NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet during a press conference at Sydney's WestConnex Rozelle Interchange. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP IMAGES

NSW premier hoists unproven crane claim

William Summers December 6, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Sydney has more construction cranes in its skies than anywhere else in the world.

OUR VERDICT

Unproven. Comparative global data is not available for the latest quarter. The most recent global count has Singapore ahead of Sydney. The latest figures for Dubai and Doha also exceeded the total for Sydney

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has spruiked the state’s economic credentials by repeatedly claiming Sydney has more construction cranes in its skies than anywhere else in the world.

However, the claim is unproven. According to a global crane index published quarterly by construction consultancy firm Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB), Singapore had more cranes than Sydney in Q1 2022. A 2019 crane count also put Sydney behind Dubai and Doha. However, updated figures for Singapore, Dubai and Doha were not available at the time of writing.

Mr Perrottet has claimed several times that Sydney and NSW have more cranes than anywhere else. 

Construction cranes in central Sydney.
 Construction cranes in Sydney’s CBD. 

On August 19, 2022, 10 News Sydney reported Mr Perrottet as saying: “There are more cranes over the skies in Sydney than anywhere else in the world” (screenshot here).

On October 18, Mr Perrottet broadened the claim to apply to NSW, saying: “There are more cranes over the skies of New South Wales than anywhere else in the world” (transcript here).

At a media conference on October 21, the premier repeated his claim that NSW had more cranes than anywhere else (video mark 1min 47secs, transcript here).

Mr Perrottet also made similar claims in March 2017 and again in December 2018, when serving as NSW treasurer.

A spokesman for the premier’s office did not provide a source for the claim but told AAP FactCheck the premier’s comments “were general in nature and have been taken out of context”.

“Cranes are erected and disassembled on a regular basis which makes it difficult to ascertain exactly which city has the most cranes in the sky at any specific point in time,” the spokesman said in an email. “It is clear Sydney has amongst the most cranes in the sky of any city in the world.”

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has made the claim several times
 NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has made the claim several times 

The most credible count of construction cranes that AAP FactCheck could find was the RLB crane index, created by the company as a tool for its clients to assess hiring trends and building activity in urban markets.

RLB says the index is based on a physical count of all fixed tower cranes in selected key cities in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Gulf States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and South Africa (page 36).

The index has regularly been quoted by international media as an indicator of global construction activity (see examples here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

At the time of writing, the most recent RLB crane index for the Oceania region was published on September 21, 2022, which included a count for the third quarter of 2022.

According to that count, Sydney had 380 cranes in its skies during Q3 2022, up from 348 in Q1 2022 (page 2).

However, comparative data is not available for all world cities. In particular, Q3 2022 data is missing for Singapore, Doha and Dubai – all of which had more cranes than Sydney at their last count.

RLB’s most recent global crane index, which compared crane count figures from Q1 2022, reported 520 cranes in Singapore ahead of Sydney with 348 during the same quarter (page 12).

Singapore's financial skyline
 The most recent global crane index reported 520 cranes in Singapore ahead of Sydney with 348. 

The 2022 global crane index showed Dubai (1345) and Doha (401) were also ahead of Sydney (319) based on 2019 crane counts, though updated figures for Dubai and Doha for 2021 and 2022 were unavailable.

RLB’s Oceania director of research and development, Domenic Schiafone, told AAP FactCheck the counts were stopped in UAE and Qatar due to movement restrictions during COVID-19.

The global report also included a small number of cranes in three other NSW regions – Central Coast (10), Newcastle (12) and Wollongong (12) – making a total of 382 cranes in operation across the four state areas covered by RLB in Q1 2022.

Mr Schiafone said crane numbers are determined by local RLB offices, meaning comparisons between cities should be treated with caution. 

“In terms of Sydney or other cities having the most cranes, comparing numbers is not necessarily accurate as the geographical area used as the basis of (for example) the Toronto count may not be the same extent used for the Sydney count, so this factor would sway the numbers,” he told AAP FactCheck in an email.

“When comparing cities, it is perhaps best to look at the actual ‘index’ and change over time rather than a direct comparison as it is not necessarily like for like.”

The Verdict

The claim that Sydney has more construction cranes in its skies than anywhere else in the world is unproven.

According to the RLB crane index, Sydney had 380 cranes in Q3 2022, which was more cranes than any other Australian city. 

However, Q3 2022 data is not available for Sydney’s main international competitors. Singapore, Doha and Dubai all had more cranes according to their most recent figures.

Unproven ÔÇô There is not enough evidence to determine the claim’s accuracy.

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