Tower cranes have once again begun to bristle on Auckland's skyline as the construction sector hits better times.
From Remuera to Ponsonby, at Auckland University and down into the CBD bowl, at least eight tower cranes are hauling heavy materials on to constrained sites for a hotel, offices, apartments and education buildings in the $11.7 billion sector.
Mansons TCLM has two towers on the corner of Graham St and Victoria St West across the road from Telecom's HQ on the hill above Victoria Park Markets.
Mansons just sold Sir Russell Coutts its Oracle House but opposite, at 151 Victoria St West, the family is putting up a 20,000sqm office block with huge floor plates of 3,000sqm to 3,500sqm, designed to be energy-efficient, Green Star-rated with high-tech glazing systems.
"We need two cranes because it's a massive building," said Culum Manson, explaining that the dark blue Australian-made Favco crane was one of two Mansons bought from Mainzeal's receivers.
Mansons bought the silver and white German Hammerhead on that Victoria St West site in Singapore last decade, he said.
The business expects to erect its second ex-Mainzeal Favco on a city apartment site it wants to start early next year.
Auckland had a severe shortage of top-grade commercial office space, many tenants wanted to move and Manson predicted many more cranes going up shortly.
"There'll be another half a dozen in the next six months. We're going to see a massive spike in construction costs and activity. Costs will go up because of the demand," Manson predicted.
The two Victoria St West cranes could build up to eight levels before they were tied in or attached to structures, Manson said. After that, they could then go to any height as they crawled up the structures they create because sections could be added.
Up towards Spaghetti Junction, Kalmar Construction has a tower crane on the $250 millon Sugartree apartment site between Nelson St and Union St. The first block rising there will have 148 units, the second 220 and the third 195 units.
Chris Dibble, real estate consultants Colliers International's research manager, said cranes were a good sign.
"There is definitely more construction activity in the pipeline than we have seen for a few years, but it is coming off a low base. Net migration, population projections and business and consumer confidence are the key components that are building this momentum," Dibble said. "The revisions to previous GDP results which are expected to show higher levels of construction activity than previously thought suggests there has been more activity than was originally reported."
Investor confidence in the Auckland office sector had increased in the September quarter reaching 63 per cent, up from 36 per cent a year ago. Colliers found.
"This is the most confident investors have been since our records began in 2006," Colliers said. "The boost in confidence is a reflection of stronger fundamentals. Improving business expectations for the next 12 months should mean more new businesses and more expansion by existing businesses."
On Ponsonby Rd at the LOT 3 retail, office and studio development, Canam Construction is swinging its big rig between old buildings.
General manager Andrew Clark said the firm owned its crane, shipped back from Port Moresby where it was hauling equipment for a new hotel. Clark estimated the crane was 30m to 40m high, equivalent to a 13-level building, and said it would stay until around next March, bringing on pre-cast concrete panels, steel and other construction components.
"The market is definitely getting better," Clark said of the spectre of a crane-dotted Auckland skyline.
A crane is on the top of the old Reserve Bank building on the Commerce St/Gore St corner, as hotel owners CP Group strip out the old structure and convert it into a luxury hotel for French-headquartered Accor.
Fletcher Construction has the biggest crane in the CBD, working on the university's $200 million science upgrade and expansion at its city campus.
A crane will soon be up on the Fonterra site, on the Halsey St/Fanshawe St corner and cranes have been working on New Lynn and Manukau apartment towers. Watts and Hughes has a tower crane on a Remuera Rd site. Vinegar Lane, Ponsonby's new supermarket, retail, office and apartment project, will soon sprout three cranes: two on the main Cider Building and one on the residential site.
The ANZ Business Outlook survey out this week showed business confidence holding at the highest level in more than 14 years, led by a surge in sentiment among retailers and a happier agricultural sector. Expectations for hiring, investments, activity and pricing were all up.
A net 60.5 per cent of firms expect business conditions to improve in the year ahead, up from 53.2 per cent last month.