As demographers and social researchers we look to unique datasets to discover what the future of our cities and communities will look like. The latest RBL Crane Index Report in Australia shows the crane count for each of our capital cities. Yes, it is a bit geeky, but we love data – especially when it reveals trends about cranes, trains or planes. Why? Because it gives a clearer picture of how live, move and commute. The latest crane data shows a glimpse into the future of growing sectors like health, as well as which cities are expecting future growth such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Crane count declines in all capital cities

All Australian capital cities experienced a decline in the number of cranes over the last six months amidst the era of COVID-19 restrictions and early stages of our global recession. The total crane count dropped since the Q1 results from 722 cranes down to 677, a loss of 45 cranes.

Crane count Sydney vs. Melbourne

Sydney vs Melbourne

Sydney still tops the list with 297 cranes, beating Melbourne’s crane count of 179. Sydney and Melbourne are home to more than 10 million Australians, which is two-fifths of our national population of 25.8 million people. Sydney boasts almost half of Australia’s cranes (44%), compared to Melbourne which has a quarter (26%). This shows that the literal rise of Sydney is occurring faster than Melbourne, even though Melbourne’s population has grown at a faster rate than Sydney in recent times. Sydney-siders are far more accustomed to vertical living with apartments/units making up double the proportion that Melbourne has (28% of dwellings in Sydney are apartments/units compared to just 14% in Melbourne).

Sydney + Melbourne Population

The rise of lifestyle locations

One of the fascinating trends in this data is that lifestyle cities like The Sunshine Coast (+4 cranes) and The Gold Coast (+1 crane) actually saw a rise in the number of cranes in the six-month reporting period. The Sunshine Coast increased from 11 to 15 cranes and The Gold Coast rose from 33 to 34 cranes, despite being in the midst of a global pandemic and recession.

The future of Australia’s cities will be reshaped as jobs may move from CBDs in this new WFH (work from home) era of decentralisation for the service economy. People’s preference for living in lifestyle cities will increase as companies set new policies as COVID-19 restrictions ease across Australia.

Cranes by sector

The sectors of housing, commercial, mixed use and health care lead the projects these cranes are building. Of the 677 cranes, 450 are working on residential projects (67%), followed by 76 on commercial projects (11%), 50 on mixed-use projects (7%) and 30 on health projects (4%). Interestingly, health projects saw 12 new projects in the six months reporting period whereas there was a decline in residential, commercial and mixed use projects over the same period.

Crane count declined

Infrastructure spend towards 2030

Australia has committed to spend over $100 billion dollars on infrastructure in the decade to 2030. Strategic planning and provision of key infrastructure like housing, commercial and transport are essential to cater for the growth of population which is forecast to reach 29 million people by the year 2030.


AA Understanding the Future Consumer