02/11/2011 - 10:53

Building business in the Pilbara

02/11/2011 - 10:53

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Building business in the Pilbara

FAST-GROWING towns in the Pilbara have continued to deliver new opportunities for local construction companies, with Pindan and Gavin Construction among the latest winners.

Pindan has won a $41.1 million contract to build the Karratha Senior High School stage 2 expansion and trade training centre.

It adds to five other construction projects the company is already working on at Karratha, with the largest being the $58.3 million Karratha Leisure Complex.

Gavin is also reaping benefits from its focus on the Pilbara, with the company recently being awarded an $18.4 million contract to build a new primary school at Baynton West.

Director Sean Gavin said work was already under way on the primary school.

The company has also been contracted to build an industrial distribution centre for Wesfarmers subsidiary Blackwoods, the largest Australian distributor of industrial, engineering and safety workplace products.

Mr Gavin said the Blackwoods centre, costing about $10 million, would break new ground as the first industrial building in WA to have a five-star green-star environmental rating.

While this designation is challenging in Perth, it is particularly so in the north of the state.

Mr Gavin said his company was benefiting from its experience in the north-west, where recent contracts have included a health centre in Karratha and a community facility under construction in Halls Creek.

“It’s a market fraught with danger,” he said.

“You need to be established and experienced in that region to operate successfully.”

For instance, Mr Gavin said affordable housing simply didn’t exist, and the cost of accommodation for workers could eat into the margins on a contract.

Gavin uses a mix of residential and fly-in, fly-out workers on its projects.

Across the state, Mr Gavin said margins in the construction market were still very tight, though the practice of pre-qualifying tenderers had helped to sustain margins at more realistic levels.

Against this backdrop, Gavin has had a lot of success winning work, with other contracts including a $35 million community health facility for the City of Cockburn.

“This year will be our busiest year ever,” Mr Gavin said.

For Pindan, the building construction contracts it has been awarded in Karratha add to a growing portfolio of work around the state.

Its larger construction projects under way include the $19.8 million Kalgoorlie health campus, a $15.4 million school at Merredin and a $13.2 million district high school at Exmouth.

It is also competing with the likes of John Holland, Doric, Decmil, Perkins Builders and OTOC to build workers’ camps at mining and petroleum projects in the north-west.

Pindan’s wins in that sector include the $22 million Dally construction camp for Fortescue Metals Group and the $16 million northern link mining camp for Rio Tinto.

Decmil has been one of the more successful operators in that sector, having won recent contracts with BHP Billiton Iron Ore, Fortescue Metals Group and Chevron’s Wheatstone project at Exmouth.

OTOC, formerly Emerson Stewart, has recently won $33 million in new contracts in the Mid West and the Pilbara.

It won a contract for the design, supply and installation of the exploration camp at Asia Iron’s Extension Hill magnetite project in the Mid West, and for the design, supply and installation of the Roy Hill rail camps for Kerman Contracting.

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