Record crane numbers buoyed by new hotels, infrastructure and the metro sports project

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMarch 26, 2019

A new record of 148 long-term cranes stand tall across New Zealand‘s cities, according to the Rider Levett Bucknall Q1 2019 RLB Crane Index released this week. Since the last edition, 58 long-term cranes were positioned on new projects and 50 cranes were removed from ones nearing completion.

The rise in crane numbers across the country mirrors the record levels of new building work put in place, which grew 6.8% to $18 billion for the 12 months ending 30 September 2018.

Growth of 6.8% and 6.9% respectively was recorded for new residential and new non-residential work put in place. New building consents also rose, with the number of consents in CY 2018 reaching 39,087 and totalling $17.6 billion.

Pressure on resources continues with Auckland‘s pipeline of new projects

“While the record levels of construction activity across New Zealand is a good news story, the recent demise of yet another key contractor provides a sign of caution for the period ahead,” said RLB director Chris Haines said.

“The record crane count of 98 long-term cranes in Auckland highlights strong activity continuing, with current resources being stretched and needing to be supplemented by resources from around the country and from overseas.”

The index noted that residential cranes remained steady at 56 cranes, with 17 new cranes and 18 removals. This is representative of the historical shift towards the intensification of housing across the country through multi-unit dwellings such as apartments and townhouses.

The doubling of civil cranes from seven to 14 is reflective of the government‘s ongoing commitment to fund the upgrading of key infrastructure projects around the nation. Projects include road widening, bridges, water infrastructure upgrades, America‘s Cup infrastructure and Auckland‘s City Rail Link.

Significant investment within the hotel and recreation sectors has seen a jump of 11 new cranes. Of the 14 hotel projects across the country, 10 are in Auckland.

“Many Auckland hotel projects have 2021 completion dates to coincide with both the America‘s Cup Challenge in March 2021 and APEC Economics Leaders‘ meeting in November 2021,” said Haines.

According to the index, the Metro Sports Centre in Christchurch, the Westfield Newmarket redevelopment, Commercial Bay (office and retail) and NZICC (civic and hotel), are the largest crane sites in New Zealand.

The record crane counts in Tauranga and Queenstown in particular shows strong growth and continued investment in these growing centres. The on-site progress of the Metro Sports facility is good news for Christchurch at a time when many of the civic, commercial and residential projects have finished.

The Wellington market activity remains at similar levels to 2018 but the construction market is considered largely at capacity with a shortage of tier 1 main contracting options for larger projects a key issue for future work.

Auckland‘s residential cranes account for 82% of all residential cranes in New Zealand, and 31% of all cranes nationally. This includes cranes on projects for multi-residential apartments, private residential, student residential accommodation and the aged care sector.

“Multi-unit residential and hotels are challenging to get right in terms of time, cost and quality. We are seeing the consenting process and sign-off risk impacting projects onsite, which can have both programme and cost impacts onsite. Ultimately, we are seeing that more time is needed to design, consent and build on big projects,” said Haines.