Building decline shakes North

CONSTRUCTION decline has been felt most in the North of the state and looks likely to continue in the near future.

The concern for the industry is so great that in a recent meeting between Master Builders Association of Tasmania executive director Michael Kerschbaum and Treasurer Peter Gutwein, Mr Kerschbaum requested any planned government projects in the North be moved forward to try and alleviate further pain.

It lines up with figures in the 2014-15 State of the Regions report, which shows both the North and Hobart/South regions have seen the brunt of the decline in non-residential projects.

However, the South is looking at a pretty good recovery.

According to the report, the North experienced a decline of 37 per cent in the value of non-residential developments between 2009-11 and 2012-14, while Hobart/South saw a decline of 32 per cent.

The North-West experienced a decline of 12 per cent.

‘‘It’s hard for those in the North because they’ve been doing it so tough for such a long time already,’’ Mr Kerschbaum  said.

‘‘The residential side has picked up a little and overall it’s a little bit better now than it was last year.’’

Mr Kerschbaum said unlike the South where large projects were on the horizon including Parliament Square, Myer, two Bunnings stores, University of Tasmania accommodation, Macquarie Wharf No.1 and the eventual completion of Royal Hobart Hospital, there was not the number or scale of projects happening in the North.

The number of projects was expected to see many Northern builders head South, as well as draw some from interstate.

Mr Kerschbaum said unlike large industries which might retrench 30 or 50 people in one go, job losses from the building sector were smaller and spread over a longer period but still substantial.

He said he knew of many businesses closing, older owners retiring, and subcontractors leaving the state because work dried up.

He said commercial contractors were being extremely competitive, making barely any margin on the jobs they did to stay afloat.

Mr Kerschbaum said employment in the industry in the state had gone from about 11,000 in 2000 to 22,000 in 2011, declining to about 16,000 in recent years.

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