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Construction Back to Work After Covid Boilover


Thousands of Victorian construction workers will be back on the tools from next week as building sites reopen under strict public health orders, including a new vaccination mandate.

The move follows a tumultuous two-week shutdown prompted by rising numbers of Covid cases across the sector.

Effective from Tuesday, larger construction sites can have up to 25 per cent of workers onsite and on smaller scale projects up to five workers and a supervisor are able to be onsite.

Workers must have had a least one dose of Covid vaccine and carry an authorised workers permit.

If all workers are fully vaccinated and crib rooms “meet best practice” large-scale construction sites can have up to 50 per cent of their workforce onsite. Projects on the state critical infrastructure list will operate at 100 per cent as long as crib rooms follow best practice guidelines.

Under the government’s new construction sector roadmap, the industry and its workers must adhere to a raft of new measures to ensure they can reopen sites and remain open.

Every construction site in Victoria must have a designated fully-trained Covid marshal to ensure compliance with the chief health officer’s directions.

Prior to reopening, operators will be required to attest that they have implemented the directions and every site will need to have an up-to-date vaccination register available for compliance checks at all times.

Teams of authorised workers will conduct checks to enforce the directions, and penalties will be in place for builders and site operators that do not comply—including site shutdowns for significant or repeated breaches.

“We’ve worked really hard with the industry to ensure they can reopen safely,” Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas said.

“But the message is clear: we won’t tolerate it operating in a way that puts the rest of our community at risk.”


▲ Victorian building sites are set to reopen under strict public health guidelines, including a new vaccination mandate.

The recent shutdown and protests followed the Victorian government issuing a mandate requiring all construction workers to have had at least their first Covid vaccine dose by September 23.

In ugly scenes, hundreds of angry hi vis-clad “rogue” demonstrators stormed the streets of the locked-down Melbourne CBD sparking the deployment of riot police, who used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to control the hostile crowd.

It was conservatively estimated the abrupt site closures and resulting project delays would cost the industry $1 billion a week but some experts believed the total damage bill could be more than $6 billion.

Australian Constructors Association chief executive Jon Davies welcomed the Victorian government’s decision to reopen construction sites from Tuesday.

“The Victorian government has worked closely with the ACA and other industry stakeholders to determine the best way for the industry to show full compliance with the public health measures and directions,” Davies said.

“A tightening of protocols has been part of the solution, along with vaccination requirements. The key to putting an end to restrictions and lockdowns is vaccination.”

Under the new construction sector roadmap, subject to continued high levels of compliance by the industry, workforce caps will progressively increase.

When 70 per cent of Victoria’s population is double vaccinated, large-scale construction projects will return to 100 per cent onsite workforce. All worksite caps will be removed when the state reaches its 80 per cent vaccination target.

All onsite workers must be fully vaccinated by November 13.

Fully-vaccinated workers can travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria in order to work onsite.


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Industrial Property

Fears Wharf Strikes Will Bring Construction to its Knees


The construction industry has been dealt another blow as industrial action cripples ports across Australia, adding pressure to an already constrained construction materials supply chain.

The Maritime Union of Australia has launched strike action at Patricks Wharfs at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle, in a campaign for pay rises and increased union control of manning levels and hiring.

Port Botany wharfies in Sydney will strike next weekend, while Melbourne wharfies plan to strike every second day in October.

Master Builders Australia chief executive Denita Wawn has condemned the industrial action, which she said would paralyse the industry.

“More than $10 billion in building products was imported in the past 12 months and these strikes will hammer the building supply chain which is already under huge pressure,” Wawn said.

“Our members are already experiencing long delays and substantial cost increases due to product shortages and these strikes will make it even harder for building and construction businesses across the country.

“There’s absolutely no doubt these strikes risk hurting the recovery from Covid as governments around the country are harnessing the building industry’s economic multiplier effect to accelerate economic activity and growth.”

Container ships have been waiting up to 18 days at berth in Sydney as a result of the industrial action while negotiations have stalemated once more.


▲ Freight times on construction materials will be pushed out as ships sit in berth for up to 18 days during industrial action. 

The property industry has underpinned Australia’s Covid-19 economic recovery and produces about 13 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

It has been grappling with steel and timber shortages as a result of global supply chain issues and the tailwinds of the HomeBuilder stimulus package fuelling a construction boom.

According to the Housing Industry Association, 82 per cent of builders are reporting delays with supply or trade, and there is about a 15-week lead time on timber trusses and frames, but this could blow out significantly with port industrial action.

Patrick Terminals chief executive Michael Jovic said the company had been in negotiations with the Maritime Union of Australia since February 2020, and they had an offer on the table for a 2.5 per cent pay rise over the next four years.

The ongoing industrial dispute has reportedly cost Patrick Terminals more than $15 million in revenue, which the union has rejected, while impacting supply chains across the country.

Wharf industrial action was also brought to the Fair Work Commission at this time last year, where claims were made it was delaying supply chains by up to three weeks.

But supply chain disruptions to the construction industry are likely to persist beyond the middle of 2022, according to a global risk survey released recently.

The Oxford Economics survey found one in eight businesses surveyed this month said they had been “severely affected” by supply chain interruptions, and half of respondents said they expected the Delta outbreaks to affect their businesses well into next year.

The Property Council of Australia said labour and material shortages driving up the cost of construction jobs and disruptions caused by the pandemic had delayed projects. Material shortages are at their worst in four decades.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is already investigating reports of price gouging in the shipping industry, and is due to release its annual stevedoring monitoring report in November.


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New Home Builds to Remain High Until 2022

New Home Builds

Construction of new homes will be strong well into next year as new home sales increased 5.8 per cent in August.

However, meeting this demand will continue to challenge the construction sector as it deals with lengthy material delays and cost hikes.

This was likely to extend until 2022 as developers rush to meet demand for new homes.

For August, sales in Queensland increased 44.3 per cent, NSW 17.9 per cent and South Australia was up 64.3 per cent, according to HIA new home sales data.

The results were worse for Victoria, down 10.8 per cent, and in Western Australian where activity also dropped, by 11.8 per cent.

The report showed that while buyer activity was rising, it was 15.5 per cent lower than in the three months to August last year during HomeBuilder, but well above 2019 levels.

Private new house sales in Australia 

New Home Builds

HIA economist Tom Devitt said new home sales remained strong in August, albeit not at the record levels prior to the end of HomeBuilder in March 2021.

“The strength in new home sales in recent months indicates that the boom in detached home building will continue to create strong employment opportunities into the second half of 2022,” Devitt said.

“A more reasonable timeframe for comparison is the same period in 2018 and 2019, before the adverse impact of Covid-19 and the stimulus from HomeBuilder.

“In the past three months sales were 15.4 per cent higher than at the same time in 2019 and 4.5 per cent higher than the same time in 2018.”

Comparing the results to before the pandemic, in the three months to August, Western Australia was up 60.0 per cent, followed by NSW up 28.1 per cent and Victoria 6.7 per cent compared to 2019.

Queensland was down 1.5 per cent for the same period and South Australia was 15.2 per cent down.


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Brookfield brings forward Rivello, Hamilton construction start after quick 80% apartment sales success


Brookfield Residential Properties’ managing director Lee Butterworth said the building program had been brought forward by six months

Construction of Brookfield Residential Properties’ Rivello apartment tower in Hamilton on the Brisbane River will start in October.

The commencement is six months earlier than scheduled after $118m in sales were secured within weeks of the development’s August launch.

More than 80 per cent of the 150 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, sub-penthouses and penthouses in Rivello have been sold off-the-plan.


Rivello 15 Wharf Street, Hamilton QLD 4007 

The sales include two penthouses at $5.5 million each at the 15 Wharf Street, Hamilton project.

Urban reported on its launch that it had been the higher end apartments in the $147 million, 21-level building designed by Cottee Parker Architects which had been among the first to sell.

Brookfield Residential Properties’ managing director Lee Butterworth told the Courier Mail it was “a significant achievement to reach this sales milestone so quickly.”

“It is a credit to the lifestyle-centred design and desirable Brisbane River position, together with the exceptional demand in the market.”

Two bedroom apartments were priced from $605,000.

Completion is now scheduled in late 2023 with Brookfield noting the availability of building supplies had been factored into the development program by the Tomkins Commercial and Industrial Builders.

Rivello is the ninth building to be developed at Portside by Brookfield.

The new building will be developed on a 2,829 sqm site, neighbouring Brookfield Residential Properties’ most recent residential projects – Gallery House One and Two.


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