The number of tower cranes at work nationally and in Auckland has fallen as major commercial jobs finish.

The latest RLB Crane Index shows that nationally, numbers are down for the first time since 2017. And in Auckland, the number is down for the first time since the study began in 2014.

"The number of cranes standing tall across New Zealand cities has eased slightly from the record numbers seen six months ago," said a statement from cost management, quantity surveying and advisory services business Rider Levett Bucknall.

Director Chris Haines said the number of cranes in Auckland fell by three between the second and third quarters of this year, because 36 were removed while 33 new long-term cranes went up.

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Nationally there were 17 fewer cranes because of 68 removals and 51 additions in the latest quarter, according to the RLB Crane Index.

The study started in 2014, offering a snapshot of the construction industry's workload by studying the movement of long-term tower, fixed and crawler cranes.

The RLB Crane Index is released quarterly. Photo / Greg Bowker
The RLB Crane Index is released quarterly. Photo / Greg Bowker

"While we've experienced an easing of crane numbers across New Zealand for the first time since 2017, and Auckland's crane count is also down for the first time since 2014, overall construction activity remains strong and at record levels," Haines said.

"There has been a noticeable increase in infrastructure spending and projects with 22 long term cranes now on projects nationwide, particularly in Auckland, which has more than 90 per cent of the country's long-term civil cranes. This is a strong pipeline of work ahead for rail, water, runways, busways and public realm type works," he said.

The slight fall in crane numbers was attributed to progress on mega building projects, with RLB citing the dawning completion of the $1 billion Commercial Bay on Auckland's waterfront, Scentre Group's $795m Westfield Newmarket and SkyCity Entertainment Group's $703m NZ International Convention Centre.

"There are limited future building projects of similar scale to back-fill these in the current pipeline," RLB said.

The quarterly study shows NZ crane numbers. Source / RLB Crane Index
The quarterly study shows NZ crane numbers. Source / RLB Crane Index

New Zealand had 131 long-term cranes in this year's third quarter: Auckland had 95; Queenstown 10; Christchurch nine; Tauranga and Wellington six each; Hamilton four; and Dunedin one.

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Of all the cranes counted, 54 were on residential sites, down slightly from 56 previously, highlighting the volume of new apartments rising.

Haines noted that one of the largest North Island crane businesses, Tower Cranes NZ, went into receivership last month. Most of its cranes had since been sold to contractors and other operators, he said.

"The slight drop in crane numbers for the first time is in contrast to the volume of work put in place in Auckland for the 12 months to June. Total volume grew 20 per cent from the previous 12 months, now totalling $10.1b. Increases were seen in both the residential and non-residential sectors, with increases in work of 16 per cent and 28 per cent respectively," Haines said.

Auckland now has cranes up on AUT's Wakefield St student accommodation project; the Auckland City Mission's new accommodation shelter; at the new Ormiston town centre; Foodstuffs' new headquarters near the airport; and at Precinct Properties' 10 Madden St in the Wynyard Quarter, RLB noted.

"The suburbs and surrounds contributed 80 per cent of new residential cranes spread across the region. New project sightings include at Browns Bay, Epsom, Grafton, Herne Bay, Mission Bay, Mount Albert, Mount Roskill, Orakei and Remuera," RLB said.

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