Regional Building Approvals; no joy in the Far North

Today saw the release of the Regional Building Approvals data from the ABS. This data is released as an unadjusted series so we need to consider the Conus Trend to make any kind of sense.

When we look at the Local Government Area (LGA) data we see Cairns Regional Council (incl the Douglas Shire) at 60 (down from 65 in Feb) which gives an annual decline of 10.1% (actual 70). This compares with a 2.7% annual Trend decline for QLD as a whole. Townsville City Council sees Trend approvals at 66 (unchanged from Feb) but down 39% from a year ago (actual 61). The Cassowary Coast Regional Council remains stable at 6 which is 28.1% below the level a year ago (actual 9), although the data does suggest some sign of a shift in direction.


When we look at the data for the SA4 areas we see Cairns stable at 100 which is a 3.1% decline over the year. Townsville’s Conus Trend increased slightly to 75 (from 73, although this was revised down from 77) which represents a 54.4% decline over the year.


Looking in more detail at the CCRC data we see that bulk of this month’s approvals (5 of the actual 9) came from the Tully SA2 area (which includes Tully, Mission Beach and Cardwell). So far this Financial Year Tully SA2 has accounted for 50 of the 74 total approvals for the area…or 68%. Innisfail SA2, by comparison, has seen just 3 approvals since July (or 4%). It is very clear where development in the Cassowary Coast is occurring and we would expect to see this confirmed with the Census population data later this year.

What strength there is in building approvals in QLD continues to be driven very much by the SE corner with the Rest of Queensland witnessing little, if any, growth.

The full Conus Trend QLD Regional Building Approvals data is available for download on our Reports page




  1. Glen says:

    May 10th, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Pete, The approval numbers in Cairns are not surprising to many of us in the industry who have identified a lack of momentum for many years, even recent data that suggests other conditions in Cairns improving we see very little to indicate a substantial lift in construction activity in the near or mid term. Our business is a multi brand supplier to the building and construction industry and have essentially withdrawn our presence in Cairns and will service all our requirements out of Townsville. Many of our key distributors and service network are in the same situation, they have withdrawn or scaled down their exposure to the Cairns market substantially over the last few years, including the large construction companies, it is a self propelling process. I am always surprised by commentary from many in Cairns ( not yourself ) who indicate a sharp lift in construction activity is imminent, the facts are the capacity does not exist in the current Cairns market for this to occur.

  2. Pete Faulkner says:

    May 10th, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks Glen, those are interesting comments. I think what is clear from the data is that although approvals in the Cairns city (as evidenced by the Cairns LGA data) have been on a very slow grind up since the dark days of 2011, there are still well below the levels we saw prior to the GFC. In addition, the Cairns SA4 data shows us that the Far North as a whole is only now at levels seen 15 years ago, and significantly below (half1) what we were seeing a decade ago.
    As the third chart clearly shows, the growth in approvals in QLD has been restricted to Brisbane with the regions still struggling to break 1,500 a month.
    Thanks for the comment. Pete

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