Building slump 'worse than GFC'

THE Border construction industry is going through a tougher time now than it did during the recent global financial crisis.

Australian Industry Group regional manager Tim Farrah said the multimillion-dollar construction sector was shielded somewhat from the GFC by a large number of government-funded infrastructure projects.

They included defence project spending at the Bandiana and Kapooka military bases and large projects at Charles Sturt University’s Thurgoona campus.

The federal government Building Education Revolution stimulus program also acted as a buffer.

But Mr Farrah said smaller sub-contractors were the most vulnerable in the slowdown.

“A lot of the subbies who are working on those sites, carpenters, plumbers, tilers, are really struggling for work,” he said.

“They are going all over the place, to the coast or wherever, to find work.

“It has become really competitive with no margin.

“Everybody is working for wages to try to keep their staff on.”

This week’s collapse of Procorp has again brought the construction industry into focus.

Construction accounts for 7 per cent of the Albury-Wodonga workforce with the latest boom being in 2007-08 when 171 new projects were under way, according to an economic indicators report compiled by Albury Council in September last year.

Projects dropped to 100 a year later and recovered to only 119 in the 2010-11 financial year.

The number of dwelling approvals dropped from 732 in 2008-09 to 537 in 2010-11.

Mr Farrah said a booming construction industry flowed through to other sectors such as retail but “things are pretty flat at the moment”.

“The residential side of things has been flat for a while, but we haven’t felt it because there has been that good commercial stuff happening.

“Private investment in construction nationally has been dead since the GFC.

“Locally we were lucky with what was going on at the time.”