ) has grown more significantly since Q1 2022 than all other cities. Sydney and SEQ crane numbers rose 34% and 65% respectively. In comparison, Melbourne crane numbers fell by 7 to now total 178.

Domenic concluded, “Since the start of the pandemic (Q1 2020), total cranes within Australia have increased by 22% or 160 cranes. This has been largely driven by increases in Sydney (102) and SEQ (Brisbane 27, Gold Coast 28, and the Sunshine Coast 11).”

Melbourne crane activity falling

“When comparing current and historical crane numbers for Melbourne, Sydney, and nationally, it is evident that Melbourne’s crane activity is falling. Melbourne’s count of 182 cranes is marginally above the average of 174 since Q1 2015. Current crane numbers in Sydney and nationally are well above their respective averages of 310 and 708,” he said.

Melbourne cranes account for 20.2% of all cranes in Australia, followed by South-East Queensland with 19.0% of all cranes.

The gap between Sydney and Melbourne crane numbers has widened significantly over the past six editions.

Check out the new format of the Crane Index here

Photo: Innovative tower cranes used on iconic waterfront site at new Sydney Fish Market. Courtesy: Multiplex