Victorian construction industry turns to Europe to address woes

Key points

  • The cost of building in Victoria has risen faster than any other state, forcing a growing number of business failures that has left hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects in limbo.
  • Many builders are struggling with labour shortages, ongoing material price increases and significant workplace stress.
  • Building and construction is Victoria’s third-largest full-time employer, contributing about 11 per cent of Victoria’s full-time employment as of June this year.

A delegation led by Master Builders Victoria will attempt to poach international expertise to help reinvigorate the state’s struggling construction sector.

The delegation will meet with industry peers in Europe, Canada and the United States as part of an international research project to support Victoria’s post-COVID building and construction industry.

Shangri-La Melbourne under construction. The cost of building in Victoria rose faster than in any other stateCredit: supplied

The cost of building in Victoria rose faster than in any other state because of a massive increase in material prices, forcing a growing number of business failures that has left hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects in limbo.

Master Builders Victoria chief executive Rebecca Casson said many of the state’s builders were struggling with profitability while dealing with skills and labour shortages, ongoing material price increases, significant workplace stress, and mental health issues.

A critical shortage of skilled tradespeople had also compounded the crisis, Casson said, with the industry experiencing gaps across carpentry, bricklaying, project managers and building surveyors.

Timber prices have increased almost 40 per cent over the past three years, with the war in Ukraine pushing up the price of timber products from Russia by 25 per cent this year. The cost of steel rose by 30 to 60 per cent last year, while electrical and concrete costs have risen by 20 to 40 per cent.

Casson said the research project and study tour were “extremely timely”, given the multiple challenges affecting Victoria’s building and construction industry.

Building and construction is Victoria’s third-largest full-time employer, contributing about 11 per cent of Victoria’s full-time employment as of June this year.

“If we want to lead a future-ready industry that builds a better world, we cannot do this whilst focusing solely on Victoria. It is vital to have a global perspective,” Casson said.

“It will also provide first-hand insights into how key overseas counterparts in the building and construction industry are solving some of the current critical issues, such as supply chain constraints and skills and labour shortages.”

CEO of the Master Builders of Victoria Rebecca Casson says the industry hopes to attract international expertises to turn around its fortunes.Credit:Scott McNaughton

Casson said her team will investigate emerging trends in alternative supply chains and materials, circular economy, net-zero buildings, regulatory reform and innovation in sustainable building practices while examining best-practice skills, training and migration.

She said she hoped to also showcase Victoria internationally as a great place to live and work as we gather knowledge and real-world experience to ensure that Victoria’s building and construction industry continues to be a global leader.

The group will travel to Birmingham to inspect and meet with Commonwealth Games organisers from this year’s event as Victoria gears up to host the event across several regional venues in 2026. There will be further stops in Toronto, Washington, and New York.

“It is vital now, more than ever before, that our industry continues to work together to showcase the very best of Victoria and glean best practices in an international post-pandemic world,” she said.

“Whilst the research project is not meant to be a panacea, it is vital that our industry begins to re-engage with other parts of the world.”

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