Construction industry seeks staff as building approvals soar

Approvals for new homes are leading a construction boom in Far North Queensland and more tradies are needed to cope with demand.

According to Conus Business Consultancy Service’s latest Trend Series, the number of residential building approvals for Cairns and surrounds in the year to December 2020 climbed 144% compared to the same period the previous year – the highest level since May 2008.

The region outshone both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in terms of percentage growth.

*At a local government level, trend approvals were up 91% in the Cairns and Douglas Council areas, while the Cassowary Coast Regional Council saw a rise of 71%.

The highest growth, however, came in the Tablelands and Mareeba Shires, up 128% combined.

Far North Queensland Manager for Master Builders, Sharon Vella, told Tropic Now renovations worth over $150,000 are also up by 19% due to a range of factors, including the Federal Government’s grants for new builds.

“There is a lot of it off the back of the government’s incentives, but interstate migration is also going to keep us very active and because people are spending more time at home, they're more focused on improvements,” she said.

“Everybody in the industry is busy, and it has led to longer lead times (the time between initiation and completion of a project).

“However, we’re coming off a low base because we didn’t recover from the global financial crisis, so this puts us back in line with where we were in 2006/7.

Record low interest rates and bulging savings accounts are also throught to be fuelling construction.

According to Cairns Regional Council figures, it’s approved 503 new dwellings to date this financial year, an increase of 71% on the same period last year.

In January alone, 102 single dwellings were approved, almost double the 53 approvals in January 2020.

Approvals for garages and carports are also up by 130 this financial year, while even swimming pool builders are busy, with 258 new pools approved.

Ms Vella said tradies from other states are moving to the region to take advantage of local opportunities, but many more are needed.

“We’ve had builders, carpenters, even fire wall certifiers move into the region,” she said.

“One builder said to me he’s got a million bucks in his pocket and he’s going to build a retreat.

“Now is a fabulous time to get into construction.

“There is a decent pipeline available for people that do want a trade and there’s also incentives for employers to take on apprentices.

“In fact, a lot of airline baggage handlers have come across and have picked up adult apprenticeships.”

* The ABS's stastics area for the Cairns Region takes in land covered by the Local Government Areas of the Tablelands, Douglas, Cassowary Coast and Cairns but the boundaries slightly vary.