A SURGE of city-shaping projects shifting into higher gear is seeing the return of a towering flock of cranes to the Brisbane skyline.
Crane numbers have been on a steady decline over the past few years after the heady days of the inner-city high-rise apartment boom.
But on the back of construction activity ratcheting up on some major projects in recent weeks, Brisbane’s crane count is on the increase again.
Nine cranes — equalling the number erected to build the athletes village for last year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games — now tower over the Queen’s Wharf site in the CBD as the mammoth project continues to ramp up.
The 2ha riverside site is currently a 26m-deep hole in the ground but over the next three years it will be transformed into a game-changing casino and integrated resort complex complete with a retail precinct and 50 new bars, restaurants and cafes.
Simon Crooks, project director for the Destination Brisbane consortium delivering the $3 billion development, said after months of excavation the only way for the project now was up.
“We’ve got cranes everywhere,” he said. “Things are really beginning to accelerate.
“Every square metre is being worked on and the focus is on getting out of the excavation, getting above ground and bringing the towers up.”
The number of on-site construction workers also is beginning to rise with the ranks of its current 250-strong workforce expected to increase to 500 by the end of the year.
Within 12 months, a 10th and final tower crane is due to be added to the site and construction will be in full swing with a team of more than 2000 workers.
Rider Levett Bucknall’s Crane Index — a barometer of construction activity across the country — shows crane numbers in Brisbane continued to decline over the six months to September.
The city’s tower crane total fell to 57 — down from 59 in March — according to its most recent count.
Overall, it reflects a significant slide from the city’s peak of 104 cranes in the fourth quarter of 2015 but the figure does not include the recent additions to the Queen’s Wharf site.
Domenic Shiafone, RLB’s Oceania director of research and development, said the drop was indicative of a fall in Queensland construction work in 2018-19.
“The multi-level residential market saw significant projects nearing completion during the past six months with total cranes falling by 15 cranes due to a reduction in new projects commencing,” he said.
However, the loss in residential numbers was partly offset by increases in cranes in the civil, commercial, education and mixed use sectors.
Mr Schiafone said the growth in numbers of new cranes in these non-residential sectors in Queensland was part of a national trend driven by “ongoing changes in government’s infrastructure spending and planning schemes”.
Across Australia, the RLB Crane Index shows Sydney continues its reign as king of the cranes.
Of the 757 cranes counted around the country, 319 were in Sydney, 213 in Melbourne, 57 in Brisbane, 34 in Perth, 29 on the Gold Coast, 25 in Canberra, 19 in Adelaide, 18 in Wollongong, 14 on the Central Coast, 12 in Newcastle, 11 on the Sunshine Coast, 5 in Hobart and 1 in Darwin.
Despite the downward trend in Brisbane’s crane tally in recent times, local developers remain upbeat.
“People talk about the 1982 Commonwealth Games and Expo 88 as turning points for the city and I think we’re at another turning point with Destination Brisbane,” said Don O’Rorke of Brisbane-based Consolidated Properties Group.
“That will do for Brisbane what Marina Bay Sands did for Singapore, transform and lift a city that was already a vibrant and successful place.
“Coupled with additional capacity at the airport and tourism assets, I think Brisbane is about to ratchet up significantly and may well ratchet up again if we win the 2032 Olympics bid.”