Construction halts on Darwin development amid 'deteriorated' market


June 16, 2016 13:27:44

About 30 tradies are set to lose their jobs after a Darwin-based developer halted work on a complex of 92 apartments that began construction in September.

Local company Sunbuild on Wednesday notified workers at its Nightcliff development Seabreeze that construction was being stopped.

The company’s managing director, Neil Sunners, told 105.7 ABC Darwin the redundancies had been “pretty out of the blue” for many workers.

“It was pretty hard,” he said.

Mr Sunners said the decision would affect about 27 on-site workers plus several other associated employees.

This would slash the company’s overall workforce by two-thirds and leave the construction site, on a prominent residential street in Darwin’s northern suburbs, at 20 per cent completion until further notice.

Mr Sunners said the company “was hoping to find some magic” for the project’s completion in coming months, however it had already filled in a large on-site construction pit with concrete.

Construction halted amid saturated market

The Seabreeze development consisted of 92 two-bedroom apartments, 800 square metres of commercial space for retailers or restaurants, and three levels of car parking.

Mr Sunners said the decision to halt construction was led by Darwin’s dwindling real estate market and flat pre-construction sales.

He also pointed to the Top End’s post-Inpex high and the many other Darwin apartment complexes that had cropped up to cater to the Japanese gas giant’s major offshore project Ichthys.

“[The market] has sort of deteriorated a bit since we kicked off,” he said.

Construction on Seabreeze began in September.

Industry experts have been warning of a depressed and oversaturated market for at least 18 months, with Deloitte economists early last year predicting “a huge construction cliff is quickly approaching for the Territory” due to a swirl of factors at play.

In February businesses associated with the local construction industry remarked that “grown men are crying” due to a lack of trade jobs.

Both the NT Government and Opposition last month announced policies and budget provisions giving incentives to the construction industry, including home renovation “vouchers” to stimulate local trade jobs and businesses.

Mr Sunners initially told 105.7 ABC Darwin on Thursday morning that the current conditions in the Top End were “probably the worst” he had seen in 22 years of company operation.

However, he then recalled conditions 16 years ago.

“[The year] 2000 was pretty horrific up here. We had some people really desperate for work. When I think about it, it’s not as bad as that time,” he said.

“We all try and [forget] and move on.”

Sunbuild is expected to wind down construction and remove property blocking footpaths on council land in the next few weeks.

The company is also slated to start construction on a $200 million development in Darwin’s satellite city Palmerston, with initial groundbreaking only done last week, according to local news reports.

A company statement released yesterday stated that it would “continue with its other projects” and “seek new work”.

It also recently completed construction on the Paspaley building in Darwin’s CBD.






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