Repairs to storm and flood-damaged houses in Queensland face long delays due to tradie shortage

Repairs to storm and flood-damaged houses in Queensland face long delays due to tradie shortage
  • PublishedJanuary 22, 2024

Tens of thousands of houses were damaged during deadly storms that battered South East Queensland on Christmas Day and Boxing Day last year.

And thousands of Far North Queensland homes were flooded in the wake of ex-Tropical Jasper earlier in December.

Master Builders Queensland chief executive Paul Bidwell said the huge amount of reconstruction work that needed to happen due to both weather events would increase pressure on the state’s already stretched construction industry. 

He said Queensland’s “massive program” of health, water infrastructure, renewable energy, and housing projects had most tradespeople already tied to jobs.

“We don’t have enough [tradies] for the current pipeline of work, let alone the additional skills we’re going to need to deal with the repairs,” Mr Bidwell said.

Surge pricing likely

He said demand from insurance companies to have repairs completed sooner could see some tradespeople taken off larger infrastructure projects.

But he said there would be a price to pay for that.

A male builder leaning over while standing on the top part of a house frame, blue skies.
Carpenters are in high demand to repair storm-damaged South East Queensland homes.(ABC Wide Bay: Grace Whiteside)

“It will end up costing more with surge pricing like Uber have got, and that will flow through [to other customers],” he said.

“People who have got minor damage that are trying to get a tradie to come in and fix it, whether it’s insured or not, that could take them more than a year.”

Gold Coast builder Don Cotterill said demand for subcontractors after natural disasters often led to price hikes.

He said in the weeks and months after the Lismore floods of 2022 subcontractors were effectively setting their own prices.

“As a builder, it’s like going into a bidding war, which I don’t want to take part in,” he said.

“If you’ve got to get a job done and you’re contracted to get it done, then you’ve got to pay what’s out there in the marketplace.”

Shortages across the board

Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) last year estimated the Sunshine State’s construction industry was about 18,000 workers short of what it needed.

CSQ general manager Sean Cummiskey said repairing homes at both ends of the state would “put pressure on what is already a tight labour force” and likely drive prices up.

“It’s going to be harder to find some people to do roofing and some of those trades where their skills are in high demand,” Mr Cummiskey said.

“Even with concreting and civil construction, the reality is prices will stay elevated.”

Mr Bidwell said unfortunately for Queenslanders needing repairs, there was nowhere within Australia the state could turn to for more skilled workers.

Worker smooths concrete at a slab pour with other workers in background.
Getting a new concrete slab poured could be costly after Queensland’s natural disasters.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

“The issues that we’re dealing with are being dealt with across the country, if not across the globe,” he said.

“It’s across the board — it’s carpenters, electricians, plumbers, it really is across the board.”


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