Bunnings tells MBAV supply issues critical

Master Builders Association of Victoria summit

Ongoing supply delays and shortages lead to timber price increases in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania

The Master Builders Association of Victoria recently organised an industry resources summit where Bunnings' head of builders' solutions, Duncan Bryce referred to the unprecedented problems with the supply and demand of building materials. According to the Herald Sun, Mr Bryce said:

We have got this perfect conundrum of rising prices, rising demand, and a lack of containers. We are still seeing price increases. September 1 saw another raft of price increases across a range of categories.
There are still continuing price increases, we haven't seen a dramatic stabilisation in that space.

Mr Bryce said there had been a 26% increase in demand for detached homes, which was good for jobs. However, there are now problems because of the limits on imports of structural timber available - which often makes up about 20% of the market - while the domestic manufacturing capacity was already stretched.

He said the local industry had stepped up, but this was "using future years' logs", which caused longer term issues.

Some of the issues driving global supply problems was latent demand for housing in the US which is up to five million buildings, shipping shortages and freight congestion that has led to some empty containers arriving in Australia because of limits on container movements at ports.

Victoria's Better Regulation commissioner Anna Cronin said she was due to hand a report on building material shortages to the Andrews government in late October. The paper will look at issues such as plantation resources and local timber manufacturing in Victoria.


Master Builders Queensland deputy CEO Paul Bidwell said the cost of timber, frames and trusses had increased 75% since the start of the year and could increase another 20-25% from November, reports The Courier-Mail.

The latest Master Builders survey shows trade supply pressures across almost all 15 product categories, with the greatest difficulty accessing timber, windows, steel products and roofing supplies.

Mr Bidwell said there was "no way out" for builders, who were having to absorb increasing costs out of their own pockets - costs that will eventually flow through to homeowners. He told The Courier-Mail:

There are a lot of builders experiencing the profitless boom, and a profitless build for some may be the best outcome because the other outcome is they fall over. Some of the big builders are hurting as well because they work on volume and that volume is not going to return a profit...

Mr Bidwell said while a business with a greater volume of builds might be able to get their materials ahead of a smaller builder due to their larger transactions with the supplier, it did not offer any delivery guarantees.

Costs are going up, we are seeing price lists all going up, no pattern other than prices heading north. It's not the builders or the building community's fault.

Brisbane builder Blake Lanham, who manages 22 dwellings across 16 sites under his company LanCon, said he feared the soaring cost of materials would not eventually come down as some in the industry expected. He told The Courier-Mail:

The pressure has been ridiculous. We've seen 15-20% rises in the cost of frames every month since the beginning of the year, and quote validity periods have gone from 60 days to around seven. Right now, prices are going up 5% every quote.
There are companies just signing contracts for houses they can't even start to build for months, thinking this is the best thing that's ever happened (the building boom), but they won't know what's hit them until they're halfway to three-quarters through the build...

In Far North Queensland, Dynamic Timbers manager Nathan Smith said the shortage of supply has been "out of control". Mr Smith said its three stores based at Cairns, Atherton and Innisfail were flat out. He told The Cairns Post:

We have been at the point where we were 13 weeks from order to delivery, but now we are back to eight.
From what we are seeing, delays are rife throughout the whole industry and we are also hearing stories about a shortage of roofing iron and roofing screws.

Mr Smith said the shortage meant higher costs for everyone in the industry.

It's difficult for builders to quote work at the moment as we don't know what our prices will be mid-2022. We have seen price rises 10 to 15% almost every second month and over the last 18 months our costs have increased 75%.

Mystyle Homes owner-director Grant Hartwig, who is managing 38 dwellings across the Cairns region, said he feared the increasing cost of materials would force some builders out of business. He told The Cairns Post:

Apart from price rises, it's affecting everyone's cashflow as you cannot claim the next stage of your build if you cannot move from the base to the trusses. It affects your cash flow, the builder has to wear it, so volume builders on very tight margins could be in trouble.
We are thanking our lucky stars we stopped signing up new builds in November.

Mr Hartwig said this had created a situation where, "the builders are not making money but the tradies are". He explains:

We had a renderer who upped his rates three times on us one afternoon. I'm always talking to suppliers about delivery dates.

Many Master Builders members fear the federal government's recent $15 million investment to alleviate the timber shortage will not be enough to safeguard the viability of builders and tradies. Tradies in Business co-founder Nicole Cox told The Courier-Mail:

...Big project builders might have access to the funds to secure that material, but small to medium builders just can't and are often too late to the party. Many had to sign fixed-price contracts by December 31 last year because of the HomeBuilder grant, which means those quotes don't take into account the increase in material and labour costs.
A large proportion of the work over the next 12 months are fixed-price contracts, which means builders are stuck. I can't see (the increased costs) coming down, which means increases for homeowners as well, who are understandably disgruntled.

Housing Industry Association Queensland executive director Michael Roberts also said it was nearly impossible for builders to provide an accurate quote for a house they would not start building for 12 months when they did not know the price of materials beyond October. He told The Courier-Mail:

How does the builder lock in a contract now when the costs are so unpredictable? At the moment, they can't lock in prices with suppliers for more than a month ahead.

New South Wales

A recent NSW Upper House inquiry heard the $80,000 worth of timber currently needed in each new home is facing price rises of 20-30%.

Although former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro ensured an additional 270,000 tonnes of timber will enter the domestic supply chain over the next three years, experts say that won't cover an estimated 1.7 million tonne shortage.

NSW Labor natural resources spokeswoman Tania Mihailuk said the shortage must become a high priority for the state government. As reported by the Daily Telegraph, she said:

As NSW finally emerges from its COVID lockdown, the construction and home building industry is set to launch into overdrive and is now facing a shortfall of over 50,000 timber frames, which is only going to exacerbate the already critical shortage of timber in NSW.
While we understand that the 2019/2020 bushfires heavily impacted timber supply, nearly two years on, the NSW Government still hasn't presented a plan to find a solution to the current shortfall of a massive 1.7 million tonnes of timber.

The inquiry also heard COVID-19 delays, fires in the US and demand in Europe has constrained imports.

Last month, the state government directed the Forestry Corporation to divert selected softwood log exports - impacted by the China trade embargo - to domestic markets. However, inquiry chair and Shooters Fishers and Farmers MLC Mark Banasiak said the government's target to build more than 1.5 million additional homes by 2060 looks in trouble.

The shortage means we are already seeing significant hold-ups on construction on the south coast and in southwest Sydney.

A spokesman for Mr Barilaro said:

...A record 5 million tonnes of fire-affected timber has been supplied to the industry, ensuring NSW timber operations could maximise available timber, processing it into essential products including house frames.
The extent of this salvage operation has been critical in ensuring the viability of timber processors in NSW, and the important jobs they generate.
This salvage harvesting effort has been complemented by the NSW Government's $46 million equity injection to Forestry Corporation to support re-establishing plantations, expanding two production nurseries to increase seedling production and repairing infrastructure and roads damaged by fire.
This season approximately 16 million seedlings were planted to re-establish timber plantations, well up on the normal 10 million.


A report from Master Builders Australia and the Australian Forest Products Association estimates Tasmania will be short 5100 house frames by 2035 under current trajectories.

Master Builders Tasmania chief executive Matthew Pollock said the shortages were already causing delays throughout the supply chain and were projected to become worse. He told The Mercury:

This analysis is a wake-up call for decision makers to act now to avoid a construction industry crisis in the next decade. We can't build houses if we do not have the timber to build frames.
Timber shortages are a handbrake on our recovery, limiting our ability to meet community demand for housing.

Mr Pollock said the current shortages could be a sign of things to come unless long-term planning occurred now.

International supply chains have been disrupted, that's due to COVID, that's still ongoing in the construction industry. It's coincided with a mini housing boom thanks to government-led stimulus.
It means we will build more houses over the next 12 months than perhaps any other year on record. But we do need to also address critical issues in the supply chain, and timber is one of those.

COVID-induced supply chain problems have already caused delays in sourcing timber for frames, but the Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) fears it could get worse in the coming years, according to The Advocate.

TFPA chief executive Nick Steel said the government needed to set aside more tree-planting land to bolster local supply. He said ordinarily about 20-25% of ­supply came from imports into Tasmania, but that it had slowed to a trickle ­because of border lockdowns.

This report shows that state and federal governments need to seriously tackle the policies which will drive forward new plantings of the right types of trees at the right scale and in the right places.
Australian governments need to work together on a national plan that delivers an immediate increase in our plantation estate to ensure Australia can meet its future housing construction needs. Future generations of Aussie homeowners are counting on it.

Resources Minister Guy Barnett said the government was in talks with the industry about ways to alleviate the timber shortage. He said much of the problem came down to supply and demand, with the industry experiencing a boom of activity during the lockdown period.

It's a nice problem to have, but there is a shortage for certain timbers for building and construction purposes and we need to do everything we can to work with industry and our community to make sure we can deliver on that supply.
We continue to support a viable and sustainable forest industry because if you lock that up you won't have any timber for the building and construction sector. It's a bit of a no-brainer.

Mr Steel said the state had a plan for social housing and population growth, but not for timber supply. He said the government needed to encourage farmers to use their land for plantations, while avoiding the issues of forestry managed investment schemes of the past. He told The Advocate:

We need to build that trust back with farmers, so there really needs to be appropriate initiatives and policies put in place. !It's up to industry to work with the state and federal governments to come up with those initiatives to incentivise so we can actually work with farmers to plant trees.

The TFPA estimated that between 30,000 and 35,000 hectares in Northern Tasmania had been identified as appropriate for private plantations.

Tasmania sources about 30% of its timber from outside of the state, while some of its own timber is also sent to be processed on the mainland before returning.

Related: Boom in home renovations is leading to product shortages and higher prices.

Home reno demand leads to supply shortages - HNN Flash #44, May 2021

Related: Timber shortage leads to delays and price increases for retailers.

Timber access challenges continue for retailers - HNN Flash #49, June 2021

Related: Timber prices up in Australia, down in the US.

Price of local timber continues to rise - HNN Flash #54, July 2021
  • Sources: Herald Sun, The Courier-Mail, The Cairns Post, Daily Telegraph, The Mercury and The Advocate
  • regions

    USA update

    Home Depot's omnichannel efforts

    New branding for National Hardware Show and True Value posts final report as retail co-op

    Marvin Ellison will take on the chief executive role at Lowe's; Home Depot misses first quarter expectations but remains focused on interconnected retail; the National Hardware Show updates its logo; technology recruitment at Home Depot is strategic; True Value reports on its 2017 financial report; and Hillman Group launches its KeyHero system.

    Lowe's names new CEO

    Marvin Ellison has been appointed president and CEO at Lowe's Companies and will join its board of directors. Mr Ellison succeeds Robert Niblock, who previously announced his intention to retire.

    A 30-year industry veteran, Mr Ellison currently serves as chairman and CEO of American department store chain J.C. Penney Company. He also spent 12 years in senior level operations roles with The Home Depot, where he served as executive vice-president of US stores, where he oversaw US sales, operations and Pro strategic initiatives.

    Marshall Larsen, lead director of the board at Lowe's, said:

    Attracting Marvin is a great win for the entire Lowe's team. Marvin is an experienced retail CEO with extensive expertise in a complex omnichannel consumer-facing company. He also brings significant experience in the home improvement industry, with a proven track record of global operational excellence and driving results from both DIY and pro customers. Marvin joins Lowe's at a critical inflection point as we work to enhance our competitive position and capitalise on solid project demand in an evolving consumer environment. We look forward to shepherding an exciting new chapter for Lowe's under Marvin's leadership.

    As Mr Ellison joins Lowe's, he leaves behind a department store retailer in the midst of a turnaround plan that has never quite gained traction.

    At Lowe's, he will find himself in one of retail's brighter spots, where he will predominantly be tasked with making good on the business' broad promise: To help customers love where they live. In order to do that, analysts say Mr Ellison will need put together a business strategy that carves out a distinct identity to set it apart from The Home Depot.

    According to Jefferies analysts, Mr Ellison's previous stint at The Home Depot should be a huge asset, "especially given his focus on store operations, logistics, the Pro, and customer service, all areas that we believe Lowe's needs to improve upon". In emailed comments to Retail Dive, they said:

    The Lowe's brand is solid, its stores have been maintained, pricing is competitive and its balance sheet is strong. However, it does need some shepherding to get it on a path toward stronger growth and higher profitability.

    Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said any new plan should focus on Lowe's identity as a core DIY retailer. He told Retail Dive:

    It could, for example, develop more of a compelling proposition around indoor decorative projects. Not only are these activities year-round, but they also necessitate a much more inspirational and compelling product mix and store environment. While Lowe's has already made progress in store, including the increased use of specialist advisors, we maintain our view that it has not yet fully capitalized on the opportunity.

    As Mr Ellison's plan comes together over the next few months, Jefferies analysts predict focusing on Pro will be the "single biggest opportunity for Lowe's".

    Mr Ellison was part of developing that winning strategy at [Home Depot] and was closer to the playbook than probably any other candidate for this position. Hence, his ability to adapt key learnings to the Lowe's situation, while maintaining a separate identity, is important and should prove pretty interesting.

    National Hardware Show 2018

    Hardware and home improvement professionals gathered once again at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the 73rd edition of the National Hardware Show (NHS). Rich Russo, vice president of the NHS, said:

    ...With three busy days full of excitement and enthusiasm, we were thrilled to see such a great turnout and hope everyone left feeling inspired by the ideas, best practices, insights and new connections made at the 2018 National Hardware Show.

    As always, a key focus for all who attended were new products and there were several areas where their latest innovations and developments were on display. The educational seminars at the North American Retail Hardware Association's (NRHA) All-Industry Conference were also a popular area for many attendees.

    The Ultimate Backyard was brand-new area that offered a chance for attendees to find outdoor living products in their natural environment: outdoors. The adjacent Tailgate, Backyard & BBQ area has continued to grow each year, and included food, games and music. It gave attendees the chance to experience products in a more interactive way than they might on the show floor.

    Operation Tiny Home also joined the NHS family this year to showcase the trends in tiny and container home construction and raise awareness about housing instability.

    As the popularity of smart home products continues to rise, the NHS provided a new interactive way for attendees to learn more with its Smart Home Virtual Reality Experience. This display offered a virtual reality tour of a fully equipped smart home.

    Attendees who wanted to find "the next big thing" in the home improvement industry could check out Inventors Spotlight to see over 200 new inventions. Inventors also had the opportunity to pitch their products and meet with buyers and potential investors.

    This year, the Featured Product Gallery included New Product World; the Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Living Awards and the Homewares Awards display. Other product areas were the New Product Launch and Made in USA.

    Pet Products continues to be a growing category, and it was a highlighted one at this year's NHS. One trend exhibitors are seeing is that consumers want products that are more natural.

    The International Sourcing area represents how the NHS draws professionals from all over the world. It included exhibitors from China, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Taiwan and Pakistan. Attendees could also find other international exhibitors throughout the show floor.

    The NRHA Village Stage was home to a full slate of industry presentations, exploring everything from competing online to cybersecurity to competing online to managing retailer-supplier relationships.

    The 2019 National Hardware Show will take place May 7-9 in Las Vegas, Nevada (USA).

    Home Depot invests in omnichannel in Q1

    The Home Depot is doubling down on its interconnected strategy, after missing expectations in its first quarter 2018, but e-commerce sales fared well.

    The home improvement retailer reported sales of USD24.9 billion, a 4.4% increase from the same quarter of 2017, while analysts were expecting revenue of USD25.15 billion. Comparable sales for the quarter were up 4.2%, while US comp sales were up 3.9%, both missing analyst expectations.

    Home Depot blamed extreme winter weather in the quarter, which it said had a negative impact on garden, a category which historically represents around 15% to 20% of Home Depot's first quarter sales.

    The big box retailer invested USD144 million in the quarter, putting the money into increased wages, increased advertising as it moves to a more marketing technology platform; and increases in display cost. In addition, the company has hired around 350 people in its IT department.

    Online sales grew approximately 20% from the first quarter of 2017. The retailer said 46% of its online orders were picked up in a physical store in the first quarter.

    Home Depot is seeing buy online, deliver from store customers trying out its car and van delivery service. Load 'N Go is an hourly roundtrip vehicle rental service that uses cargo vans capable of carrying up to 3,000lbs (1360kgs). The program is intended for rentals of one to two hours but can also be rented at a daily, weekly, or monthly rate.

    Omnichannel initiatives

    Home Depot's omnichannel strides during its first quarter included launching the ability to attach install services when online shoppers buy certain products. For example, in certain markets, if a shopper buys a faucet online they can choose to include the installation of the faucet in their purchase.

    Home Depot has implemented an enhanced "wayfinding sign and store refresh package" in nearly 250 stores during the quarter, something it's rolling out over the next two years across all the stores. The retailer is also putting lockers in the front of its stores for pick up, with plans to add about 1,000 lockers this year, and is adding some bigger holding areas for bulkier items near the front of the store.

    Home Depot has plans to pilot its first new supply chain facility starting this year. Craig Menear, chairman, CEO and president, said:

    As we continue to make the shopping experience more convenient for our customers, another area of focus and differentiation is our supply chain. The flexibility of our supply chain is a competitive advantage, particularly when unpredictable weather results in spiky demand patterns.

    True Value posts final report as co-op

    Retail co-op, True Value has released its final annual report as a co-operative, reports Hardware Retailing. The company recently announced the sale of 70% of its stock to private-equity firm ACON Investments and its plans to transition away from the co-op business model.

    In 2017, True Value's revenue was about USD1.49 billion, down 1.7% compared to the prior year. The slight revenue decline was "primarily due to product sales related to the net change in participating retailers," according to the company.

    In addition, comparable store sales were down "as weather related categories were lower by 1.6% compared to the prior year," said the company.

    Based on the 1,700 retailers who provided point-of-sale data, comparable retail sales increased 0.8%. Stores that participate in the Destination True Value program experienced retail sales growth of 1.9%. E-commerce sales were up 21%.

    The company signed 59 new core hardware stores in 2017 and 52 international and specialty stores. The company also had 27 retailers convert to True Value from other buying groups.

    The co-op had 4,311 member stores at the end of 2017, a decline from 4,392 at the end of 2016.

    Sales to new stores increased by USD29.6 million. However, lost revenue from terminated stores was USD47.5 million. The company said:

    New ground-up store activity was consistent in both count and dollar volume to last year. However, due to competitors capitalizing on sale rumours, the company experienced a lower level of conversions from other buying groups to True Value in the second half of 2017.


    True Value moves out of retail co-op model - HI News Vol.4 No.3, page 69

    Home Depot builds IT as strategic advantage

    Home Depot is hiring about 1,000 technology employees by the end of 2018, the biggest technology-focused expansion in company history and a sign of the growing strategic importance of IT to the business.

    The employees will ultimately report to Matt Carey, the company's chief information officer (CIO), and will focus on supporting an USD11.1 billion three-year strategic investment, which includes building new software and digital solutions for areas ranging from self-checkout to supply chain and website-focused personalisation.

    Home Depot is hiring for positions such as software engineers, user experience designers, product managers and systems engineers that support the flexibility for cloud and on-premise platforms, said Mr Carey.

    They will work at the company's technology centres in Atlanta, Austin and Dallas. About 90% of the software the company runs is already written by in-house engineers, he said.

    Home Depot chooses to build technology in-house instead of working with third-party vendors because the business is vastly different from most brick-and-mortar retailers, according to Mr Carey.

    Many products in-store are delivered by rail and need to be lifted with heavy equipment, for example. Home Depot in many cases acts as a general contractor for customers considering projects such as kitchen renovations. The technology needed to support such aspects of the business is difficult to scale with a third-party technology vendor. Mr Carey said:

    Those things really don't look like retail as most people know it. The ability to connect our software developers with those business problems at a deep level is where we create competitive advantage.

    The new employees will help build technology to support several specific initiatives. One initiative includes outfitting self-checkout counters with customised point-of-sale software that's intuitive for the customer.

    Another involves building software for a mobile app that allows employees to see their upcoming work schedule. The company is also enhancing the personalisation of its website and improving user experience by using data analytics to help customers quickly find what they're looking for. Mr Carey said:

    It's all about connecting a person as quickly as possible to the product they're looking for in the world of the web.

    Another initiative is aimed at building out machine learning algorithms to help categorise different home furnishing styles for the company's new decor business. That way, people could help shop for a specific room in their house based on products that fit into a specific style, such as a modern or traditional.

    The company is also building out new technology to support an expansion of its same-day delivery and two-hour delivery program, which requires software to support the supply chain. All of the initiatives were driven by customer and associate feedback. Mr Carey said:

    The closer we listen to those customers and fulfill what they're telling us they want and need, that's how we can compete.

    Hillman's digital platform for keys

    The Hillman Group and UniKey have partnered to launch KeyHero[tm] that transforms mechanical keys into a virtual key ring.

    KeyHero allows a consumer to backup a digital copy of their mechanical key on the KeyHero smartphone app. This allows them to recall it later to make a physical key at any hardware or home improvement store using the KeyHero technology.

    KeyHero creates a secure backup and offers the flexibility of digital key sharing. The app's multi-layer, military grade security means that no image or physical location is saved, according to the company. Only a Hillman key cutting machine can read the encrypted code. Phil Dumas, founder and CEO of UniKey, said in statement:

    We are thrilled to be partnering with an industry leader such as Hillman and excited to bring this technology to market, as it truly represents the bridge between the physical and digital key worlds.

    Greg Gluchowski, president and CEO of The Hillman Group, said:

    ...KeyHero creates a platform for consumers to safely manage their mechanical keys in a digital world. This innovative solution, leverages Hillman's 60+ years of experience in key cutting technology with UniKey's best in class digital access control platform.
    Mr. Dumas and I have a history of developing innovative security technologies together. While at Spectrum Brands HHI, we worked with Phil and the UniKey team to develop Kevo for Kwikset, which was the first Bluetooth enabled deadbolt on the market.

    Over the next year, The Hillman Group plans to roll out this new digital platform across its large key duplication network, starting with a limited release in Florida and Colorado.


    Europe update

    Urban-style stores in B&Q's future?

    Garden tool exports to Australia and an opportunity for Kingfisher following BUKI's exit

    B&Q may open more smaller-format stores; Greenman Garden Tools could be bound for Australia; Kingfisher has a worse than expected quarterly result before the announcement of Bunnings' exit from the UK market; and GripIt Fixings will begin to develop sales and marketing initiatives under the MarXman brand.

    Eyes on Kingfisher following BUKI exit

    European home improvement retailer, Kingfisher received a boost in its share price after Australia's Wesfarmers announcement it would sell its UK chain Homebase to restructuring firm Hilco Capital just two years after buying it.

    Andrea Felsted, writing in Bloomberg, also believes this should be an opportunity for Kingfisher boss Veronique Laury, who is trying to lift her company's profit by GBP500 million pounds a year by 2021. But she also thinks the performance has been disappointing, so far.

    The increase to Kingfisher's share price also came after it reported a worse than expected 9% fall in UK same-store sales at its B&Q chain.

    Like-for-like sales at B&Q tumbled 9% in the UK and Ireland in the three months to 30 April. Sales at its French DIY chain Castorama also dropped 8%. The falls led to an overall 4% decline in like-for-like sales for the quarter.

    The wave of extreme cold weather dubbed the Beast from the East had a negative impact on its first quarter results. Chief executive Veronique Laury said:

    It was a challenging start to the year with exceptionally harsh weather across Europe and weak UK consumer demand. This impacted footfall, especially sales of weather-related categories. February and March were particularly affected with sales improving over the course of April and into May.

    Ms Laury said market conditions in the UK remained uncertain and a cooling property market,, as demonstrated by recent weak retail sales. However UK retail sales beat expectations in April, with a stronger-than-expected rebound from March's cold snap.

    Despite the cold weather, sales at Screwfix still rose by 3.6% in the UK, although Kingfisher said sales would have been higher if it had not been forced to close some stores temporarily due to the weather.

    Total sales for the company fell 1.2% to GBP2.8 billion, while sales in the UK were down 3.7% to GBP1.2 billion.

    B&Q is also seeing market share stolen by fast-rising discount chains in the UK. Fiona Paton of GlobalData said chains like B&Q were struggling to cope with fast-rising discounters. She told The Telegraph:

    [B&Q] is at risk of losing ground to discounters, especially B&M. Discounters' collective market share in DIY & gardening is forecast to reach 14.3pc by 2022. It is currently 11.5pc. Consumers are switching to discounters to purchase lower-ticket items such as paint and small tools.

    Kingfisher is half way through a five-year strategy is to cut costs, improve IT and integrate its products across all businesses. Ms Laury insists the company is "on track to deliver ONE Kingfisher strategic milestones for the third year in a row and we continue to see tangible delivery of our plan", and points out her charge has returned a further GBP40 million to shareholders year to date via share buybacks. She said:

    Around 40% of our ranges are now unified and continue to be well received by customers. Sales of these ranges, excluding outdoor products, are up, and we expect to grow the full year group gross margin, after clearance costs. Meanwhile, we are into the final year of our unified IT platform roll out with Poland now underway and Brico Depot France due to start soon.

    Garden tools exporting down under

    Devon-based retailer, Reedy Supplies are planning to set to sell its garden tool brand, Greenman to Australia and New Zealand.

    Reedy Supplies is a family-owned agricultural and horticultural tool retailer and intending to increase its sales exports to 40% after launching its first online store. Founded in 1972, it has been successfully exporting its handmade garden tools to Germany, France, Canada and the United States for two years.

    Now, the company is in discussions for its first orders from a distributor in Australia and a large garden retailer in New Zealand. Adam Greenman, marketing director at Reedy Supplies, told Devon Live:

    Because of the kind of products we sell, our sales are naturally affected by the seasons. One of our main aims in starting to export was to iron out this fluctuating demand. When it's cold here, it's summer somewhere else, which is why we decided to target the southern hemisphere in our bid for growth.

    Following the launch of its online store, the website will be translated into at least two languages as the business looks to increase its international trade. Mr Greenman, said:

    ...We'll be using it as an online catalogue at first, so that customers and buyers abroad can look at our range, but with DIT's (Department for International Trade) help we are also looking into having it translated into other languages to grow our online sales.
    One of the main challenges we've faced is finding accurate information about the business cultures in New Zealand and Australia. We've also found that there is no substitute for meeting buyers and distributors face-to-face if you want to build relationships. By exporting, we've grown as a business and learned a lot about ourselves in the process.


    Interesting links: UK toolmakers launch garden range - HNN

    Smaller store vision for B&Q

    UK home improvement chain, B&Q could stop opening giant warehouses in out-of-town locations to focus on smaller convenience stores, according to chief executive Veronique Laury.

    Asked at the World Retail Congress in Madrid, Spain how stores owned by Kingfisher will change over the next three to five years, Ms Laury hinted that opening convenience stores could be its next move. She said:

    I think there are two directions of travel for stores, I think one of them is ultimate convenience, to be where people want you to be and to be as close as possible to where people live.
    The big impact on that is urbanisation, everywhere in the world more people are living around cities. It's about how you get to those people as close as you can.

    Kingfisher could roll out plans for its B&Q business similar to the rapid expansion of its Screwfix stores, which sell tools for tradies. Screwfix has been a stand-out performer with growth of 16.7% in 2017. Its model of smaller outposts in town centres is a hit with customers who don't want to drive miles to a bigger store.

    Kingfisher aims to open 700 Screwfix stores in the UK, so that 97% of people are within a 30-minute drive of an outlet.

    Ms Laury said stores were also likely to stock fewer products, with staff on hand to offer advice on what to buy.

    I was in one of our stores last week and there was a whole display 10 metres high of head tool replacements for drills. I thought as a customer, who is going to shop like that in five years from now? And actually, I thought, no one.
    We don't need all of that stock in our stores in the future, we definitely don't.

    However, Ms Laury went on to add that she believed Kingfisher was lucky to have such a big footprint in the UK (via its B&Q stores) because e-commerce was so advanced it was "like a lab" showcasing what would happen in other countries. She said:

    What is happening in the UK today, I believe is going to happen in France in two or three years from now and probably in Poland in five years' time. The pace of internet use and mobile equipment in those countries is catching up very fast."

    Response to change

    Ms Laury believes many businesses had simply been too slow to react to the pace of change created by companies such as Amazon. She said the unstoppable boom in online shopping meant Kingfisher's workforce was likely to shrink over the next five years but declined to say by how much.

    It currently employs 78,000 people at its 1,300 stores in the UK, Western Europe, Russia and Turkey. She said:

    For 50 years, retail has been location, location, location. The race was to get the best store in the best location and if there is a cost associated with that it would be fine. Technology has changed all that.

    Ms Laury also told delegates at the conference that fellow retailers must "change or die" as she warned that the industry had to keep up with evolving alongside consumer habits in the wake of mass job losses and store closures.

    The biggest mistake that most retailers have made is thinking they are going to carry on doing what they have always done, with the same number of people and the same number of stores in the same type of location as they always have and just putting digital on top.

    GripIt Fixings signs global licence deal

    UK Building Products (trading as GripIt Fixings) has agreed to a worldwide licence deal with MarXman to manufacture, market and distribute the MarXman, a professional marking tool.

    The license agreement will see MarXman benefit from the international reputation of GripIt Fixings, which exports to 34 countries and has a presence in 5,000 UK stores (including Wickes, Screwfix, Currys, B&Q, Selco and Jewson) and 15,000 stores across Australia, New Zealand (Bunnings and Mitre 10), Canada and the USA (Home Depot).

    MarXman is a tool designed to quickly, easily and clearly mark almost any surface - from tiles to pebble dash, walls to wood or metal, ready for drilling or fixing. It can take the time and frustration out of marking a reference point for fixing or drilling. Founder and CEO of Gripit Fixings Jordan Daykin told Torque-Expo:

    MarXman is a truly innovative product that appeals to tradesmen & DIYers across the globe. Its ability to deliver a simple solution to a common problem aligns with the GripIt philosophy...

    MarXman founder, Martin Chard, said:

    When you consider the success of Gripit Fixings in the UK and overseas, we are very excited about the opportunities this license agreement presents for MarXman and its growth and recognition globally. Our ambition is for every tradesperson and DIYer to have a MarXman in their tool kit.

    $20 million scheme for NT tradies

    Provided by state government

    A boost for the local home improvement industry as the economy contracts

    A new $20 million home improvement voucher program for tradesmen and small businesses in the Northern Territory will give people up to $2000 for home repairs carried out by local firms.

    Announced in the Territory Budget, the scheme is expected to keep tradies in work for the next 12 to 18 months while the economy awaits the next wave of major projects to kick off. It will also support the sector as NT economic growth drops from 10.5% in 2014/15 to 1.5% in the new financial year.

    Chief Minister Adam Giles said the initiative was designed to stimulate the home maintenance and improvement industries and keep tradies trading in a slower time for some parts of the sector. He told the Northern Territory News:

    The initiative will see home owner-occupiers receive vouchers of up to $2000 to go towards home improvements undertaken using Territory-local small businesses. The vouchers are deliberately small in value because this is about the bigger picture.
    It will be a catalyst for increasing small-scale renovation and maintenance activity, keeping the work flowing and keeping Territorians in jobs. It's a win-win for Territorians because it will also enable Territory homeowners to get cracking on those improvements they've been meaning to do.

    The budget shows a previous projected return to surplus for 2017/18 has now been pushed out by two years to 2019/20.

    Over the forward estimates, the NT is slated to lose $750 million in GST revenues and about $250 million from reduced mining royalties and stamp duties. As a result, 71% of the 2016/17 budget is funded by the commonwealth, albeit down from about 80% last year.


    Reno boom in Sydney's lower north shore

    Residents choosing to stay put

    They are improving their current homes rather than upgrading to a better house

    Such is the demand for renovation in Sydney's lower north shore that some local builders are reporting it is the busiest they've been in more than five years.

    The shortage of high-end houses for sale, especially in the $3 million to $4 million range popular with upgraders, was feeding the frenzy, according to buyers agent Peter Kelaher, director of PK Property Search. He told Domain:

    Most people are not upgrading, they're staying where they are and they're renovating.

    The amount being spent in some suburbs on new additions such as kitchens, decks and pools has more than tripled in the first four months of this year compared with the same period last year. In other suburbs the amounts have doubled, based on data from the ABS and modelled by Domain Group's senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson.

    This compares with spending on renovations across the whole of Sydney, which dropped 8% over the same period.

    >https://farm1.staticflickr.com/492/19809208018_ebf41c3f0c_z.jpg}Top 20 suburbs for spending on renovations}https://farm1.staticflickr.com/492/19809208018_ebf41c3f0c_z.jpg

    Mosman is the epicentre of these alternations with homeowners forking out more than $55 million for work in the first four months of this year alone, 127% more than the same period last year. One dollar in every four spent on renovating in Sydney ($400 million) was in the Mosman council area over the four months this year.

    Other hotspots include Chatswood East and Artarmon, up 130%, and Willoughby, Castle Cove and Northbridge, up 70%. North Sydney and Lavender Bay are the suburbs with the biggest rise in home improvements, with spending there up almost 250%, the figures showed.

    Wilson said the lower north's soaring home improvement rates could be explained by homeowners not wanting to move out of their area, while at the same time seeking to take advantage of favourable economic conditions. He explains:

    Lower interest rates are not just about the mortgage, they're about the money you borrow for your renovation. In some areas where prices are growing strongly you can capitalise, use the value of your property as it's increased to draw down on it to improve it even more.

    Builder Christian Nasr, a director of Koncepts, a company that specialises in kitchen and bathroom renovations on the lower north shore, noticed a spike in business about six months ago. He said:

    The last five years it's been steady but this year has been crazy. Our workload has jumped about 60%, all of my tradesmen are pretty busy.

    Housing estate developments in Melbourne

    The sites will be worth an estimated $1.5 billion

    Both developments will increase the number of apartments and townhouses in low-density, low-rise suburbs

    Housing estates, worth a total $1.5 billion, are poised to transform two former industrial sites in Melbourne's south-east. Developers have drawn up concept plans for the 12.3-hectare former WH Wills Virginia Park cigarette factory in East Bentleigh and an old 19-hectare sand quarry in Oakleigh South overlooking the Huntingdale Golf Club.

    The move to develop so-called "brownfield" sites has been encouraged by state governments as it keeps new housing well inside the metropolitan boundaries where there is existing infrastructure.

    Development proposals

    The Gillon Group, which has owned the Virginia Park site since 1994, is proposing an $850 million development with 1250 apartments and a 12,000sqm neighbourhood shopping centre.

    Virginia Park has been a business estate since the 1990s when it was largely occupied by Telstra. Tenants now include Officeworks, Visionstream, Xtralis and Call Active that rent some of the 58,000sqm of office buildings on the site.

    The Gillon Group's founder Peter Gillon paid $8.5 million for the site in 1993 and sold half to the listed Abacus Property Group in 2006 for $37.5 million. Gillon is also recently cashed up after selling two development sites for $40 million in Brighton and Mornington.

    Gillon Group and Abacus are developing the estate in a joint venture called Fortrans. They have already tested the waters with the sale of 23 townhouses on a separate parcel of land adjoining Virginia Park on Dromana Avenue.

    Gillon Group senior development manager Adam Brick said that development sold out in three months and received 400 expressions of interest. Brick said the concept plan involves keeping the main office building at the centre of the park and developing the south and east of the site where there is vacant warehousing and car parking.

    However, a rezoning of the area in 2011 did not include residential development in these sections and the group has applied to Glen Eira City Council for an amendment. Brick told Fairfax Media:

    The existing 10-storey height limit on the site is over the existing major office complex. Currently the south and east of the site are the only areas which cannot accommodate residential development under the zone which is the reason for the zoning request.
    We already have a development plan overlay which provides for between three and four storeys to the boundaries of the site tapering up to 10 storeys in the centre. We have not sought to increase these height limits. We are seeking the amendment in order to preserve the office component of the site and redevelop the remainder.

    Developer Sterling Global is also finalising a concept plan for a South Oakleigh quarry site it acquired more than 18 months after a legal battle with developer Danny Schwartz.

    Up to 440 townhouses are proposed for the land at 1221-1249 Centre Road, Oakleigh South, with the possibility of apartments and detached housing, depending on market demand. Sterling Global development director Brandon Yeoh said:

    We are comfortable with the density. We didn't want to overdo it. If there's a demand for apartments we can do up to 500 and reduce the number of townhouses.

    However, the plans are yet to be presented to City of Monash. Remediation work on the site is under way and expected to take about 18 months.


    Sydney apartment construction surge

    Preparing for population growth

    There has been a boom in new apartment buildings in the inner city areas

    A new residential development in Redfern is set to bring at least 20 more residences to Renwick Street once it has been completed. Renwick Apartments will span four levels and contain a mix of one and two-bedroom units and two-bedroom penthouses.

    The development is one of the many projects that are expected to be completed within the next five years in Sydney's inner city.

    According to City of Sydney council, around 100 new homes are being completed in the local government area (LGA) each week.

    Over the past five years, there has been an average of 1900 dwellings built each year. Within the next five years, this number is expected to grow to almost 5000 per year.

    During 2017 and 2018 alone, the City of Sydney is expecting 8000 dwellings to be completed. More apartments are being built in the City of Sydney LGA than in any other council areas in Sydney.

    It saw 2848 dwellings built between July 2014 and January 2015 while the second highest numbers were seen in Blacktown City Council with 924 dwellings built. Around half of the dwellings completed in the City of Sydney area during this time were built in the Green Square, Central Park and Harold Park developments.

    Within the next four years, the Green Square development alone will consist of around 10,000 apartments once completed. Central Park will feature around 2200 residential apartments and 900 student dwellings by the time it is completed. Barangaroo South will have 900 apartments and Darling Square in Darling Harbour will feature 1500 units.

    Other smaller developments set to be built in the inner-city include The Foveaux in Surry Hills which will have 55 apartments, East Central also in Surry Hills, with 42 apartments and Pier 99 in Pyrmont which will consist of 71 apartments.

    With the number of dwellings expected to be built within the next five years, a spike in the area's population is also expected. City of Sydney strategic research manager, Phil Raskall, said the City's population was on track to hit 250,000 by 2022. He told the Daily Telegraph:

    That's three years ahead of earlier forecasts which predicted the City would hit a quarter of a million people in 2025.

    Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the council was working closely with developers and business and spending $1.94 billion over the next decade to build some of the infrastructure needed to make these high density areas liveable. However she says more needs to be done. She said:

    The NSW Government needs a clearer plan for supporting urban renewal. It must urgently increase its investment in high-growth areas like Green Square so essential infrastructure such as public transport, schools and child care keep up with growth.

    Social researcher Mark McCrindle said an entire generation is now making the shift towards inner-city living, with a lust for a creative and entrepreneurial lifestyle. He said:

    The 20 and 30-somethings are leaving the suburbs and heading to inner-city suburbs. They want a lifestyle close to work, a walkable lifestyle and cafe culture.

    McCrindle said more than half of housing approvals are for medium and high density developments. He said:

    The Aussie dream has changed. It's not having a Hills hoist, shed and garage with two cars anymore. It's the walkable way of life and as a result we've seen an increase in scooters, bikes and public transport.

    He said the inner-city suburbs were now seeing more generation diversity. Where once only single people and a much older generation were living in the city, it's now becoming more family orientated. He said:

    We're seeing families come in and schools that were struggling for numbers opening again.

    WA housing blocks get smaller

    High-density housing also planned for Riverlea

    The average building lots in Perth are now 123sqm smaller than seven years ago

    Data from the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) WA revealed the average land estate lot size sold in Perth in the March quarter was 411sqm - a fall of 9sqm from March last year.

    UDIA chief executive Debra Goostrey said average developer lot sizes had consistently reduced in Perth over the past seven years. She told the Herald Sun:

    This is in part in line with State Government policy requiring more density, but also a radical shift in the way people are living. Previously, the tradition in Perth was to have a small house on a big block, then that changed to wanting a big house on a big block.
    Post-GFC, people have changed their way of thinking and realised their home is their primary asset. Many have downsized to allow themselves more money to diversify their investments.

    Goostrey said there was also a growing popularity for blocks suiting homes with two or three bedrooms, rather than the once mandatory four bedrooms. She said:

    Pre-GFC, people used to buy their home thinking a long way into the future. Young couples would put off buying a house because they couldn't afford a four or five-bedroom home.

    Now, they're buying for what suits them in the short-term and going for two or three-bedroom homes. There used to be a lot less two and three-bedroom homes, but now the demand for them is much greater and they're being snapped up.

    New Australian dream

    For Lisa McGann, a home in a central location was essential when it came to raising 10-month-old son, Liam. Together with husband Jeremy, they live in a 150sqm house on a 223sqm block in North Perth.

    Their two-bedroom, two-bathroom property is on a block smaller than the average 406sqm Perth homesite, but it fits their needs. Lisa McGann said:

    The main goal for us was to live centrally in a suburb with a sense of community and close to the areas that we work and spend our time in. Land is expensive in inner-city areas, so we bought a block that we could afford in the knowledge that a block this size is all you need for a couple, and even a family.
    Building a smaller home of higher quality means you can create a unique space that enriches your life every day.

    Smaller lots for Riverlea

    In the City of Bunbury, the next stage of Riverlea Estate will include a number of smaller lots to meet market demand, according to project manager Ross Ranson.

    Bunbury City Council unanimously approved the Local Development Plan zoning changes which will create blocks zoned R40 in the next stage. This will allow for smaller blocks and higher-density housing to be built. Ranson said:

    Two units could be built on the blocks but most people will be building for a single residential dwelling. These blocks give more flexibility and they give the consumer more choice. They're not only an entry point for young people but there are a lot of people who want to downsize...

    The council voted to amend the Detailed Area Plan for the estate, which is located at the end of Forrest Highway. The plan's name has been changed to a Local Development Plan and no objections to the R40 zoning were lodged during the public comment period.

    Under the plan, the R40 zoning will allow for 54 lots to be built with 17 of these having rear laneway access. It will take the total size of Riverlea to about 130 lots when completed, according to Ranson.

    The blocks will range from 495sqm to 793sqm. They are expected to have completed houses on them within 12 to 15 months.


    Ausbuild takes on Redlands site

    Residential development for growing region

    The property developer said it plans to start construction in the middle of the year

    Queensland developer Ausbuild has paid $10.8 million for an 8.78ha site at Thornlands in Redland City, and has approval to create a residential land subdivision for 83 lots, ranging between 450sqm and 785sqm.

    Ray White Special Projects' Mark Creevey, who marketed the property with Tony Williams, said they received 12 offers to purchase and 55 inquiries during the campaign. He said:

    We generally find that the market has a strong appetite for development sites in Redlands. This property is in a highly sought after Brisbane bayside location close to existing infrastructure and major shopping, education, transport and recreational facilities.

    The property is next to the Moreton Shores Retirement Community and surrounded by established housing.

    It was marketed with a development permit for retirement use, incorporating 81 independent living units and 62 independent living apartments plus community facilities. But Creevey said most interest in the site came from residential development companies. He said:

    There was interest from aged care providers but the majority of interest was from development companies seeking to use the property for residential land subdivision.

    Williams said most groups who looked at the site said they liked its general location and its flat nature which ultimately would save development costs. He said:

    There is generally strong depth in demand for completed product in the Thornlands area for both land and retirement product. But there is continuing demand for residential sites such as this in the Brisbane bayside area and a lack of supply.

    Queensland gets more residential towers

    Skytower is Brisbane's tallest apartment building

    The three-tower mixed use Jewel project at Broadbeach is also starting to take shape

    Construction has begun on the $1 billion, 274m Skytower in Brisbane (QLD). The joint Billbergia and AMP Capital project, which includes an adjoining five-star hotel, will be the third-tallest apartment building in Australia, behind Q1 on the Gold Coast and Eureka Tower in Melbourne.

    On completion, Skytower will include more than 1100 apartments and a sky recreation deck on the 89th floor featuring Australia's highest infinity-edge pool.

    An eight-storey basement carpark securing the footing of the residential tower has already been built - as construction on the apartments continues on the floors above.

    Skytower has generated more than $350 million with the sale of 550 apartments since the first release six months ago.

    More apartments have been released with residences on the top 10 storeys to follow later. Designs on these penthouse levels will be determined by buyer demand.

    Gold Coast's Jewel

    Work has also started on the $970 million Jewel development at Broadbeach (QLD) by China's Dalian Wanda Group and Ridong Group.

    The three-tower joint venture will comprise 500 apartments, 171 hotel rooms and retailers. It will have 130 metres of beach frontage.

    Dalian Wanda group chairman Wang Jianlin is reportedly China's richest man. His estimated $290 million capital injection into Jewel is part of his $1.7 billion investment commitment to the Australian real estate sector. Andrew Bampton, director of sales and marketing Wanda Ridong (Gold Coast) said:

    Jewel will be the most significant development on the Gold Coast since the GFC, and the first true beach-front residential resort in more than 30 years. This investment is a $1billion vote of confidence in the City of the Gold Coast and in Queensland.

    Online hub makes renos easier

    A NSW state government initiative

    Web-based information assists in preparing, lodging and tracking development applications

    A new online planning hub by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment will facilitate the approvals process for improvements to residential properties, and make it more efficient.

    The NSW Planning Hub can benefit to owners of residential properties who want to undertake renovation work. It provides them with a number of online tools to expedite their negotiation of the approvals process.

    The website enables homeowners to prepare and lodge their applications for renovations work online, as well as track the progress of the approvals procedures.

    Homeowners will also be able to negotiate the challenging process of making planning decisions and obtaining approvals - online.

    The creation of the internet-based hub was prompted by the success of the ePlanning Tools website that was launched last year by the department. That site was visited by more than 100,000 users.

    The hub enables owners to make better decisions regarding their renovation plans and gain approvals more quickly. Making the approvals process for home improvements easier should boost activity in the NSW construction sector.

    A spokesperson from the department said the website is already seeing high levels of visitor traffic, and should provide further impetus to fast compliance applications. The spokesperson told Sourceable:

    So far the PlanningHub tools have had more than 130,000 hits, showing residential, commercial and industrial land owners want to cut time and money to renovate or upgrade their property. The latest figures also show the number of applications assessed through the faster complying development system has risen year-on-year to now make up almost a third of all approvals.

    The online hub has been developed with members of the building sector in mind. It is designed specifically for access via mobile devices while on-site.

    The website has a mobile friendly version so information can be accessed on-site. There is no need to stop work or waste valuable time driving to a council office to get answers - they're right there on any smartphone or tablet.
    It's tailored so that builders and trades can get local planning information and a visual explanation of how the building code applies to different developments from any smart device on the building site.

    Green Square development has begun

    New type of urban neighbourhood

    Ebsworth is the first residential building to be constructed as part of the development

    The Green Square project in New South Wales will span 278ha, contain almost 10,000 apartments and will include the suburbs of Beaconsfield, Zetland, Rosebery, Alexandria and Waterloo.

    The town centre itself will span 14 hectares and will have the capacity for up to 2,000 apartments, 14,000sqm of retail space and 50,000sqm of commercial space.

    UrbanGrowth NSW chief executive David Pitchford said the development plans were restructured last year (after it was first announced in the 1990s) and a project delivery agreement was formed with Mirvac.

    Pitchford said Green Square was the first project to come out of the ground under UrbanGrowth NSW's Urban Transformation Program. Pitchford said:

    It's by no means the biggest but it's very, very important in the scale things. You'll see many more come out in terms of planning and forward projections in the later part of this year and into next year.

    The Urban Transformation Program consists of large-scale urban revitalisation programs that provide infrastructure, housing, jobs, and economic and social benefits for NSW.

    While details of the development site have been planned, Pitchford said the impending population rise and traffic congestion has yet to be addressed.

    Mirvac chief executive officer and managing director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said the Green Square town centre would redefine the meaning of a neighbourhood. She said:

    It's going to be a vibrant and active space where people will live, work, shop, dine and enjoy a whole range of cultural activities.
    There's going to be a retail offering, there's a very interesting library which is essentially below ground and the City of Sydney is providing a fantastic aquatic centre that is going to be an open space.
    To us Green Square is the perfect combination of location. It's 3.5km to the city, 4km to the airport, Green Square train station is right there with amenity and the right environment so the actual apartment product is going to be pretty special and very sustainable in terms of how we're building it.

    The release of Ebsworth, a residential building consisting of 174 apartments will be the first to be built. Last year, it sold out within two days of its launch and Pitchford said interest in the development is still consistent.

    Next to be released to buyers in the Green Square Town Centre will be a 28-storey apartment building called Ovo, steps away from where Ebsworth will stand.


    Inner suburbs going sky high

    Baby boomers are attracted to these areas

    Property developers are catering for boomers that want an inner-suburban lifestyle

    Well-resourced baby boomers are driving a shift in the location and type of residences and aged care facilities being built: they are going inwards and upwards.

    The boomers' preference for an amenity-rich, cafe culture lifestyle coupled with their ability to afford inner city property prices has refocused the attention on Melbourne and Sydney's inner suburbs.

    Property giant Stockland has started construction on two residential buildings with 57 apartments in the first stage of a $160 million redevelopment of the Cardinal Freeman Retirement Village in Ashfield in Sydney's inner west.

    Stockland describes the project as "unique" in its retirement portfolio, principally because of its location less than 10 kilometres from the city centre and the high-end style of buildings.

    When complete, it will have 240 apartments ranging between one and three bedrooms, a 133-bed Opal Aged Care-run facility, clubhouse, pool, gym, bar, hairdressing salon, village green and community vegetable garden. Stockland's Stephen Bull told Fairfax Media:

    We have responded to current and anticipated growing demand for convenient, low maintenance apartment living.

    Health insurer and fund manager Australian Unity has taken a similar approach. Its Rathdowne Place village, in Melbourne's inner north, will co-locate 180 high-rise retirement living units in two yet-to-be-built towers with a newly completed $67 million 162-bed aged care facility.

    About 100 aged care beds in the six-storey building had been filled so far, according to the group's investment specialist, Guy Sainsbury. He said:

    Given how much demand we're getting in the nursing home, we think the market is speaking and saying 'We want more of this'.

    Australian Unity will start constructing the first of the two eight-storey retirement towers next April.

    Retirement facilities

    Victorian-based TLC Aged Care, which owns and operates 10 retirement homes in Melbourne's outer suburbs and regions, has turned its attention to inner north Clifton Hill.

    Chief executive Lou Pascuzzi said there were only 580 residential care places available for 5000 people aged over 65 living in the immediate area. He said:

    The lack of available development land . . . made a high-rise facility the obvious choice.

    TLC plans to demolish a large old factory in Queens Parade and replace it with a 12-storey vertical aged care facility, cafe, pharmacy and medical centre at a development cost of $40 million. The 126-room centre includes a rooftop garden with a pool and barbecue.


    Over 4000 new housing sites in NSW

    Boom in Western Sydney housing approvals

    NSW Government is selling off sites to raise money for future infrastructure projects

    The New South Wales Government will sell off four housing sites located in Sydney and the southern highlands.

    Real estate company International Colliers plan to market a parcel at Menangle Park. It will offer sites where the state government has started development such as Edmondson Park at Bardia.

    The Menangle Park Project is capable of holding 2,000 dwellings on 380ha. These four sites together can provide at least 4,200 residential homes. The estimated value of the public assets being sold is around $1 billion. Schools, hospitals, office buildings, and even an island are available for sale.

    The government says the money will be used for new housing and infrastructure.

    In 2012, a new agency was established called Government Property NSW. Its job is to manage the state's real estate assets. CEO Brett Newman said its portfolio comprised 200,000 properties that are worth nearly $130 billion.

    What we do is identify assets that don't need to be owned or are under-utilised and we sell them so that the money can be reinvested in capital and improved services right across government.

    Starting in April 2013, Government Property NSW has sold off properties worth up to $1 billion. These include the Ausgrid building in Sydney for $151 million, seven office blocks for $400 million, and precinct buildings in Parramatta for $170 million.

    Western Sydney approval rate

    Western Sydney has seven of the top 10 councils for housing approvals in New South Wales. Urban Taskforce chief executive officer Chris Johnson said that Blacktown, Parramatta, Camden, Penrith, Liverpool, Bankstown and the Hills were among the top ten councils for approvals.

    Blacktown leads with 2,822 projects over the last financial year. This is in comparison to the City of Sydney's 2,470 approvals, highlighting the strength of the Western Sydney's property market.

    Furthermore, multi-unit apartments have also seen an upswing across the state. Completion rates for these properties skyrocketed to 65.5% in the past financial year, while approvals rose to 69% of all housing approvals. Johnson said:

    With approvals running at close to 70% for apartments, this is clearly becoming the dominant form of new housing as Sydney moves from having around 30% currently as apartments to becoming a 50:50 city. Within a few decades, it will comprise of half detached houses and half apartments.

    Marsden Park driving NSW economy

    Major retail and residential destination

    NSW also tipped to get 50,000 new homes as the construction boom continues in the state

    Signs of economic growth in NSW can be seen in the suburb of Marsden Park. Bunnings being first to open in the area can be seen as a clear strategic decision. Bunnings store manager Brett Taylor told Channel Nine News:

    It's an exciting growth area. It's great to be the first big box retailer out at Marsden Park.

    Marsden Park is one of Sydney's large growth centres, with billions of dollars being invested. In coming months, Bunnings will be followed by Ikea, Masters, Costco and Aldi in a large retail and business zone. Owen Walsh of Sydney Business Park said:

    That's probably bigger than twice the size of the Sydney CBD, twice the size of Macquarie Park and bigger than Norwest.

    In the next decade, 17,000 people will work in the area and 60,000 homes will be built nearby - housing almost 200,000 people.

    Marsden Park delivers a double benefit - housing and retail. These are two of the key drivers helping to give the NSW economy a huge boost.

    With NSW again outperforming other states by topping the state economic rankings, and with an election around the corner, the State Treasurer believes Marsden Park points to a growing sign of confidence. Andrew Constance said:

    Tens of thousands of jobs (are) being generated, housing construction off the back of it, the ability for people to take up employment near their homes in Western Sydney is very important.

    For the second time in six months, NSW has topped the state economic rankings which are put together by CommSec in its "State of the States 2015" report.

    50,000 new home starts

    Beyond Marsden Park, new home building in NSW is tipped to top the 50,000 in 2015, according to another report from the Housing Industry Association (HIA).

    The predictions, in the spring 2014 edition of the HIA's New South Wales Outlook, come off the back of a strong 2014, where dwelling commencements are expected to have increased by 9.5%, following a 31.7% rise in 2013. The HIA said a further growth of 4.5% is expected in 2015, bringing commencements up to 50,800. HIA executive director, NSW, David Bare told Property Observer:

    We have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of new home building in NSW, with activity on track to exceed initial expectation over the next 12 months. NSW's $7.9 billion home renovations market is likely to reap the rewards of robust dwelling price growth and record low interest rates.
    Activity on this side of the market has fallen steadily over the past decade but the recovery currently underway is likely to lift activity by a cumulative 25% or so.

    Home renovations in the state are also expected to increase in 2015 by 3.9%, respectively. In two years the HIA believes home renovation to reach $8.43 billion.


    Melbourne's outer areas gain 12,000 homes

    Residential development in regional Mooroopna

    A population boom is creating a thirst for new homes in Melbourne's outlying areas

    Stockland will soon start construction on two residential towns outside of Melbourne.

    The property development giant said will commence construction in the next few months on the $4.6 billion Cloverton residential development 35 kilometres north of Melbourne, creating 11,000 new homes.

    The landholding, previously known as Lockerbie, is soon to have its first land sales, with first settlements scheduled for the 2016 financial year.

    In addition to providing new homes, Stockland said the development will include a 60 hectare city centre with a regional shopping centre, a future train station, four additional local town centres and a retirement village. Stockland managing director and chief executive Mark Steinert told Business Spectator:

    The development will eventually become a city in its own right, providing homes and recreational areas for more than 30,000 people.

    Stockland is planning to invest more than $1.3 billion on residential, retail and retirement living projects in Victoria over the next 10 years.

    Stockland also said it acquired 65 hectares of residential zoned land at Clyde North in Casey, south east of Melbourne. The group said it will create a new master-planned community at the site over a six-year period, building around 800 new homes, at a total development cost of approximately $128 million.

    Construction on the project will begin in 2017, with the first settlements in the 2019 financial year.

    Open day at Mooroopna

    Archer's Field estate, part of the Mooroopna West Growth Corridor in Victoria is the region's newest housing development. It has been open to the public for the last few months.

    Eligible buyers were offered rebates of $40000 or $120000 on selected blocks, with most sold within months of the land release.

    City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan said the council was pleased to be able to offer rebates on 86 lots of land to enable greater access for people to own their own home.

    Council's infrastructure director Steve Bowmaker said the development had been a boom for local tradespeople who were working on the project.

    The design of the two estates includes interception upgrades, flood swales, a playground, attractive landscaping and open space with interconnecting shared bike and footpaths.

    The shared paths will also provide a safe alternative bike route for people to ride to work or cycle for leisure as part of the council's Cycling Strategy Plan.

    The Mooroopna West Growth Corridor development was partly funded through $5.4million from the Building Better Regional Cities program and an additional $5.4million from Greater Shepparton City Council.


    WA leads home building market

    The state tops latest Housing Scorecard Report

    Western Australia remains the nation's strongest residential building sector, according to HIA

    Western Australia beat out all other states on the Housing Industry Association's biannual Housing Scorecard Report, heading the list of national residential building markets for the sixth executive quarter.

    HIA economist Geordan Murray said they were waiting for confirmation WA had broken a new state record for the number of houses built. He said:

    The numbers will not be available till around April next year. However, based on our estimates we believe there will have been about 30,000 new homes built, which means a new annual record for WA.

    The report's calculations benchmarks levels of activity in each state and territory against their individual long term averages. Seventeen indicators are used for the analysis, including detached house building, multi-unit dwelling building, renovations and construction labour force.

    Murray said the strength of WA's home building market was the result of the release of a pent up demand for new residential housing. He said:

    I don't think this means we'll see housing prices come down in 2015, but I think the slowing in house price growth, which we're already starting to see, will continue.
    WA ranks as the strongest in terms of the number of multi-unit dwellings approved and third strongest for the number of multi-unit dwelling commencements, but a relatively lowly fifth strongest in terms of the number of multi-unit dwellings under construction.
    The strong pipeline of approvals implies multi-unit activity could remain relatively healthy for some time yet.

    In what the HIA described as a surprise move, the Northern Territory was the second strongest jurisdiction for residential building with NSW following behind at number three. Victoria hit the number four spot. At number five was South Australia, followed by ACT and Queensland. Tasmania listed as last.


    Housing, online tool in NSW

    Construction drives NSW state economy

    An online planning tool for development applications for NSW councils and residents

    CommSec's State of the States report this year shows that Western Australia slipped from the top spot, giving way to New South Wales.

    Western Australia has been coming out on top for the past three years, However New South Wales' construction industry - and particularly housing - has pushed it to be number one. CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian told The Age:

    We've been under-building for a number of years. Now that turnaround is coming, it's rippling out across the NSW economy so a number of other areas are benefitting off it. Population growth is strong. Retail sales are lifting.

    Economists are saying to not count out Western Australia, though, and that its construction efforts are strong as well.

    Western Australia's certainly holding up relatively well. In fact a lot better than we would have thought even six to 12 months ago with the pull back in mining services. Keep in mind that WA is still very, very solid in terms of housing finance.

    CommSec releases its report quarterly and measures eight key indicators including economic growth, retail spending, equipment investment, unemployment, construction work done, population growth, housing finance and dwelling commencements.

    Applying for DAs in NSW

    The NSW Planning and Environment Department has new online tools designed to address the frustration of lodging a development application (DA) with local councils.

    It promises a faster approval process, greater transparency of the planning process and better access to planning information that is simpler to understand.

    Philip Graus from Cox Richardson Architects and Planners in Sydney road tested the ePlanning tools and is impressed. He told Government News:

    You can find everything that applies to your house and what sort of development you want to do and it brings up quickly and simply all of the rules that apply...The information is clear and accurate."

    Graus said it should save people time having to visit council offices, finding the right person and accessing paper files.

    He maintains the ePlanning tools could be improved by providing a checklist before submitting a DA, so that people could not progress until the application was complete. It can provide an overview of what is going to happen in their area.

    Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades believes ePlanning can fundamentally transform paper-based and face-to-face transactions in the future. He said:

    Over time, more online information and lodgement activities will become the norm for users of the e-planning system. There will be time and cost savings with ePlanning through reduced red tape, online lodgement of applications and faster approval processes.

    But he also sounded a note of caution:

    For ePlanning to work, it will need a sustained commitment of funds by the state government not only for its initial set up, but for ongoing maintenance to ensure its viability, licensing, compatibility with existing systems, currency of data and ownership of intellectual property.

    The most popular ePlanning tool so far has been the Planning Viewer, which shows the planning controls that apply to individual land parcels under Local Environment Plans. Users can also search for properties that match specific planning controls. NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward said:

    People using the Planning Viewer include homeowners interested in renovating, developers looking into opportunities in different suburbs and home buyers seeking a better understanding of a particular neighbourhood.
    By investing in this tool along with the other ePlanning tools, we're giving the people of NSW faster access to planning rules and information such as floor space ratio, minimum lot size, or the heritage considerations of particular areas.

    Ashfield was the most searched, followed by Canterbury, Camden, City of Sydney, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Parramatta, Ryde, Great Lakes, Hornsby and Marrickville.


    QLD a "mixed bag" of building conditions

    Residential sector "better than expected"

    Different stories are being told around the state with both positive and negative experiences

    The Master Builders' Survey of Industry Conditions for the September quarter showed building confidence hitting negative territory for the first time since the Global Financial Crisis.

    But there are positive signs emerging, with the report finding both commercial and residential sectors showing "strong improvement", which should advance further in the next quarter.

    The report concluded overall performance was "better than expected" given the slowing resources sector had dulled employment and consumer sentiment.

    It also found the most critical limitation on the industry was a "lacklustre level of demand".

    Another concern was a tightening up of borrowing from lenders, making it difficult for home buyers. The report said this was being driven by valuers representing mortgage lenders providing a house value which did not meet the cost of a house and land package, leaving many unable to proceed with the build.

    Sunshine Coast "stand-out performer"

    Despite the recent findings, the Sunshine Coast building industry is being singled out as a picture of optimism, with only the Gold Coast and Far North Queensland faring better.

    It shows a continuing a trend that has developed over the past 12 months. Employment levels improved slightly over the three months, with 28% of businesses saying they were in a position to employ more workers. Most said they were having no trouble finding suitably qualified workers and subcontractors.

    Positive sentiment in the region has construction thriving at residential developments. Over 70% of home sites have been sold at The Passage located on the newest waterfront land release at Pelican Waters.

    General manager of development at Pelican Waters, Hamish Pressland said a recent Australian Industry Construction forum highlighted the Sunshine Coast had emerged as the region with the most promising outlook in Queensland. He said:

    It seems the slow growth period of previous years has created a shortfall in housing product which consequently results in an increase in demand. We are seeing this now with both owner-occupiers and speculative product under construction.

    An estimated 149 new residential lots are to be released by Stockland in seven separate land releases across three communities over the next two months.

    Regional Master Builders manager Michael Hopkins also described it as great news but believes land availability will limit growth. He said:

    Over the last year Sunshine Coast residential builders have been reporting to us that activity and inquiry levels are picking up...The key take-out from this quarter's survey is how quickly the availability of land has risen as a key restraint. Availability of land on the Sunshine Coast is now rated the second most critical constraint on building businesses. Only level of demand rates is more of constraint to the local construction industry.

    Hopkins said it was more important than ever local councils ensured there was sufficient suitable land available for development. He called on councils to opt in to the Queensland Government's fair value infrastructure charges arrangements, which would ensure more land was brought to market at affordable prices.

    Confidence down in southern QLD

    The MBA survey shows confidence in the southern Queensland building sector dropped slightly to a rating of 58, because of concerns about the impact of the drought in the south-west and the ending of a Toowoomba Regional Council scheme that offered discounts on infrastructure development charges.

    MBA regional manager Tony Ryder said builders were also worried about labour costs.

    However building approvals have increased 24% in the past 12 months, while 65% of builders expect to increase their apprentice levels. Ryder said there was still reason to be optimistic. He said:

    Many of our builders have got three to six months' work in front of them, some have in fact got considerably more and I think we'll see into next year once the airport takes off, we start to see some dirt turned on the bypass and the inner-city development, that is always about confidence and people will jump on to that.

    Upswing for Rockhampton

    In Rockhampton, Affordable Quality Homes builder Craig Kelly can feel the region's construction industry starting to rebuild. After what he described as one of the quietest times in 15 years, he said things were starting to look positive for Rockhampton builders.

    Following the survey's prediction of growth in the residential construction sector in the coming quarter, Kelly is confident the market would pick up and said the construction of a new display home in Crestwood Estate, Norman Gardens was evidence of that.

    But Kelly said he had noticed fewer first-home buyers in recent months, with Affordable Quality Homes building bigger homes for people already on the property ladder. The MBA report found finance availability was one of the biggest restrictions on buyers in Central Queensland.


    WA building up, tradies follow

    Housing approvals hit record high in WA

    More tradespeople are needed in WA just as the mining boom is starting to subside

    Residential builders in WA are experiencing one of their busiest-ever periods, with record housing approvals, finance applications and developer sales, according to the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).

    The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows the value of construction in WA's housing sector reached a record high in June. The value of new homes hit $1.566 billion, while the total for all types of new dwelling construction almost reached the two billion dollar mark, coming in at $1.99 billion.

    UDIA chief executive Debra Goostrey credited a major influx of workers to Perth a few years ago for the level of building activity over the past year. She told The West Australian:

    We saw a spike in migration about three years ago, and these people are looking to buy now. They have gone through the rental market and they are at the point where they are looking to build or to buy an established home of their own.

    There were 15,510 housing approvals in WA between January and August this year, well above the 13,717 approvals during the same period last year.

    UDIA chief executive Debra Goostrey said WA's 40 biggest developers have also been on a major selling spree during the past two years. In the first six months of this year, they sold 5087 major development blocks.

    This was only slightly down from the record 5605 lots purchased in the first six months of last year.

    Both years were well above the traditional average, surpassing the boom years between 2006 and 2010 when lot sales for the first half of the year ranged between 3952 and 4891.

    New data shows builders and developers have been busiest in Wanneroo, Swan and Rockingham, which have emerged as the housing hotspots of WA. The suburbs attracted the greatest share of new dwellings in the year to June, with 3414, 2583 and 2468 properties built in the areas in the twelve months to June respectively.

    Most of these new lots are located in the outer suburbs. Stirling, 12km from the city, also made the list with more than 2400 new homes. It fits in with plans by the local council to develop the Herdsman and Glendalough areas within council borders and turn Stirling into a satellite city.

    But WA is unlikely to continue developing at the current pace with building and finance approvals already falling in October, and Goostrey anticipates a continued cooling over the next year.

    Nonetheless, it will still be well above the recent track record, with recent ABS housing finance data showing great demand. It shows that in the 12 months to August, there were 91,943 housing finance applications in WA, the highest since the same period in 2007. Goostrey said:

    The development sector is currently running at about 130% of long-term averages, and we think it will drop back to 115% of long-term averages. So the sector will continue running above average, even after it drops back a bit.

    Perth tradies wanted

    The current housing boom means tradespeople are in high demand in Perth. Bricklayers and other skilled labourers are struggling to keep up with the rate of residential construction.

    The busy period of house and apartment constructions is underpinned by high vacant land sales. In WA during 2012-13, there were just over 20,000 sales. That represented the fifth biggest annual turnover in the past two decades, according to data compiled by REIWA.com.au.

    The pace of vacant land purchases has since subsided, with just under 17,000 recorded in the last financial year. However, industry experts believe the need for tradespeople will remain strong as the formerly vacant land sites are now being developed en masse.

    One of the country's biggest residential builders, Dale Alcock, managing director of ABN Group, said there were some delays in Perth in getting bricklayers on to sites, which put other trades back. He told WA Today:

    We are already at capacity. Those land sales have to wash through. We will be very busy on site for the next 12 to 18 months before it returns to more normal levels.

    ABN Group is also a major trainer of apprentices. Almost one-third of its 300 current apprentices are bricklayers.

    The increased demand for trades in the residential market coincides with a downturn in demand for construction workers on resource projects in WA's mineral-rich Pilbara. This decrease was the result of a sustained decline in the iron ore price which led to fewer projects.

    There is a risk that residential construction work could dry up once the current cycle declines. Turnover in the broader market, including land sales and house and apartment sales, dropped in 2013-14 and agents are reporting subdued interest in the first few months of 2014-15.

    BankWest chief economist Alan Langford said the state economy would hit a "soft spot" within two years if there were no new major resources projects and the housing market cooled.


    Role of tech in tradies' businesses

    Technology is having an impact on how tradies work

    Benefits include greater transparency when managing projects and paper work

    Mobile technology is transforming the Australian construction sector, helping tradies run their businesses more efficiently and providing insights on projects and staffing that have never been possible before.

    Tradies who have been quick to adopt software solutions to manage their teams and jobs are seeing the benefits.

    Demand for cloud-based solutions from small businesses is increasing, making room for companies like consultancy TradiePad which sets up trade professionals such as electricians, plumbers and builders, with mobile solutions which cut the paperwork and increase the amount of information they can gather about their businesses.

    TradiePad learning and development manager, Joshua Orr told Business Insider that in his experience, builders usually have similar pain points, especially when it comes to costing jobs and monitoring progress on a project. Technology allows them to cost accurately and follow a build in real-time. Orr said:

    They've got guys filling out time sheets and they want to be able to allocate that time to a specific area so they can see, at every single stage, exactly where their build is up to, when they're going over [or under] budget.

    The management side of the building game is complex, with businesses having to deal with subcontractors, clients, employees and suppliers, often running multiple sites. Owners and managers tend to be on the tools by day and typically on a computer quoting and invoicing at night. Orr said:

    They all have exactly the same pain point. It was: 'how do I see exactly where a job's up to at any given point? How do I access that information live?' and typically, at best, it's been tracked in Excel files.

    Future Build owner, Brad Mackenzie told Business Insider rolling out tablets to his team and a number of apps, including Xero, Workflow Max and BuildSoft, to his six staff this year improved his operations.

    Before using mobile apps and tablets he used hard-copy time sheets, purchase order books and invoicing with all the data checked and entered in manually by his office staff. Here's what he's noticed since upgrading his technology.

    Less paperwork

    Mackenzie said the manual processes meant he never had a clear view of job progress and how he was tracking against cost plans at any point in a project. He realised there are easier ways to run parts of his business that were becoming a time-sapping risk.

    All his staff now have tablets on site which they use to enter time sheet information, purchase orders and leave applications which are all sent straight back to the office and stored in the cloud. He said:

    There's no requirement for a hard copy of anything. It just gives you a heaps better dashboard of where you're up to in your business.

    Knowing where staff are, and what they're doing

    Running on average about 10 jobs at a time worth about $450,000 each, Mackenzie has a lot of subcontractors, clients, orders and information to deal with. Each hour and order needs to be billed out to a client, and by digitising everything he now has an accurate way of monitoring time spent on each task.

    Staff now enter time spent on each job daily and the information is available immediately to Mackenzie and his team, ready to be billed.

    The real time flow of information enables him to "keep a better eye on costings".

    Order tracking and better client management

    Getting rid of paper purchase order books and going digital makes reconciling orders and keeping tack of costs easier.

    All Mackenzie's work is done on a quoted basis and being able to see where the bottle necks are in terms of time spent on different tasks and material costs, he's able to be more transparent with his clients and get a better insight into his business.

    He is able to remain on top of his costs and using apps and cloud software with mobile technology gives Mackenzie a real time view of how a specific job is tracking against a quoted cost.

    Mackenzie has the tech bug and he's now looking at taking that level of insight and transparency further by developing a client login so owners can see what's happening at the site and what's scheduled for next week.

    A leaner, better business

    Using technology on site is enabling tradies to systemise, centralise and scale their business and not waste time pricing jobs. Mackenzie believes it is making his business more competitive.

    He believes his office is more efficient and his staff aren't dealing with paperwork and communicating or clarifying information manually, which are time-consuming tasks.

    Having all the information in one place also means less doubling up. Orr said:

    The other really big benefit...is being able to template a lot of this stuff they do day-to-day. Once they've done a bathroom renovation, the next one is almost identical.
    The cost might change...because it might be a different sink but really they can kind of 'cookie cut' this stuff. They can just tick, tick, tick, tick, tick and it builds an entire project for them in a couple of seconds, where previously that would've been hours sitting there with an Excel file.

    Taking out the guesswork

    By looking at the data, tradies and managers are able to get smarter and boost accuracy when it comes to costing and estimating jobs. Orr said:

    They know exactly where their costs are going and where their expenses are going. If they've been guessing wrong for ten years straight they now know that.

    Longer term, Mackenzie hopes all this technology will enable him to "take a back seat eventually" and get a helicopter view. He said:

    There's no limit to it. You think you're at the cutting edge of it but you're just scratching the surface.

    More housing in the Illawarra

    Designed to match population growth

    The growth of the region will also generate demand for transportation and infrastructure

    The Illawarra will require 45,000 new homes to house the anticipated population growth to 450,000 people over the next sixteen years.

    The growth estimates are contained in the Draft Regional Growth Plan for the Illawarra released for public comment recently.

    The majority of new homes will be built on greenfield sites at West Lake Illawarra and Nowra/Bomaderry. But the plan also identifies other smaller corridors for housing growth including Bulli, Fig Tree, Shell Cove, South Gerringong, Manyana and Dolphin Point.

    The Minister for the Illawarra, John Ajaka, said as the region continues to expand more needs to be done to encourage new housing. He said:

    The figure that we talk about population growth for Wollongong alone by 2030, for the Illawarra we talk about approximately 65,000 more people will be living in the Illawarra, they have to live somewhere, and this is where we get those targets.

    Wollongong's lord mayor Gordon Bradbery said the lack of priority for the Maldon Dombarton freight rail line doesn't mean it won't be built. While work is underway to call for tenders to privately build and operate the line, the regional plan classifies it as a long term project up to 20 years away, with no assigned funding.

    Mayor Bradbery believes the rapid growth of the region will generate demand for the line regardless of the state government document. He said:

    The regional growth plan clearly identifies Port Kembla as an international gateway and as such I think that will bring forward the Maldon Dombarton link.

    Chairman of the Illawarra Branch of the Property Council of NSW, David Lang, said the amount of detail in the document is impressive. He said:

    What's clear about this document, I mean hats off to the Department, is that for the first time in a planning document I've seen real solid information about infrastructure right down to electrical supply, water and sewer supply and that's not normally in a planning document, which is really good news from an industry perspective.

    Brisbane land released for housing

    More state land has been released for development

    High end builders are given the opportunity to help improve affordable housing stock

    A total of 4,370sqm of government-owned land at Lutwyche Road in Queensland has been made available in a bid to provide apartment living options for families.

    Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the new $13 million apartment building would help those in need secure housing.

    Known as Spectrum Apartments, the site will comprise both retail and residential space and is expected to be completed by 2016.

    Construction will get underway early next year as efforts are made to provide accommodation for people who are unable to afford to live in the city centre, but still need access to services and facilities.

    Queensland is keen to see construction move up the agenda, as it has been identified by the state government as one of the four pillars of the economy.

    Alongside resources, tourism and agriculture, construction has been earmarked as an area of the economy that needs to be encouraged to ensure Queensland continues to remain competitive.

    Queensland recently hosted the ConstructionQ forum, which attracted more than 300 members of the building and construction industry to address the issues affecting the sector.

    Premier Campbell Newman explained how the industry creates around 250,000 jobs a year and is a key area of the economy that needs to be kept moving well into the future.

    He also revealed how new home and renovations are predicted to increase 11% over the 2014-15 financial year, which should confirm the strength of the sector.

    ConstructionQ is a strategy that has been put in place at state level to make sure the full potential of the industry is met over the next two decades.


    QLD recovers as a construction hot spot

    Building projects are happening across the state

    There are improved business conditions for approvals and activity despite a dip in confidence

    A number of reports are showing that regions around Queensland are experiencing high levels of commercial and residential construction activity.

    Sunshine Coast

    Based on the results of its "June Quarter Survey of Industry Conditions", the Master Builders Association of Queensland says the Sunshine Coast emerged as the region with the most promising construction outlook, scoring 70.3 on a scale of 0 to 100 on an index of builder sentiment where any score above 50.0 indicates net optimism about the short term future.

    Throughout the Sunshine Coast, commercial construction has received a big boost through work on the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, and the announcement of $440 million worth of road works to upgrade the Mooloolah River Interchange.

    Furthermore, a substantial recovery in residential construction is being underpinned by a significant period of underbuilding, which according to estimates from Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) has seen the number of homes being built throughout the region each year fall short of demand by around 700. This has resulted in the build-up of around 6,000 homes since 2008.

    Elsewhere, builders are confident about the outlook in the Gold Coast - where ACIF puts a cumulative shortage of homes at around 30,000 and which is set to benefit from work associated with Commonwealth Games projects - as well as Brisbane, Darling Downs, South West Queensland and Far North Queensland.


    In Rockhampton, manager of Ted Price Homes, Adrian Price believes Christmas will mark the resurgence of the local building industry. He says he is already seeing signs that the industry is on the verge of a recovery.

    His comments are mirrored by the Master Builders' report on industry conditions for the June 2014 quarter. While the resources downturn continues to be felt, business confidence and profitability are expected to improve in the September quarter.

    Price said his company's bread and butter are investment properties and low demand had forced the company to shed several of its workforce.

    Building approval figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed there were 112 approvals for Central Queensland in June 2014. There were 1648 approvals in the 12 months to June 2014, 50% down on the 3304 for the 12 months before.

    Price is hoping the approval of the $16.5 billion Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project near Clermont will help revive the investment property market. He told the Morning Bulletin: "The mines have a big impact on Rockhampton. They employ a lot of people and we hope a lot of them move to Rockhampton as a home base..."


    A significant residential construction project on the Capricorn Coast has also been launched. The $500 million development at Yeppoon called The Pines is a master-planned community that promises to revolutionise the property market in the area.

    An eight-year project, around 3000 people will eventually call The Pines home, according to project sales manager Danny Carr.

    Developer Homecorp CEO Ron Bakir said the opening of The Pines sales centre features an interactive showcase. He told the Daily Mercury:

    The centrepiece is the state-of-the-art, touch-screen system which brings it all to life. You can place the house you want on the block you want and see exactly what it's going to look like. There's also a home design area where visitors can choose their home design and inclusions.


    The latest data and economic business findings of GAPDL's Gladstone Region Project Status Report have been released, with a total project value of more than $91 billion.

    Of the $91 billion, $69.23 billion is involved in projects under construction, $14.33 billion is under study, $4.13 billion is committed and $3.69 billion is completed.

    High on the expenditure scale are the three multi-billion-dollar LNG plants, which collectively are valued at more than $60 billion.

    Other significant projects include the WICET coal terminal, which is nearing stage one completion, the rail corridor to service WICET, and a number of residential developments that will incorporate thousands of new homes and community facilities.


    Residential expansion in Warrnambool

    New home building is being valued at $19.3m

    Latest statistics point to construction growth coming from surrounding neighbourhoods

    Building activity in Warrnambool (VIC) is on the rise with over 130 residential permits granted during the autumn quarter. This represents an increase of more than 20% on the same period last year.

    Overall, building activity worth $22.6 million was approved in the quarter, with $19.3 million coming from residential permits.

    Commercial permits are also on the increase with 23 granted in autumn compared to 16 in the same period between March 1 and May 31 last year.

    City council growth director Bill Millard said the figures show Warrnambool is growing steadily. He told The Standard:

    What we're seeing is moderate growth at both a residential and commercial level but it's growth that's sustainable and planned for. A number of new neighbourhoods are under construction this year. This Aberline Road area obviously accounts for some of that growth but there's also a lot to be said about the growth seen in north Dennington and along Wangoom Road.

    The latest figures follow on from a trend of sustained suburban growth in Warrnambool. Building activity worth $17.7 million was approved in the 2013 autumn quarter with roughly $15.3 million coming from residential and $2.4 million from commercial permits.

    Cr Kylie Gaston said a range of people, including young couples, families and retirees, were choosing to live in Warrnambool due to its attractive location and modern amenities. She said:

    Certainly we're seeing a lot of new houses under construction in the city's west - the gap between Warrnambool and Dennington is almost non-existent. There are challenges that come with growth but it's a good position to be in that Warrnambool is growing rather than having a static population or losing residents.

    Millard said the building industry activity remained a key part of the region's economy, given roughly seven per cent of Warrnambool jobs derive from construction. He said:

    There are obvious advantages for any regional city in having the steady growth Warrnambool has. It means there's not a radical ebb and flow of construction jobs. That once one project is complete, people can expect to start work on another almost immediately.

    Healthy signs for Gladstone housing

    Tannum Sands development shows promise

    The region is set to benefit from a population increase and infrastructure investments

    Lyons Residential, developer of Tannum Sands residential community, The Sands, has welcomed signs of continuing growth in the Gladstone (QLD) housing market.

    Recent research from property analyst Matt Gross at The National Property Research Co indicated that the rate of population gains in the area would provide demand for an additional 16,452 dwellings in the next 20 years.

    Lyons Residential senior development manager Oliver Kent said current trends for housing approvals are above historical levels and comparable with the previous two years' higher levels. He told the Gladstone Observer:

    All of the indicators from current rate of sale to outlooks from property researchers reveal that the forecast for the Gladstone market is very positive over the medium to long term.
    The Sands will require $120 million investment over the life of the project. That's a significant commitment from Lyons Residential, however, we are very confident with the long-term prospects for the local property market.

    Kent welcomed Gladstone Regional Council's recent budget which includes $8.8 million in funding for projects based in and around the Tannum Sands area. There is $3 million for sporting facilities, $2.2 million for the Boyne Island Water Treatment plant upgrade, $3.5 million for investigation and design of the Boyne Island second river crossing, and $100,000 for construction of a public amenity at Wyndham Park.

    Kent also welcomed encouraging comments from Gladstone City Council chief executive officer Stuart Randle, who said housing approvals had progressively set records over the past three years. He said:

    The rate of approval reduced in about October last year and since that time has settled back at pre-LNG (2011) levels. The outlook is positive from a construction point of view as pre-LNG levels of housing construction will be insufficient to satisfy the region's long-term population growth forecasts.

    Kent said a report by the Centre for Environmental Management at Central Queensland University last year found that the impacts of all confirmed projects in the locality would see solid rental and sale prices increase over seven years or more. This was in contrast to previous booms of just two to three years.


    Online sustainability guide for home renovations

    It is an initiative of Sustainability Victoria and the state government

    The web-based tool calculates cost savings from making energy efficient home improvements

    Sustainability Victoria and the Victorian Government have launched a free online renovation planning resource program called "Smarter Renovations", which they say will guide energy efficient practices for all scales of projects. It will provide home renovators with interactive tools, information and independent advice on how to improve and maximise the energy efficiency of their building.

    The organisation says it developed the online tool to combat what they called the "knowledge gap in the home renovation market." According to a statement:

    There is little practical information available on energy efficient retrofits and renovations, or advice provided to help renovators go beyond minimum building standards (currently 6/10 stars).
    This results in missed opportunities which are crucial to the comfort and ongoing energy costs of living in the renovated house.

    The research released from Sustainability Victoria indicates that this lack of knowledge in Victoria's home renovations can be seen in wall and floor insulation as well as energy efficient lighting. Sustainability Victoria's research found the following:

  • 2/5 of Victorian renovators (40%) fail to fit wall insulation while almost 3/4 of Victorian renovators (72%) also fail to add floor insulation.
  • Almost 1/3 of Victorian homes (30%) do not have adequate door seals.
  • More than half of Victorian homes (56%) have inefficient lighting.
  • Only 1/4 of Victorian renovators (24%) chose to replace existing windows with double glazed.
  • The Smarter Renovations Planner tool attempts to addresses this knowledge gap by giving home renovators an accessible and free platform to calculate accurate cost savings that can be achieved by making different energy efficiency improvements. For example, improving insulation, windows or lighting, draught-proofing and upgrading appliances.

    Users of the online tool are asked five initial questions regarding the size, type of occupancy, location, material composition and aspect of their homes, before being delving deeper into the goals of their home renovation. It works by assessing the type of house, current energy needs and use, together with the renovation work being planned.

    Other key features of the Smarter Renovations program include:

  • "Your Guide to a Smarter Renovation", a consumer guide with comprehensive information and practical advice for novice and experienced renovators on how to incorporate energy efficiency improvements during a home renovation.
  • Renovation Profiles is series that details the experiences of several individuals during their home renovation projects, sharing their successes and challenges.
  • regions

    Building confidence in Toowoomba

    The industry continues to recovery well from the GFC

    The region is experiencing large increases in the number of construction projects

    Toowoomba's building industry is back in the black after nearly half-a-billion dollars worth of construction last financial year. The dollar value of unit construction increased from $40 million in 2012/13 to $160 million last financial year. Master Builders regional manager Tony Ryder told The Chronicle:

    That's a four-fold increase and the actual numbers of developments have gone up in a similar way. It has been fantastic for the construction industry. We have zoomed ahead. I've been with Master Builders for 10 years, and this has been the most residential construction I've seen.

    Ryder believes the council's unit incentive scheme has succeeded in injecting new life into the industry, despite criticism over the quality of developments it stimulated.

    He said the majority of developments were well-designed, but acknowledged several shockers had slipped through. Ryder said:

    I'll admit there have been some that are just atrocious. They're going to have problems down the track in terms of off-street parking, privacy issues and aesthetically.

    However, a tour of the region for the 2014 Master Builders Housing and Construction Awards revealed plenty that had gone above-and-beyond council's hopes. Ryder said:

    Some of our builders in town had their biggest year last year. It's a huge turnaround from the global financial crisis (GFC) and it's getting better month on month.

    The Master Builders Housing and Construction Awards will be announced on August 2, 2014.


    Apartment construction boom in inner-Brisbane

    A report from Urbis has made these findings

    The residential landscape is changing as apartments take a larger part of the market

    A new report by social and economic market research firm Urbis has found inner-Brisbane apartment construction is booming, with unprecedented levels of new stock about to hit the market.

    Analysts say about 5,500 apartments should be ready for sale in the second half of this year, following a record-breaking year for off-the-plan apartment sales in Brisbane last year.

    Urbis anticipates up to 45 new projects will be on the market by Christmas. The average weighted apartment price has risen almost $128,000 in the first quarter of 2013 to $665,000.

    The report predicts a levelling out by September with greater competition coming towards the end of the year. Urbis associate director Jon Rivera says the groundswell of apartment construction is revolutionising the Brisbane housing market and transforming the inner-city. He told the ABC:

    I think Brisbane is really going to turn into - not a sleepy town - it's going to turn into a major world class city.

    Luke O'Dwyer from Silverstone Developments says strong rental yields and Brisbane's affordability compared to other east coast cities is fuelling activity. He says:

    There are people from Sydney and Melbourne not only wanting to be investors but developers as well. That was not the case just a few years ago.

    Urbis says young professionals are increasingly seeking the convenience of low-maintenance, inner-city living. Down-sizers are moving in from the suburbs to pay off or reduce their mortgages as they head into retirement. Owner-occupiers are also returning to the apartment market with many developers now including three-bedroom units.

    Rivera says Australia is going through a revolution when it comes to housing stock.

    Sure we still have the dream of a white picket fence and the yard but this is a new cycle for our market that we haven't seen before.
    I think [it's] where our infrastructure is going, where our employment is going as well as technology - and also Generation Y is a big population group in Australia. I think apartments in terms of Australia are going to play a major part of our residential landscape, moving forward.

    The proposed BAT (bus and train) tunnel under the Brisbane River and the Queens Wharf redevelopment are among projects likely to enhance the appeal of fringe dwelling. Ground floor retail and restaurants in apartment complexes are seen as another drawcard.

    The groundswell of developments has lead to a cautionary note from market analysts. The report warns the volume of stock coming onto the market is unlikely to be absorbed in some areas and will cause a build-up of stock through 2015.

    Developers say completions will be staggered over several years and increasing constructions costs and peak prices for development sites may prevent some projects from getting off the ground.


    Bundaberg building approvals on the rise

    They have gone up by 176%

    This should trigger activity in other industries that rely on construction including hardware retail

    The number of building approvals for homes in Bundaberg (QLD) has increased by 176% compared to the same three-month period last year. Last year there were 42 dwellings approved in the three months leading to April while in the same period this year that number rose to 116.

    Housing Industry Association Queensland executive director Warwick Temby said despite starting from a low base, this was great news for the Bundaberg region. He told NewsMail:

    This is good news for lots of other industries. A lot of resources in Bundaberg have been diverted to the recovery from the flood so it was not surprising that new home building slowed. The other important thing is that there are plenty of reasons that the growth should continue for a good while yet.

    Bundy Homes co-owner Michael Randall said the figures were very encouraging.

    I think confidence is there and second hand house prices are coming up a bit too. Interest rates don't look like they will be moving north anytime soon and that is a big reason people are choosing to build. That means there has been some pent-up demand and that bodes well for the future.

    Randall said the building industry was a significant driver of the economy and when that went well, it brought other industries along with it. He also believes that after a year of strong growth in multi-unit building approvals in Queensland, the recovery focus is shifting to traditional detached homes. He said:

    The slowdown in multi-unit approvals is not unexpected as they have been at all-time highs in recent months. The growth in detached home building is also widespread across the state with the exception of Mackay and Rockhampton, where activity peaked earlier with the resources sector investment.

    Apex launches end user program

    It has been created for its industrial customers

    The company is providing hands-on technical expertise and service on-site

    Apex Tool Group has a new End User Specialist (EUS) program, which was developed to support industrial facilities and industrial tool distributors located throughout North America. The service-oriented program provides end users at manufacturing sites with greater access to Apex Tool Group products.

    End user specialists will drive fully outfitted trucks featuring 1,700 tools from the company's most popular hand tool brands including Armstrong, Campbell, Crescent, GearWrench, HK Porter, Lufkin and Nicholson. They will provide technical expertise, offer demonstrations, facilitate customer orders, provide safety seminars, resolve warranty related issues and conduct chain sling inspections.

    In addition, the trained specialists will work with operators to ensure they are using the correct tool for every application. Industrial customers will continue to purchase tools through their regular distributors. John Constantine, president of North America hand tools for Apex Tool Group says:

    The program demonstrates Apex Tool Group's commitment to supporting our distributors and customers in the industrial sector. Having on-the-ground support for the Apex Tool Group brand portfolio helps our distributors with sales and gives us another touch point with customers.

    The EUS program is currently launching in select regions of the United States. It will grow over time to include more than 30 specialists throughout the United States and Canada.


    New home activity in Hastings

    Prices are set to boom for sellers in the housing market

    It is a reflection of what is happening across the state in New South Wales

    Home approvals across Hastings Point in NSW are officially hitting a 10 year high. This is positive news for the local construction industry, and it reflects confidence in the market. Housing prices are also tipped to soar as the region continues to experience an under supply of existing properties for sale.

    The flurry of building activity is consistent with a record peak in new home approvals across New South Wales, the only state to buck the national trend and record an increase between February and March.

    The latest figures released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics have revealed a 58% increase in housing approvals in the past 12 months and are at their highest level since 2003. More than 51,000 new homes were approved across NSW, 4700 of those in March this year alone.

    New home approvals in Port Macquarie-Hastings topped 203 in February. This is attributable to a significant swing in market confidence post-GFC and with a change of government, according to Hastings building company general manager John Heagney. He told the Port Macquarie News:

    We have certainly noticed an increase in sales transactions and people coming to our builders who are looking to build. We have had a lot of interest and work at Brierley Hill and we are about to kick off in Crestwood Heights Estate...

    Heagney believes the wave of confidence in the local property scene will continue for the next 18 months as home buyers, sellers and builders regain trust in the market.

    Housing construction companies in Hastings have established a presence in several development hotspots including Innes Peninsula, Sovereign Hills, Thrumster, Ascot Park and Lake Cathie, all high growth areas expected to boost the building industry and increase infrastructure spending.

    The real estate industry is experiencing similar resurgence in confidence with agents working hard to meet the demand for housing stock.

    Real estate specialist Michelle Percival said the Sydney housing market, where buyers are simply priced out of the market, is driving the renewed confidence in regional real estate investment. She said:

    We have people moving here who are investing their superannuation as well as self managed retirees with their funds. There is also very strong return for investors in the rental market.
    I think the strength of the rental market is driving the sales market. We are experiencing huge demand for rental properties and this is because of the growth in our area with the hospital, the airport, Charles Sturt University and road upgrades. More people are relocating to Port Macquarie and choosing to rent before they buy.

    Changes to NT housing grant

    Existing homes axed from government grant

    The construction industry is expected to benefit from these upcoming changes

    The NT Government's First Home Owners Grant (FHOG) will soon be directed solely towards new dwellings. Currently a grant of up to $25,000 is available to assist with the purchase of new or existing homes in the Territory. But as of January next year, it will only apply to the purchase or construction of new homes.

    Treasurer Dave Tollner says the measure is aimed at stimulating construction and to encourage home buyers to take advantage of the government's new land release program. He told the ABC:

    By targeting the First Home Owners Grant towards the purchase of newly built homes, the grant is more likely to contribute to growth in housing supply and employment in the construction sector. This is a far better result than merely creating a churn in existing dwellings that is widely accepted as having an inflationary effect on the cost of housing.

    But a representative from the real estate industry's peak body says the decision is bad news for Alice Springs. Andrew Doyle, the southern delegate for the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory (REINT), says there hasn't been significant land release in Alice Springs for decades and he's doubtful that will change any time soon.

    They're putting all their eggs in one basket and looking to ensure that new construction is a driver but to have new construction as a driver, you've got to have a variety of land available and you've got to have a variety of new product available and that just isn't in the market.

    Alice Springs mortgage expert Richard Black says the announcement could cause a buying frenzy between now and the end of year, which could cause a temporary increase in home prices.

    There could be a bit of a spike between now and the end of the year, people will realise that they've got this time to get the money, and therefor the prices could go up. [But as of next year] there'll be less demand because there'll be less people able to buy those properties in the lower end of the property range, so therefor prices will potentially drop.

    Black says while the measure will make it more difficult for first home buyers in the short term, he believes the government's strategy is sound.

    I can see where they're coming from, the FHOG has just been a gift really for buying an existing property. I remember when they raised it from $7000 to $14,000 for an existing property and all it did was cause a frenzy where the price of existing homes went up, it didn't stimulate the economy in any way shape or form.

    Other changes (which will take effect from May 13) include the removal of the current property value cap of $600,000 and an increase of a thousand dollars to new home grants.


    HIA: Roseworthy should expand

    The development could have 26,000 new homes

    The Housing Industry Association calls for expansion of Roseworthy to go ahead

    A major township expansion of 26,000 homes north of Adelaide must go ahead immediately if South Australia is to avert a worsening jobs crisis, according to the Housing Industry Association.

    The proposed development at Roseworthy, would be completed over several stages and could eventually support up to 50,000 people over 30 years, creating more than 100,000 jobs. But the State Government says it will only consider a 2000-home township expansion but not the larger 26,000-home development first proposed.

    HIA SA regional director Robert Harding said the project could unlock a projected $12 billion of economic activity over the life of the project and create an anticipated 7500 construction jobs in the first 12 months. He told the Herald Sun:

    The proposal includes schools, community facilities, shopping centres and also land set aside for industrial and employment projects. It's been approved by council and has the support of the community.

    Harding said residential development must be embraced to create economic stability for the state:

    In the short-term while we make some structural changes in our economy, it really is the residential construction industry and the agricultural industry that has the best chance of improving the state's economic situation and the unemployment situation in the short-term and with a quick turnaround. This development will generate economic activity.

    Harding believes the development would help reduce the state's unemployment rate and create jobs in a region with a history of generational unemployment and that faces the impending closure of Holden's Elizabeth factory in 2017. He said:

    They've got 40% youth unemployment in the northern suburbs, and some people have experienced three or four generations of unemployment. Residential construction has an important part to play in changing that and we should not be ignoring the effect it can have. With this project, there has been a real effort to ensure that employment is located in the area.

    Light Regional Council chief executive officer Brian Carr said modelling showed construction of the full development would create an expected 119,000 jobs over the 30 years. Carr wants the Government to approve an expansion of 2000 homes as the first stage of a larger housing development. He said:

    This project up there ticks all the boxes and has tremendous vision...If you stage it, you can have stage one, but designed in such a way that you leave the door open to accommodate future expansions if demand is there. They are departing from that 30-Year Plan and we think that the concept that we've developed, put through a protective process, is the right solution for the region.

    Harding said the Government needed to embrace greenfill and infill developments:

    We support and encourage inner-city development but you've got to have a mix, not everyone wants to live in an apartment.

    Construction boom in Toowoomba

    It is driving new level of investment in city

    The latest construction projects can be sustained over the next two to three years

    Developer confidence in Toowoomba (QLD) is at all-time high, according to Aspect Architects Director Graham Secombe. He said the city's established infrastructure and facilities had made it an attractive market for investors. Secombe told The Chronicle:

    Toowoomba has been identified as an investment capital and with the number of major projects under way it has spurred a...wave of confidence.

    Not surprisingly, Bunnings is planning to build a new store in the region. (See related stories)

    Some of the construction projects currently underway in Toowoomba include:

    Sanctuary Rise

    Progress will soon begin on the first homes at Wilsonton housing estate, Sanctuary Rise. The 278-hectare estate will include space for 311 housing lots. The first stage of 68 lots sold out late last year with stage two now on sale.

    Wellcamp Airport

    The airport at Wellcamp is progressing well with construction of the runway and terminal on track for completion ahead of its September deadline.

    Neil Street bus interchange

    Work on the major upgrade of the Neil Street bus interchange is on track to meet its scheduled May completion date. The upgrade will make the interchange the central hub for bus and coach travel in Toowoomba. As well as improving coach bays and upgrading facilities, the interchange will also include a Greyhound Australia shopfront. Once complete it will be renamed the Toowoomba Bus Station.

    Dan Murphy's, Wilsonton

    Building the new Dan Murphy's at Wilsonton is expected to be completed in six weeks when it will be handed over for fit-out. The superstore should be open for business in early June.

    Margaret Street post office

    Construction of the Australia Post superstore is under way across from its original home. It is scheduled to open in May and will include 24-hour self-service parcel lockers as well as financial and travel services.


    Torquay housing development gets go-ahead

    Planning minister Matthew Guy made the final decision

    The contentious residential housing development in Spring Creek will now proceed

    The Surf Coast Shire had written to Planning Minister Matthew Guy urging him to limit the town's boundary to Duffields Road, thereby protecting the Spring Creek area from development. But the minister has agreed with an independent panel, which found the area is the next logical extension to meet population growth. Minister Guy says his decision is final. He says:

    Our view is that a low density style of growth should be allowed to occur in the boundary that is already there, the existing boundary, up to one kilometre west of Duffields Road. However, beyond that boundary the government is very firm that we should place measures to protect the existing low density lifestyle.

    Minister Guy says the council will now have to issue a structural development plan. There have been a number of community protests against the Spring Creek development but he does not expect a community backlash.

    The Mayor of the Surf Coast Shire, Rose Hodge, says the decision is disappointing. He says:

    This has been a difficult and complex issue, which has included extensive community involvement and strong views expressed. I know many people will be disappointed by the decision of the Planning Minister.

    Councillor Hodge says there is nothing the council can do to appeal against the decision. She says:

    The minister has the final say on all planning amendments in Victoria so the only available option to council and the community is to work with the decision that has been made.

    Some Torquay residents are also disappointed. Sid Pope from the 3228 Residents Association says Spring Creek should be left alone because there is enough room for growth north of Torquay. Pope says the development will increase congestion and there is no infrastructure such as sewerage and water there.


    Perth TV land to be used for housing

    The city council is making plans to rezone the land

    It presents opportunities for homebuyers and the hardware stores that service them

    Hectares of land just north of the Perth CBD that for decades has been set aside for use by television stations, could soon be opened up for housing.

    With Channel Seven planning to move out of the Dianella area within a year and the City of Stirling making plans to rezone all of the land where the city's three commercial stations operate from, homebuyers looking for real estate relatively close to the city could soon have a new option.

    Real estate expert David Airey believes the land could house thousands of people once developed and attract plenty of interest.

    Channel Seven, Nine and Ten are all located on large plots surrounded by about eight kilometres from the CBD. The media precinct is set on about 25 hectares of land which also takes in about five hectares of protected bushland in a Bushforever site.

    While Channel Seven has had its land rezoned for residential purposes, the other two stations are going through the process to achieve this.

    A proposal for rezoning which would allow for about 210 dwellings on and near the Channel Ten site is currently subject to public consultation. A combined Network Ten and Department of Housing site, on about seven hectares of land, has potential for about 30 dwellings per hectare.

    City of Stirling planning manager Fraser Henderson said a similar layout to that proposed for the Channel Ten land is also proposed for Channel 9.

    Real Estate Institute of Western Australia president David Airey imagined that the whole of the media precinct had the potential to house about 2000 people if developed. Airey expects a lot of interest in the land as there was potential for units and houses to be built on the land that is relatively close to the city. He says:

    It's a very, very good area, parts of it enjoy city views and other parts have exposure to inland views.

    Airey would also like to see land provided for local shops in plans for the area as there was "very limited infrastructure in the way of shopping and transport." While the area is close to the Mirrabooka Shopping Centre, there is little else in terms of shopping precincts and the area is serviced by buses, with no train lines nearby.


    Kickstart for Cairns building and construction

    An incentive program has delivered a $15.4 million benefit

    The incentives in the form of discounts were offered to a range of developments

    An incentive program designed to kickstart Cairns' ailing construction industry has delivered $15.4 million to the local economy and more money is expected to flow through in the coming months.

    Cairns Regional Council last year announced it would slash headworks charges for projects in the CBD that would be completed by November 2014 and generate jobs beyond the construction phase.

    Twenty-four projects were given the green light and received a discount of about $12 million in infrastructure charges.

    With nine months until the deadline, five projects worth a combined $15.4 million have already been completed while another 12 have started construction.

    The discounts, which range between 80 and 100%, were offered to a range of industrial, commercial and residential developments.

    Urban Development Institute of Australia Cairns president Adam Gowlett believes the incentive scheme allowed projects to proceed which might otherwise have been delayed. He says:

    The headworks component of a project does have an impact on a project's viability and so where the council offers discounts it can make a difference to a project commencing or being deferred until market conditions improve.

    Deputy Mayor Terry James believes the discounts were making a big difference in the building industry. He says:

    There was one particular developer who said he wouldn't have proceeded if it wasn't for the discount. There's not a lot of employment out there at the moment and this is helping until the economy picks up.

    Cr James says the council was expecting a flurry of activity as the deadline approaches.

    In 2011, the Val Shier-council slashed infrastructure fees for 32 construction projects, which added $43.5 million directly to the local economy.


    NSW government land for new housing

    There will be major projects to deliver more housing

    The state government will be using excess land to provide the new housing

    Surplus government land will be used to deliver tens of thousands of new homes under projects coordinated by UrbanGrowth NSW.

    Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard announced that UrbanGrowth, formerly known as Landcom, has been charged with initiating and overseeing major renewal projects to deliver much-needed housing. He says:

    Over coming decades these projects will deliver 60,000 homes in NSW for more than 150,000 residents and create 45,000 jobs while delivering up to $65 billion in Gross Regional Product.

    Hazzard said most of the projects were on surplus government land and UrbanGrowth NSW would instigate new sites for development by the private sector. UrbanGrowth would also work with other government agencies and councils to ensure new communities had the necessary transport, school, health and other services they needed.

    Hazzard said the government is investing billions of dollars in vital infrastructure to support growth, including $500 million through the Housing Acceleration Fund to unlock housing supply opportunities.

    Property Council of Australia NSW Executive Director Glenn Byres welcomed the new UrbanGrowth mandate, saying it made sense to leverage existing land banks and infrastructure projects to accelerate urban renewal. He says:

    These are the game-changing projects we need to start radically increasing housing supply and tilt the balance back in favour of the dream of home ownership.

    Melbourne housing lots to be released

    State Government to release 50,000 additional lots

    Most of the housing lots are situated in some of Melbourne's largest growth areas

    Victoria's planning minister announced that Melbourne's western, northern and south eastern growth corridors will benefit from increased land supply in 2014, in a move he hopes will boost confidence in the state's construction industry. It should also provide long-term benefits for hardware and building retailers in these regions.

    The Metropolitan Planning Authority has recently invited public comment on Precinct Structure Plans for 21,000 housing lots in Melbourne's south east growth corridor. Further land releases this year will be focused in the western and northern growth corridors.

    All of the 50,000 lots to be released will be within Melbourne's urban growth boundary, and no changes to the boundary are being proposed. Development contributions plans will apply to each structure plan, which will provide for extensive open space, community facilities and local infrastructure. Over 500 hectares of employment land will also be included within the structure plans.

    Planning minister Matthew Guy says they should stimulate competition in the marketplace and help make housing more affordable. He says:

    It is vital for the Victorian economy that our supply of land for housing growth is strong. This announcement complements other major projects that have been approved recently. I am pleased to be able to provide an economic boost for Victoria and to provide increased housing affordability through greater competition. More land supply will mean greater competition in the marketplace, driving lower lot prices for homebuyers.

    According to the minister, since the election of the current Coalition government in 2013, lot prices have declined by 15% from $225,000 to $191,000 in December 2013.


    Tradies can benefit from G20 renos

    However the tradies need to be very security conscious

    The G20 heads of government meeting in Brisbane can provide opportunities for tradies

    The department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has released a request for tenders to fit out Brisbane's G20 venues, including the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and airport, in line with the strict security measures needed for the event.

    Tenderers will be made to sign strict confidentially agreements not to "furnish any information, ... make any statement, ... or issue any document or other written or printed material" about the project, as part of their involvement.

    According to the tender requirements, extensive infrastructure will be required at a number of venues.

    This includes the Brisbane Entertainment and Convention Centre, which has been marked for a temporary re-design and fit out, as it will host the leaders' executive sessions, delegates' lounges and work areas, officials' offices as well as the international media centre.

    In addition, up to 180sqm of "marquees for transport and security operations" will be required at parts of the RNA showgrounds.

    Three VIP lounges will be created at the Brisbane Airport G20 terminal, as well as about 81sqm of marquees for the transport and security operations at that location. A further 4571sqm of marquees will be spread across nine earmarked Brisbane hotels.

    The G20 Taskforce has proposed the convention centre project start on October 21 and finish by November 11, while the hotels won't be inconvenienced by the changes until November 9, with contractors proposed to finish the changes within four days.

    No time frame has been given for the airport fit out.

    The summit will be held on November 15 and 16; dismantling of the works is to "commence immediately following the conclusion of the event and every effort shall be made to return the work areas to the venue as rapidly as possible".

    A briefing about the tender process will be held on March 17, with registrations for the briefing closing three days earlier.


    Expansion plans for Orange Homemaker Centre

    The retail site is set to be overhauled and remade

    Its new owners have major plans to modernise the centre with new retailers

    The latest owners of the Orange Homemaker Centre in NSW will be revamping the site with a number of national retailers. They paid $18.3 million for the centre.

    The Brisbane-based property syndicate Sentinel Property Group purchased the Mitchell Highway shopping precinct from AMP Capital and recently met with Orange City Council staff and mayor John Davis to flag its expansion plans.

    Sentinel managing director Warren Ebert says the 72,900sqm corner site currently houses a number of businesses including Bunnings, Harvey Norman, BCF, Recollections and Autobarn. It also has 10,430sqm of vacant land providing a future development opportunity.

    The company is already in talks with a number of tenants. Ebert explains that the retailers could be "complementary to the existing tenants". He says:

    All the tenants that are coming aren't currently in Orange. We've got plans to build 5000sqm of shops with a construction budget of around $6 million to $8 million. They'll all be homemaker businesses or bulky goods.

    Councillor Davis says he feels positive about the new ownership. He says:

    I think it's good for Orange to have this upgrade to the current businesses. They're keen to make the development and the individual business a success so they get a good return on their investment. They also believe that Orange offers enormous opportunities for growth into the future.

    North Lakes retail projects delayed

    Ikea and Westfield developments postponed

    These delays have curbed the plans of North Lakes becoming a major shopping hub

    Plans for Queensland's second Ikea have been delayed, while Westfield's $230 million expansion has also been held up as the retailer fights the local council in court for the right to charge parking fees.

    The North Lakes suburb has had tremendous growth over the past 10 years. It has a Westfield shopping centre, a Masters Home Improvement and the state's biggest Bunnings store, with Queensland's first Costco on track to open soon across from the hardware megastore.

    The combined might of Costco and Bunnings is expected to draw 6000 cars each day down their access road, with Costco providing 160 jobs in construction and 350 jobs once it's operational.

    Ikea country manager David Hood says the opening date for the big-box furniture store had been pushed back, putting it on the calendar for 2016 or beyond. He says:

    Because of the complexity (of the project) and construction-wise, I think it is a few years, or a couple of years away.

    Hood says the project was in the final stages of the design process, and part of the delay had been due to the planning difficulties of having two major stores in such proximity.

    Westfield's planned expansion, which would see an eight-screen cinema and 100 new retail stores added to its North Lakes centre, has also been pushed back. The shopping centre appealing a decision by council that would force them to offer free, unrestricted parking to staff and customers.

    Westfield corporate affairs manager Julia Clarke said the retailer had hoped the extension would be completed by the end of this year, but that was no longer the case.

    She says planning was a longer process than people realised, and Westfield was appealing for the right to place restrictions - including time limits and fees - on parking, although that was not necessarily planned for the centre's opening.

    A Moreton Bay Regional Council spokesman said an appeal had been lodged in the Planning and Environment Court regarding some conditions of the approval for Westfield expansion, with one of the conditions related to the provision of free parking spaces for staff and customers.

    North Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Matt Roue says the business community is eagerly awaiting the opening of Ikea, Costco, and the Westfield expansion.

    Moreton Bay Regional Council mayor Allan Sutherland says there had been "minimal" concerns from small businesses about big players moving into their turf, and most were happy the major retailers would bring a "critical mass" of new shoppers to the area.


    Construction steps up in Gympie

    Commercial projects are on the increase in the region

    The proposed Bunnings could contribute to the acceleration in commercial activity

    The Gympie region in QLD is experiencing a spike in construction value worth over $30 million. Master Builders' regional manager Michael Hopkins says the month of October saw the value of building works in the Gympie-Cooloola area reach $30.5 million, $20.5 million more than the monthly average.

    The positive news comes on the back of state-wide increases in building approvals, with figures back above the 10-year average. He says the improvement shows the building sector was "well and truly" into recovery mode after some tough years.

    However Hopkins believes that Gympie's silver lining was a different shade to that of much of the rest of the state, with the region's activity predominately coming from commercial development rather than residential.

    He attributes the growing interest in commercial building to the development of sites such as the recently opened University of the Sunshine Coast Gympie campus and the proposed Bunnings Warehouse in Gympie south. Hopkins says:

    The Bunnings' project has certainly got our members talking. The state of residential building is staying on par, but overall the value of construction in Gympie is trending upwards.

    On another positive note, Hopkins says the growth of commercial building projects in Gympie could possibly trigger increased residential building. He says the flow-on effect of commercial building was not only the creation of work for tradies, but long-term jobs within the commercial entities which could entice more people to settle in the region.

    Meanwhile, reports from the wider Sunshine Coast, in which Gympie is included, show a 150% jump in housing approvals. Hopkins says Gympie builders and tradies could also be getting a slice of that cake by travelling south for work opportunities.


    Tassie building grant starts to stimulate industry

    The $30k grant for first home builders is attracting applicants

    There has been an increased take-up of the $30k incentive from the State Government

    The Tasmanian State Government says there have been 23 successful applications for the $30,000 grant for first home builders since it was doubled on November 8, 2013.

    Figures obtained by the Mercury newspaper show that until December 16 there had been just five successful applications. However, there were 22 applications in the pipeline at the time, many of which had since been approved.

    As hardware retailers know, there is often a positive trickle down effect of new home building in the industry.

    Housing Industry Association executive officer Stuart Clues says builders have been telling him the $30,000 first home builders' boost had led to lots of business and contracts. He says:

    Builders have told me there are people also revisiting their plans to build and they are getting many calls.

    Wilson Homes operations manager Brant Webster says the firm has landed about 10-12 contracts from the scheme. He explains:

    The inquiry rate has increased about 400% and we are hoping that more contracts will come through from that.

    The $30,000 comprises a $7000 First Home Owners Grant, which will cease on June 30, plus a $23,000 First Home Builders' Boost. The doubling of the grant came after a subdued response to a $15,000 incentive in the December 2012 Jobs Package.

    At the time of the November increase, Master Builders Tasmania executive director Michael Kerschbaum says the industry was hoping it would result in an extra 200 to 300 houses being built in 2014.


    New projects boost Sydney construction

    The city will have improved conditions for construction

    There will be a rise mainly in residential projects but it will be tempered by labour costs

    The latest Rider Levett Bucknall Oceania report, for the fourth quarter, confirmed that the Sydney construction market's increase in confidence for new projects, both in early planning and construction-start stages, was set to continue in 2014.

    Bob Richardson, the managing director NSW for Rider Levett Bucknall, says increased residential apartment development activity across Sydney, due to strong pre-sale commitments, has resulted in key building projects for the mid-tier and larger contractors.

    He says the construction market in Sydney would remain competitive, but due to the possibility of increased workload, increases in materials cost and unstable exchange rates, it was likely the high discounts applied to projects from 2010-2012 would not be maintained.

    Completed commercial projects in recent months, include a 48,000sqm site at Erskine Park. Super Retail Group is using the site for its new distribution business to enable warehouse-to-retail outlet delivery across NSW for the company's eight major brands, which include Rebel, Supercheap Auto and Ray's Outdoors.

    It is part of Taylor Group's 120,000sqm worth of warehouse space developed in just over 12 months with a value of about $80 million.

    Mark Taylor, principal of Taylor Group, said in 2013 the group's industrial division also completed two bulky goods retail hardware outlets for Masters Home Improvement, 18,000sqm at St Mary's and another 18,500sqm project at Heatherbrae.

    Rider Levett Bucknall forecasts growth in construction costs in 2014 of 3.5% in Sydney. The firm's investigations over recent months have identified that selected steel products have risen 3%, formwork pricing increases of up to 5% are being seen, and selected hydraulic and air-conditioning materials have increased 10%.

    The recent RLB Crane Index found about 70% of the construction tower cranes across the Sydney skyline are being used on residential projects.

    In 2014, RLB forecasts non-residential opportunities will continue in the industrial, health and aged sectors. Construction contractors believe there is a capacity within the industry to service current activity levels. The non-residential sector continues to offer opportunities for smaller to medium-sized contractors.


    Canberra renovators do it for themselves

    ACT-based renovation company develop new market

    Inside Out Canberra has created the first renovation display home in the territory

    Mitch Neil and Adam Potts from renovation company Inside Out Canberra (insideoutcanberra.com.au) believe they have created the first renovation display home in the ACT. It is set up as an alternative to building new houses.

    They have turned one of the worst houses in the suburb of Monash into a stylish home to inspire potential renovators. Neil says they wanted to showcase the work they could do by renovating a run-down three-bedroom brick home into a modern, minimalist display home.

    The idea was that people wanting to renovate or extend can come in and get some ideas. There are lots of display homes, but not that have been renovated.

    But recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows investment in renovations in the ACT dropped 4.1% during the September quarter and 12.1% below the same period last year.

    Investment in new homes increased by 2.9% but multi-units dropped by 16.7%. Housing Industry Association economist Geordan Murray believes this slump was likely related to the federal election and future of the public service.

    Despite these figures, Neil and Potts who are both builders and brothers-in-law, are putting their faith in skills and family support. Their business includes Neil's mother, Karen, who is an interior designer, and his father, Kevin, the former boss of Swimming Australia and past chief executive of the Canberra Raiders.

    The home, which will also act as Inside Out's headquarters, has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living areas, a parents' retreat and an alfresco area.

    Neil says they created a contemporary industrial feel by using polished concrete as both a decorative and practical surface for bench tops, vanity tops, bathroom floors and the entertaining area.

    The home features a combined walk-in wardrobe and en suite for the master bedroom and doors open from the bedroom and the living area on to the entertaining deck.


    More members join local tool library

    It is based in the inner Melbourne suburb of Brunswick

    The idea of a tool library seems to be gaining traction in a more sustainable world

    The sharing economy has come to the home improvement industry as handymen and women in Brunswick (VIC) are sharing skills, knowledge and tools. In the process, they hope to be building houses and a better?community.

    Brunswick Tool Library co-ordinator Joleen Hess says the service, which launched in May, already has about 75 members actively borrowing tools. She says:

    A lot of people don't want to buy a lot of tools just to do one job that they need to do. It's great for people who only need to use tools occasionally, have limited space to store tools or have limited funds to buy tools.

    Operating similar to a book or toy library, the not-for-profit facility has helped many delayed projects get off the ground. Hess says:

    Sometimes the thing that holds people back is not having access to the right tools for the job. With a bit of guidance and the right tools you'd be surprised how much you can actually do yourself.

    Since its opening, and thanks to a tool drive in April, the library has acquired more than 220 tools, including hand tools, power tools, gardening tools, ladders and even a sewing machine. More donations are always welcome.

    Hess says the library offers workshops on how to use different tools and hosts a weekly Wood Working Wednesday session for members to get advice from other DIY enthusiasts. Annual membership is $60 and $40 concession.

    The Brunswick Tool Library is definitely not the first of its kind. Since opening in the summer of 2010, the West Seattle Tool Library in the US has built an inventory of more than 1,500 tools, signed up more than 1,000 members, offered many classes and served as the home of the Fixer's Collective and Ask an Expert night. It has been a model to many other tool libraries that have started in region and received positive media attention as an example of the type of sharing economy projects needed to make the world more sustainable.


    Home builder grants in Tassie

    The State Government is offering the $30,000 grants

    First home builders should be able to afford a deposit on a house and land package

    Premier Lara Giddings recently announced the government would double the first home builders' grant to $30,000, as a way of increasing take-up and providing a boost to the state's building industry. The grant is designed to have a knock-on effect for subcontractors such as plumbers, electricians and retailers to aid the economy.

    The average cost of building a first home in Tasmania was around $234,000 in 2012-13. The scheme will run until December next year.

    Fewer than 50 people are believed to have taken up the original first home builders' offer, which was increased from $7000 to $15,000 last year. Giddings says the scheme was now the most generous in the nation, ahead of the Northern Territory's offer of $25,000. She says:

    Tasmania already offers a lifestyle that is second to none and it is now amongst the cheapest places in the country to realise the great Australian dream of building a new home.

    Tasmania's Master Builders Association executive director Michael Kerschbaum welcomes the move, in light of a 40% drop in new home builds over the past three years. However, he warns that banks would not approve all building loans that used the grant as a deposit, if customers did not have a solid record of income and savings.

    GJ Gardner Homes' Launceston franchisee Chris Dell says his firm averaged 30 new builds a year, and looked forward to a boost from the increased grant. Jeremy Wilkinson, director of Launceston real estate agency Harcourts, believes the grant should also be extended for first home owners, not just builders.


    Brisbane's outer north experiences housing boom

    High demand for residential subdivisions north of Brisbane

    Region has a major infrastructure program, retail developments and a growing population

    Millions of dollars in transactions have been completed in the Moreton Bay Regional Council area as developers purchase land while investors and homeowners buy housing lots.

    According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the population of the North Lakes-Mango Hill area grew by 10% in the year to 2012 which was the largest growth in Greater Brisbane.

    With the population growth in the Moreton Bay region, there was plenty of development activity not just in the residential space.

    In addition to the infrastructure that has already been completed, the latest developments include the Bunnings facility in North Lakes is under construction, Westfield North Lakes is undergoing a proposed expansion and Costco is building a $35 million 14,000sqm megastore there.

    The $1.147 billion Moreton Bay Rail Link, which will deliver a brand new heavy rail passenger line between Petrie and Kippa-Ring, is also a massive driver of growth in the area.

    Colliers International's Brendan Hogan says he is involved in about $10 million worth of deals in Caboolture and nearer to Brisbane in North Lakes, Mango Hill and Griffin over the past six months.

    We're seeing renewed interest and real strength in the residential development site market at present. To say it's the best sector in the commercial market is probably a bridge too far at present but it's definitely a strengthening market.

    Hogan says he recently struck an off-market deal with Trask Development Corporation which paid $2.15 million for a 43-lot residential subdivision at 154 Kinsellas Road East, Mango Hill.

    He says the lots were all sold with settlements due to occur on the completion of the estate this month.

    This is clear evidence that the demand from buyers is well and truly there. This particular site at Mango Hill is one of the last remaining greenfield parcels in the growth corridor, so the buyer snapped it up as soon as we presented the opportunity to them.

    Hogan and colleague Pat George also sold a 3.6ha medium-density parcel at Griffin, a 3.9ha mixed-use residential parcel at Mango Hill, and a 2ha mixed-use site and 9.32ha residential development site both at Caboolture. He says they were sold on behalf of a variety of vendors and attracted significant inquiry.

    With all this infrastructure being built and employment being created, as well as the lifestyle on offer, especially with the Moreton Bay region being in such proximity to the Sunshine Coast, the residential market in the north of Brisbane is very buoyant, and consequently residential developers are seeing real value in these vacant sites. It really is a booming precinct - the North Lakes/Mango Hill/Griffin area is where all the activity is happening, and our residential project marketers are getting plenty of interest from buyers, both owner-occupiers and investors, looking for new homes and townhouses.

    Building set for steady rise in Far North

    The construction industry should be worth $1.64b annually by 2022

    However this forecast does not include proposals to build a major resort and bauxite mine

    Building and construction in Australia's Far North region should have slow but steady improvement from next year and will reach at least $1.64 billion a year by 2022.

    But the Future Workforce Analysis report by Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) and the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) Queensland does not take into account the proposed $4.2 billion Aquis resort at Yorkeys Knob and the government approval of a $1.4bn Rio Tinto bauxite mine.

    CSQ research and information manager John Cosgrove says the report was commissioned before the projects' announcements. "Both of these projects are very much in line with the expectations of the report, which expects to see a return to the core investment drivers for the region: tourism and resources," he says.

    Cosgrove, who will be briefing UDIA Cairns members, says he will summarise the findings of the report which provides a long-term, region-by-region assessment of the future of residential and commercial construction in Queensland. He says:

    Encouragingly, the region has consistently shown a resilience in terms of commitment to training, despite the very difficult times. While population growth for the region is not as strong as in other parts of the state, it is still forecast to grow measurably over the 10-year horizon of the report. This growth will come in cycles, leading to conservative forecasts of residential capital expenditure for the period. This is overlaid with expected commercial investment, which is anticipated to gradually strengthen. Taken as a whole, the report forecasts a slow but steady rise in total annual investment for the residential and commercial building sectors in the region from $1.25bn in 2012 through to a medium forecast of $1.64bn in 2022.

    While the past few years have been hard for the industry, a solid population growth forecast and rising business sentiment on the back of the resource boom is set to bring strength in the years ahead.


    Confidence for Gold Coast construction

    Major building projects are being planned for the Gold Coast

    The proposals, once approved, will be a significant boost for the local construction industry

    Government figures show the Gold Coast is responsible for 120 of the 360 state-wide major development applications filed in the first six weeks of the recently created State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA), which was designed to fast-track large projects.

    However, development interest groups say recovery in the construction industry was still dependent on the whether big banks were prepared to lend.

    Assistant minister for planning reform Rob Molhoek says the high number of applications from the Coast showed there was a sense of revival.

    It is understood recent major projects approved or in the pipeline for the Coast include a 51-storey highrise at Rawlins Street, Southport, progress on the $500 million Coomera Town Centre and an automotive training centre for up to 100 students at Currumburra Road, Ashmore.

    Urban Development Institute of Australia Gold Coast-Logan boss David Ransom says there had been increased activity in the development sector, which had slowly been ramping up since mid-last year.

    He says a change of attitude from the council and State Government, combined with optimism around the 2018 Commonwealth Games helped explain why the Gold Coast had a big proportion of the applications.

    Ransom says there is strong interest in the city for shopping centre developments, some affordable residential towers and small apartment projects. He says securing funding for the projects was still a challenge but it meant those vying for development approval were serious players.

    "There's still a challenge from the banks,'' he says. "Developers are looking for what's acceptable to the banks and the market."


    Stable signs for Mackay residential construction

    The North Queensland region has a thriving residential sector

    Statistics show that Mackay construction industry is strong compared to other areas

    An Australian Bureau of Statistics report shows Mackay only had a 1% decrease in construction business ownership compared to South Brisbane, which had a decrease of 14% between 2006 and 2011.

    Business owners in construction also increased in Ipswich by 1%, Darling Downs-Maranoa by 3% and outback Queensland by 11%.

    REDC (Regional Economic Development Corporation) deputy chief executive officer Amanda Camm agrees the construction industry, particularly the residential sector, is thriving in Mackay. "Certainly housing construction led the state for last few years," she says.

    "There's been lot of employment opportunities in that sector. There's also been an influx of construction workers from areas like the Gold Coast where housing construction had slumped."

    Camm says there are a number of housing developments in progress in Mackay. "There's certainly a lot of house developments in Andergrove and the Northern Beaches areas," she says. "With the number of houses being constructed we're looking forward to how that will impact on supply, availability and then price."

    Master Builders Mackay and Whitsunday regional manager Malcolm Hull says overall he is happy with how the industry is doing. "We encourage people to use a local builder with local knowledge and links to the city," he says.