Industry suffers work shortage

BUNDABERG’S building industry is surviving on government-funded building projects as it feels the pinch of a statewide downturn, according to local tradespeople.

Bundy Homes director Michael Randall said home starts for his company had slumped dramatically from 33 last year to eight this year.

“And (our result) is still substantially better than any other building company in Bundaberg,” he said.

Mr Randall predicted a further downturn could occur as the Federal Government’s stimulus package building work ended, and yesterday’s Reserve Bank decision to increase interest rates further eroded consumer and home-building confidence.

He called for the re-instatement of the $21,000 first homeowners grant.

Christensen Industries construction manager Dale Christensen said his firm was insulated at the moment because it did mainly industry and commercial work, but he said it was “definitely quieter” and he was concerned about work next year.

“A lot of other subcontractors are ringing me for jobs,” he added.

Dale Robinson, managing director of Gainsite Plumbing and Gas, also said the industry was flat.

“Everyone’s running around and looking for work all over the place,” he said.

The drop in house building has also been reflected in the Building Services Authority’s figures for housing insurance in the region, which have plunged from 6112 in the 2008-9 year to 4674 in 2007-8.

And the latest Master Builders Survey of Industry Conditions has reported substantial job shedding across Queensland as available private projects and government contracts are completed.

According to the survey, a third of businesses in the Queensland construction industry have cut jobs in the past quarter, adding to the loss of almost 24,000 full-time jobs since August last year.

Master Builders Wide Bay-Burnett regional manager Tony Mitchell said the survey confirmed confidence in the region had been subdued due to rising interest rates and tight financial conditions.

“There are signs that the availability of finance is slowly improving, although the increase in interest rates by the RBA (yesterday) has the real potential to dampen consumer confidence further,” he said.

“Prior to this, there had been some positive indicators for building approvals throughout the region and Master Builders was quietly confident that this trend would continue. It was expected that conditions would stabilise and then improve.”