Leading plant hire industry sourcing website iSeekplant.com.au says that delays to projects in Victoria, WA, NSW and Queensland are contributing to plant hire companies going broke as $3 billion worth of contracts fail to land.
The site lists more than 60,000 earthmoving machines across 3,000 suppliers, and attracts more than 70,000 users per month. In 2015 alone it secured rates and information for more than 2,500 major civil, residential and mining projects across Australia, equating to $1 million per week in plant hire contracts.
Almost 150 plant and equipment companies registered for their services just this week from all over the country, with operators willing to try new ways of finding new customers and winning work online. But iSeekplant directors say they are hearing of at least two of Australia’s 30,000 earthmoving businesses closing their doors every week.
However, the push back has started – this week with the Shenhua Watermark coal mine ruling in the Land and Environment Court and last week with Adani moving to sue activists using the courts to obstruct its $16.5 billion Carmichael megaproject.
Infrastructure Australia naming Victoria’s infamous East West Link – the cancellation of which is still costing tax payers upwards of $1 billion – as high priority for Melbourne to ease congestion.
Director of iSeekplant.com.au Sally McPherson said the cost of delays – often millions of dollars – to government and big business were widely reported but the ultimate, unseen victims were small businesses.
“With mining drying up in WA for example, the earthmoving industry is in the worst shape it’s been for many years,” McPherson said.
“Our 230 members from Newman to Esperance in WA – usually family businesses with a few machines – were relying on jobs like the Perth Freight Link but the delay on Roe 8 will put between $100 million to $200 million worth of plant hire contracts in jeopardy. We hear directly from the industry of layoffs, debt to fund cash flow and selling off machines at a loss.
“Delay on Roe 8 will force the government, and the construction companies into a new tender process. CPB Contractors (formerly Leighton Contractors) were awarded the job because they had done previous sections of the mega project and could continue the work affordably using the suppliers, resources, plant and people. These savings are completely lost to the public purse now. It’s taxpayer money these activists are wasting.
“In NSW where we have around 500 suppliers of plant and equipment listed, with projects representing more than a third of all traffic, the uncertainty around the $16 billion Westconnex project and the Shenhua Watermark coal mine means $300 to $400 million worth of plant hire contracts are in the air. Protests against Santos’ CSG projects in the Pilliga and the complete shutdown of the Anglo-American Drayton coal mine expansion, which cost 97 contractor positions, have also been a blow.
“In Queensland where we have 850 suppliers listed on our site, we spoke last year about effect the shutting down of the Carmichael mine would have on plant hire businesses from Brisbane to Cairns.
“And in Victoria it’s not just the East West Link cancellation, but smaller projects like the $1.6 billion Sky Rail in Melbourne’s South East or even the $50 million Warburton resort development that are being stopped or hampered by environmentalists groups that have enough power to halt progress. Our whole industry is losing faith in any semblance of predictability. Businesses in plant hire are wondering whether to keep staff on or try to weather the storm, not knowing how long it will last.
McPherson said a more collaborative conversation was needed because everyone was suffering at the hands of special interest groups and the political interests of changing state governments but she had little hope that would happen.
“Small businesses in construction and mining industries need to stand up and fight back at narrow views monopolising the public vernacular on the subject of construction and mining,” Ms McPherson said.
“We cannot sit silently and watch our businesses go broke while the only issue that gets a voice is the environmental risks that can, and are being mitigated effectively across the construction and mining industry.”
“Mining, agriculture and Australia’s environment can all exist alongside each other – we just have to have policy and public debate that considers Australia’s flora and fauna, but also holds central the impact to the livelihoods of the families in this country that depend on this work for a living.”