In Q3 2022, we saw cranes return to Australian city skylines. This time, in record numbers.

Leading international surveyor Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) found that 300 cranes were erected at development sites across Australia in 2022’s third quarter. Only 245 were taken down, meaning a total of 55 cranes were installed altogether.

This has meant that there are 868 cranes operating across the country – which is the largest number of cranes since RLB started analysing the data a decade ago.

Non-residential crane numbers soared to 333, which is 38 per cent of all cranes in Australia.

Sydney leads the crane count in Q3 2022

Sydney, Australia’s largest city, accounted for over 40 per cent of cranes in Australia this quarter.

Out of 868 cranes, Sydney has 380 of them (up from 348 in the second quarter of 2022). This is the highest figure since the peak of Q3 2017, when it boasted 341 cranes.

Data revealed by RLB showed that the number of cranes rose in residential, civic and data centres. They also rose in industrial sectors.

Other smaller increases were recorded in sectors such as civil, aged care and education.

The number of cranes were also impressive outside of Sydney, including:

• 206 cranes in Melbourne

• 82 in Brisbane

• 55 on the Gold Coast

• 51 in Perth

• 23 in Canberra

• 17 in Adelaide

• 16 in the Sunshine Coast

• 15 in Wollongong

• 12 in Newcastle

• 10 in the Central Coast

• Two cranes in Hobart

• Two cranes in Darwin

Lower crane ‘churn rate’

RLB data also revealed a lower crane ‘churn rate’ of 28 per cent in Australia. This means that cranes are remaining on sites for longer periods of time.

A churn rate in the crane context simply means the rate at which cranes are removed in a certain period, divided by the closing number of cranes. Churn rates are expressed as a percentage.

The lower churn rate tends to reflect the resilience of the industry in light of a tough economic environment.

But it also reflects the existence of delayed projects due to poor weather, material shortages and a skilled labour shortage.

Delays causing increasing costs

Sydney has unfortunaely suffered a considerably greater slowdown than other cities since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Brisbane, while it suffered less, was also hit fairly hard by floods (which therefore caused delays).

These delays do lead to extra costs for businesses. RLB says that the cost of operating a crane onsite is between $7,500 to $12,500 depending on the project. This covers costs of the equipment itself, fuel, workers and insurance.

In response to these rising costs, we’ve seen developers in the private sector simply deferring projects to a later date. Government bodies were responding by reducing the overall scope of their projects, or applying efforts to make them cheaper.

You can read more about the RLB crane index here.