Type to search

Product & Equipment

Portable Toilets offer “canary in the coal mine” warning to RBA

Real Estate property journalist, Nathan Mawby, recently reported on Realestate.com.au about one of the visible indicators of the state of the building industry.

Not dissimilar to that of The Sunday Times’ Economics Editor, David Smith’s notable “Skip Index”, which he used as his “canary in the coal mine” tool for judging the state of industry in the UK; the more skips he saw on the street, the better the economy was travelling.

In Victoria it is the sight of portaloos that have have lifted the lid on a looming end to Victoria’s building boom, offering a warning to the Reserve Bank that it needs to relieve rate hike pressure, which it did for the first time in 11 months yesterday.

Building material company, Bowens, in collaboration with HRIA member AIM Hire, have revealed almost 7000 temporary toilets were occupied on building sites across the state last year, 96 per cent of those available.

They’ve also revealed a novel portaloo index for where Victoria’s tradies log the most hours, which has Clyde in Melbourne’s southeast as number one with 441 (6 per cent) of the rentals.

Tarneit was number two, with 240 (3.5 per cent) leased to building sites in the western suburb.

There were also surprising numbers on the job in suburban Melbourne including 116 in Berwick, 61 in Bentleigh and Bentleigh East, 65 in Wyndham Vale and 59 in Glen Waverley.

Further out, with Bowens director Andy Bowen noted increased demand in Drouin, Garfield Warrigal, Lang Lang and Phillip Island across the past 18 months.

“We utilise the insights gained across the business to stay ahead of demand ensuring we continue to respond quickly to the demands of all builders,” Mr Bowen said.

Reserve Bank of Australia governor Phillip Lowe has been urged to pay attention to where the loos are too, with Aim Hire managing director Elise Kelsey noting they’re the first thing on a building site and almost the last to go and could help inform the strength of the economy.

“I do think the RBA should be looking at the portaloos going out,” Ms Kelsey said.

“It’s a good indicator, when our deliveries slow down they aren’t building as many houses.”

Describing the firm as Victoria’s “number one” for portaloos, she said they currently have 7782 and were actively trying to get more as blow outs in build times due to labour shortages in the construction sector meant they were spending six months or more on a build site instead of the usual three or four months on the job.

“We won’t see as many of the loos go on to sites going forward,” she said.

“From what we are hearing from our builders is everyone’s sales are down, and that’s from interest rate hikes.”

The firm now expects they will be backed up with more loos sitting idle from the start of 2024.

Housing Industry Association chief economist Tim Reardon said any indication portaloo use would decline was a bad sign for the economy.

“The building industry has been quite constipated with a large volume of work over the past couple of years,” Mr Reardon said.

“But by the end of this year the amount of work in the pipeline is hollowing out quite quickly.”

Originally published by Nathan Mawby, realestate.com.au Property journalist – reproduced with permission.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.