Building boom blows out wait times

JRZ Homes' Mitch Gibson, Jack Bartholdt and Brendan Wales working at the Gooburrum Grange estate. Picture: AARON GOODWIN

By Aaron Goodwin

A boom in the construction of new homes, combined with the migration of people ‘down south’ to Bundaberg, has tradies being unable to keep up with the demand.

In Bundaberg, building approvals for new housing and house related constriction, soared 121 percent in the last financial year.

That’s compared to a 68 percent rise across the Wide Bay region.

The amount of apprentices in training is also up 121 percent in Bundaberg.

In the December 2020 there were 250 apprentices in training, up 121 percent on 2019’s average.

Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) is offering Wide Bay construction workers access to $1.1 million of funded training, in a bid to meet the increased demand for skilled workers.

CSQ research director Robert Sobyra described the situation perfectly, saying it’s either a feast or famine of work in the sector.

Right now it’s a feast that nobody can keep up with.

”It’s pretty crazy actually,” Mr Sobrya said.

”I was in Bundy a few weeks ago talking to a few developers, Bill Moorhead and others.

”Their just like we’re moving stock like we’ve never moved before, it’s insane.

”This is extraordinary growth and it is coming up a time when the supply chain the labourers, the trades, materials has cased up for a whole bunch of reasons, not just Covid-19.

”The 2019-20 Australian bushfires burned down a whole lot of pine forests, which has contributed to a timber shortage.

”The Covid-19 induced import restrictions on things like electrical conduits, steel and things like that, has grounded everything to a halt.

”At the same time we’ve had this problem where there’s simply not enough labour.”

Mr Sobyra said while it’s encouraging to see the big uptick in apprentice numbers, apprentices are a long term solution to an immediate need for skilled workers.

”It takes builders a bit of time and investment to make apprentices productive,” Mr Sobyra said.

”These guys will be really useful in a year or two but it won’t solve this immediate issue, this labour crunch.

”Unfortunately there’s no solution to it because the best solution is bringing new tradesmen into the region and that’s not happening.

”What has to happen is projects take a little bit longer.”

Director of JRZ Constructions Jesse Zielke said the approval figures are great for Bundaberg’s construction sector, off the back of essentially, ‘a decade of negative growth’.

”The grants have brought forward a lot of new home construction in our region, which is replicating the approval figures,” Mr Zielke said.

”It’s been great for the local industry but there’s challenges around material supplies, labour supplies and the cost of both of items gong up through supply and demand.

”We are having labour issues but the way I see it, if there was more labour, we probably wouldn’t have enough material.

”So it’s probably sitting at capacity for labour and materials at the moment, which is causing a lot of delays.

”When building a house used to take six months, it’s probably 120 percent longer now.”

RE/MAX Precision owner Scott Mackey said from the activity he’s seeing, he is not surprised by the 121 percent increase in housing approvals.

”There’s a flow-on effect for people buying existing property, obtaining a building and pest report or there’s a few things that might need to be done,” Mr Mackey said.

”Normally someone would be able to do in a week or two within signing the contract.

”Workers are saying they can’t get there until next year.

”You’ve got builders, plumbers and sparkies needing more workers, to be able to get more jobs .

”The timelines have just blown out and from what tradies are saying, the issue is they’re waiting on parts.”

Mr Sobyra is encouraging open conversations between builders and their clients, about the delays that are being experienced across the industry