Record crane numbers ease as infrastructure spending increases

September 20, 2019.

Record crane numbers ease as infrastructure spending increases

According to the Rider Levett Bucknall Q3 2019 RLB Crane Index® released today, the number of cranes standing tall across New Zealand (NZ) cities has eased slightly from the record numbers seen six months ago.

There are currently 131 long-term cranes sighted across the country (95 in Auckland, 10 in Queenstown, 9 in Christchurch, 6 in both Wellington and Tauranga, 4 in Hamilton and 1 in Dunedin), equating to a net decrease of 17 cranes since our edition six months ago.

RLB Director Mr 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.’

Strong pipeline of work ahead

‘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,’ he added.

According to RLB, as infrastructure projects are increasing, the progress in the recent ‘Mega’ building projects has seen crane numbers drop (at Precinct’s Commercial Bay, the 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.

Residential sector still strong as retail crane count drops

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

Overall retail long-term cranes dropped significantly due to the opening of the $750m Westfield Newmarket development, advanced progress at Commercial Bay and Sylvia Park, and the near completion of the new Ballantynes building in Christchurch. Retail cranes across the country fell from 18 cranes to 6, with 12 cranes removed from projects across Auckland (nine) and Christchurch (three).

General uncertainty within construction industry

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

Mr Haines continued, ‘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. Some in the industry have said this was primarily due to their rapid expansion and ongoing debts from failed main contractors such as Eberts.’

Biggest fall in Christchurch

The hotel sector encountered the greatest amount of churn these past 6 months with 6 new cranes erected and 10 removed, leaving 10 hotel cranes nationally. According to RLB, the biggest fall was in Christchurch with 9 cranes removed from sites. Interestingly, 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.

Auckland maintains its dominance across NZ with residential cranes

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

Mr Haines commented, ‘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. This is representative of the historical shift towards the intensification of housing close to transportation hubs as part of the Unitary Plan through multi-unit dwellings such as apartments and townhouses.

Strong growth in civil infrastructure 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 story carpark.

Mr Haines concluded, ‘The Auckland hotel sector has seen the dismantling of 7 cranes during the past 6 months, and 3 new tower cranes equating to 6 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.’

RLB Crane Index Q3 2019

Chris Haines
T +64 9 309 1074

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About RLB

With a network that covers the globe and a heritage spanning over two centuries, Rider Levett Bucknall is a leading independent organisation in cost management and quantity surveying, project management and advisory services.

Our achievements are renowned: from the early days of pioneering quantity surveying, to landmark projects such as the Sydney Opera House, HSBC Headquarters Building in Hong Kong, the 2012 London Olympic Games and CityCenter in Las Vegas.

We continue this successful legacy with our dedication to the value, quality and sustainability of the built environment. Our innovative thinking, global reach, and flawless execution push the boundaries. Taking ambitious projects from an idea to reality.