The 2019 Major Projects List is presented in the Appendix of this Report. The Major Projects List includes engineering projects in excess of $50 million and was developed by BIS Oxford Economics in coordination with QMCA and IAQ member input throughout November 2018 to January 2019.


Figures 1 and 2 (overleaf) highlight the current activity and projections for major project work for the period 2018/19 to 2022/23 based on the 2019 Major Projects List, as well as historical data to 2011/12.


Total Major Project activity in the current financial year is expected to reach $6.6bn, a slight improvement on the forecast in the 2018 MPP Report. Only $474m of this figure is unfunded.

A setback to major project activity is now expected in 2019/20, with total activity falling to $6.5bn from that forecast last year and funded work sliding to $4.7bn. The completion of several very large road projects is expected to coincide with the completion of a host of renewable energy projects and a deceleration in NBN activity – with not enough new projects coming through to sustain activity at current levels.

Rail continues to offer the strongest outlook for growth in major project activity. From just $150m in 2018/19, major project work in rail is expected to balloon to just over $4bn by 2021/22, led by simultaneous work on Cross River Rail, Inland Rail and the European Train Control System, amongst other projects. Over 90% of rail work in the pipeline is funded. Capacity and capability risks for rail remain, however, given the massive wave of rail investment underway nationally.

Some sectors simply do not have enough projects in the pipeline – whether funded or unfunded – to sustain major project work through the next five years. Funded roads major project activity is expected to decline 44% over 2019/20 and fall further in the early 2020s. Non-water utilities activity, comprising mostly electricity and telecommunications work, is also forecast to decline substantially over the same period.

The pick up in work from 2020/21 is founded on a relatively small number of large value projects in south east Queensland such as Brisbane Metro, Cross River Rail and Inland Rail with a sharp drop off in number of projects in the $100-500m range.

The value of water and sewerage, and mining and heavy industry major project work in the pipeline rises over time, but much of the increase remains unfunded, with many projects listed as unlikely to proceed. Water and sewerage major project work in the pipeline rises from $189m in 2018/19 to just under $1bn by 2021/22, with mining and heavy industry activity rising from $1.3bn in 2018/19 to $3.1bn by 2021/22. However, at the 2021/22 peak, 60% of water and sewerage projects (principally dams) and 71% of mining and heavy industry projects remain unfunded. Indeed, outside of rail, more than 50% of the pipeline is unfunded from 2021/22. Consequently, there is considerable risk to sustainable growth in major project work.


work undertaken in the current financial year is expected to reach $6.6bn, a slight improvement on the forecast in the 2018 MPP Report. Only $474m of this figure is unfunded


Altogether there is $41.3bn in major project work in the pipeline between 2018/19 and 2022/23 inclusive. Including $756m in now completed projects, the total funded pipeline is $27.6bn. Unfunded projects in the pipeline amount to $13.8bn.

“Funded” project categories include:

Announced: projects which have funding support but have not yet entered the procurement stage (as at January 2019). There are $10.1bn in announced projects in the pipeline.

Under Procurement: projects in a procurement stage but have not yet started construction (as at January 2019). There are $6.7bn in projects under procurement in the pipeline.

Under Construction: projects in flight / under construction. There are $10bn in projects currently under construction in the pipeline.

“Unfunded” project categories include:

Unlikely: projects considered not to occur in the next five years, even if announced. There are $3.1bn in unlikely projects in the pipeline.

Prospective: projects considered likely to occur over next five years but not yet formally proposed. There are $6.6bn in prospective projects in the pipeline.

Credibly Proposed: projects that are supported by government and/or the private sector but still in prefeasibility/business case mode and so do not have funding committed. There are $4.0bn in credibly proposed projects in the pipeline.

Figure 1 illustrates the outlook for major project activity based on the subcategories of funded and unfunded work.




Total major project activity is now expected to rise slightly to $6.6bn in the current financial year, surpassing the $6.5bn forecast in the 2018 MPPR. Only $474m of this remains unfunded.

Total major project work (funded and unfunded) is expected to decline in 2019/20, however, to $6.5bn. This decline is being driven by the completion of many large roads and non-water utilities projects (particularly electricity and telecommunications) which is being only partially offset by rising rail, water, defence and mining major project activity. Total activity forecast for 2019/20 is now approximately $0.7bn less than forecast in the 2018 MPPR – and $1.8bn still remains unfunded compared to the nearly $3bn in unfunded work for 2019/20 previously reported.

Both funded and unfunded major project activity is forecast to rise over 2020/21 and 2021/22. Funded activity in the pipeline rises to $5.2bn and $6.8bn respectively, while the inclusion of unfunded projects sees the value of the pipeline rise to $8.7bn in 2020/21 and then surge above $11bn in 2021/22. Mining – and particularly the announced smaller Galilee Basin coal development from Adani (now included as ‘funded’) – is a key driver of the upswing, as well as very large rail projects (Cross River Rail and Inland Rail) which are timed to ramp up in this period.

Total major project work falls in 2022/23 to $8.5bn, of which a hefty proportion ($3.7bn) remains unfunded, mostly concentrated in mining and roads. Railways remains the most significant sector for major project work in the year, but funded work declines. The completion of large roads and water projects – without visibility on new projects – is a key driver of the decline in measured major project work in 2022/23.

With the exception of 2019/20, total major project activity is expected to move above 2018/19 levels which are themselves an improvement on recent years. However, the outlook for funded work (incorporating those projects Announced, Under Procurement or Under Construction) is much different, moving below 2018/19 levels in both 2019/20 and 2020/21 and only emerging above 2018/19 levels in 2021/22.

The funded forecast view is similar to that of a “worst case scenario” outlook, should international developments or public sector finances deteriorate significantly further, or the combination of threats to the Queensland construction industry remain unaddressed. Maintaining a growing pipeline of major project work requires shifting currently unfunded projects into the funded category, as well as growing the value of the pipeline overall. While the most likely scenario for major project work excludes “unlikely” projects, these are included to show their potential impact on major project work, particularly later in the forecast.

Figure 3: Pipeline Funding Mix by Sector and Year

Figure 4: combined Pipeline Funding Mix



After rising to a peak of $2.2bn in 2018/19, major project work for roads and bridges is projected to fall back to lower levels through the forecast period, generally cycling between $1.2bn to $1.5bn in activity per annum. While more major roads projects are expected to commence in coming years, these are generally smaller in size than projects currently underway that will be completed.

Major projects which have contributed to the stronger levels of activity in 2018/19 but will wind down and move to completion from here include (noting their construction value):

Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, $1.25bn, completion in 2018/19

Gateway Upgrade North, $850m, completion in 2018/19

Logan Motorway Enhancement Project, $420m, completion in 2018/19

Kingsford Smith Drive Upgrade, $440m, completion in 2019/20

Brisbane Airport New Parallel Runway, $380m, completion in 2019/20

Sunshine Coast Airport New East-West Runway, $240m, completion in 2019/20

Ipswich Motorway: Rocklea to Darra Stage 1, $200m, completion in 2019/20

Pacific Motorway; Miles Platting Road to Rochedale Road (Gateway Merge), $160m, completion in 2019/20.

While simultaneous works on these large projects have contributed to a significant upswing in roads activity in Queensland, their completion – without replacement by equivalent sized projects – is expected to drive weaker major project activity in this sector. It should be noted that this is not a new outlook for the roads sector in Queensland – MPPR reports in 2018 and 2017 also highlighted the decline in major roads investment inherent in the pipeline from 2019/20.

Funded roads activity is expected to cycle between $1.0bn-$1.3bn between 2019/20 and 2021/22. Major projects sustaining activity at these lower levels include the Brisbane Metro ($550m), Pacific Motorway: Eight Miles Plains to Daisy Hill ($374m) and Varsity Lakes to Tugun ($500m) and a range of projects along the Bruce Highway. However, there is also an increasing profile of unfunded work in the pipeline, with unfunded work exceeding funded work by 2022/23.

Figure 5: Roads and Bridges Major Project Work Done by Funding Status (includes brisbane metro)



Major project work across the railways and harbours segments in Queensland moved to a higher plane in the early 2010s, peaking at over $1.6 billion in 2013/14, before falling to just $320 million in 2016/17 with the completion of the Moreton Bay Rail Link. While harbours major project construction work has been driven predominantly by the demands of the resources sector, across railways there are also significant contributions from the public sector for passenger and freight projects.

Rail and harbours major project activity is anticipated to remain relatively weak in 2018/19 ($285m), but is expected to ramp up very strongly from here and grow more than 10-fold over the next four years, with funded activity estimated to peak at $3.75bn in 2021/22. This profile is similar to that reported in the 2018 MPPR, although with some differences:

2018/19 activity is higher than previously reported due to the inclusion of the European Train Control System Level 2 (worth $589m over 5 years).

2020/21 activity is lower than previously reported, mainly due to a lower value and scope ascribed to Adani’s smaller Galilee Basin rail project, with the bulk of work ascribed to that year. Due to Adani’s announcement in late 2018 that they would fund a smaller Carmichael Coal mine and rail development internally, this project has been shifted to ‘announced’ in this report.

Overall, the rail sector has the strongest outlook for any engineering construction segment in the pipeline, with very strong growth in activity supported by several key funded projects including:

Cross River Rail, various packages with a construction value of $4.1bn, with early works underway now and work on the Tunnels Stations and Development (TSD) package and the Rail Integration and Systems Package (RIS) to get underway late 2019/20.

Inland Rail, three major sections valued at $4.45bn in construction work. The largest of these sections – Gowrie to Kagaru – includes complex tunnelling through the Toowoomba Ranges and is anticipated to take place between 2020/21 and 2023/24, with earlier works in 2019/20.

North Galilee Basin Rail, with an assumed construction value of $750m, for Adani’s announced Carmichael Coal project, with activity to take place between 2019/20 and 2022/23. While now listed as a funded project, it is noted that Adani’s Galilee coal project is still subject to risk and requires satisfaction of several outstanding regulatory hurdles before it can commence.

Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade, with a construction estimate of $500m, to be undertaken between 2020/21 and 2023/24

In the long term, another $4bn will likely be needed to upgrade the rail line from Acacia Ridge and the Port of Brisbane itself. However, the timing of construction is likely to fall outside the scope of this report (i.e. after 2022/23) with substantial planning required given the urban nature of this project.

The staggered timing of these funded projects combines to produce a strong upswing in funded work over the next four years, with several unfunded projects – notably Sunshine Coast Light Rail and Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3 – adding potential upside.

The main risk to the rail projects is the strong competition for key rail construction skills nationally given very large investment programs already underway in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. According to the Australasian Railways Association’s (ARA) Skills Capability Study released in November 2018, approximately 70,000 rail construction and manufacturing jobs will be demanded above existing supply to support national rail infrastructure delivery by 2022/231.

In contrast to rail, harbours major project work is relatively small, and focused exclusively on the 2018/19 to 2020/21 period, with no major harbours projects appearing in subsequent years. With the completion of port facilities for the Amrun bauxite development, work in this segment will be supported by the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal ($130m), the Townsville Port Expansion Project: Channel Capacity Upgrade ($150m) and the RG Tanner Coal Terminal upgrade as part of the Port of Gladstone ($200m).

Other harbour works which could underpin activity are the Port of Gladstone – Second Shipping Lane (Gatcombe and Golding Cutting Channel Duplication Project) and the Port of Townsville – Outer Harbour Expansion (Berths 14+15), although both of these projects remain unfunded.


Figure 6: Railways and Harbours Major Project Work Done by Funding Status



Water and sewerage major project work spiked in 2012/13, largely underpinned by new water treatment facilities and pipeline construction projects supporting upstream CSG field development in the Surat Basin. However, as these projects moved to completion, work done weakened substantially, falling under $50m in 2015/16.

Activity has risen in subsequent years, however, with the total value of major project work forecast to be $189m in 2018/19. The outlook for water and sewerage work is highly positive, with funded activity in the pipeline rising almost four-fold to $507m by 2020/21 before easing back in subsequent years. Total major project work done in the pipeline averages just under $600m per annum over the five years to 2022/23, although this figure is boosted by several currently unfunded dam projects including:

Somerset Dam Upgrade, construction estimate $450m, credibly proposed

Nullinga Dam, construction estimate $180m, credibly proposed

Wyaralong Dam Water Treatment Plant Stage 1, construction estimate $150m, prospective

Urannah Dam, construction estimate $200m, unlikely.

In August 2018, the CSIRO Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment2 mapped three river systems across northern Australia which could potentially be used for irrigated agriculture development. This included the Mitchell river system in far north Queensland, which could drive the development of up to four dams – Pinnacles, Rockwood, Nullinga and near Chillagoe – and which would see an extra 140,000 hectares of year-round crop irrigated. While there is still significant further assessment and investigative work required on specific dam projects before they can be added to pipeline, the harnessing of northern river systems may yet provide longer term opportunities and benefits to the Queensland economy.

The pipeline identifies $670m in funded water major project work between 2019/20 and 2021/22, a substantial increase on the $50m estimated for 2018/19. Driving much of this are projects in central, northern and outback regions of the state to either provide water security or agricultural opportunities:

Haughton Pipeline Duplication, construction estimate $150m, under construction

Lower Fitzroy Infrastructure Project, $195m, commencing 2019/20

Burdekin Falls Dam – Saddle Dam and Monolith Improvement, $210m, commencing 2020/21

Three Rivers Irrigation Project, $120m, commencing 2020/21

Beaudesert Water Supply Upgrade Pipeline, $100m, commencing 2020/21

Lake McDonald Dam Upgrade, $80m, commencing 2019/20.

As with water, major project sewerage works are also increasing in coming years, with funded work rising from an estimated $89m in 2018/19 to a peak of $232m in 2020/21. The major drivers of this are the Gold Coast Council Long Term Water Recycled Water Release (Stages 1 and 2), with a combined construction value of $248m, as well as the Northern (Inner Brisbane) and Southern (Ipswich) Waste Water Treatment Plant works, worth a combined $313m.


Queensland has been the biggest winner from the current boom in renewable energy investment so far, with nearly $7bn worth of investment in total creating 4,500 direct jobs and adding 5,640MW of new capacity


Electricity, pipelines, and telecoms major project work done peaked at a record $1.6bn in 2012/13 driven mainly by booming LNG-related gas pipeline construction. In the electricity sector, a host of new Powerlink distribution and supply projects were a key driver. The completion of these major projects saw work done decline sharply over 2013/14 and 2014/15.

During 2016/17 and 2017/18, electricity, pipelines and telecoms major project work done jumped higher again, driven by surging NBN activity and a host of smaller electricity generation projects getting underway.

In 2018/19 non-water utility major project works across electricity, pipelines and telecoms is estimated to reach an impressive $2.5bn, underwritten by no less than 30 separate renewable energy generation projects valued over the $50m threshold to be included in the pipeline, as well as:

Transmission projects and substation upgrades,

A new gas fired power station in the Lockyer Valley,

Pipelines for the Roma East Gas Project; and

Over $800m in work delivering Australia’s largest public infrastructure project, the National Broadband Network (NBN).

Unlike the rail and water sectors, however, the pipeline for non-water utilities thins substantially beyond the current financial year, with total work done (funded and unfunded) expected to nearly halve over the two years to 2020/21 and remain at lower levels. The decline in funded work is even sharper, falling from an estimated $2.1bn in 2018/19 to under $600m in 2021/22.

Key drivers of the decline include:

High levels of uncertainty over national energy and climate change policy, which, coupled with lower levels of public funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) after 2019/20, is constraining sustained investment in renewable energy projects according to the Clean Energy Council.4 Queensland has been the biggest winner from the current boom in renewable energy investment so far, with nearly $7bn worth of investment in total creating 4,500 direct jobs and adding 5,640MW of new capacity.5 A lack of consensus on policy and ARENA funding between the major parties at the Federal level is putting further investment at risk.

The winding down of works on the NBN rollout as it targets completion in 2020. While failures associated with the planned use of acquired HFC cable networks saw the rollout partially stalled during 2018, NBN Co has adopted a more construction-intensive solution – Fibre to the Curb (FTTC) – to service affected HFC premises. Overall, construction activity related to the NBN is anticipated to remain high in 2018/19 but fall significantly in subsequent years as the NBN rollout moves towards completion.

Following a surge of work related to the (now completed) North East Gas Connector, gas pipelines major project work has eased back in 2018/19, with activity mostly supported by the Roma East Gas Project. The ongoing development of the coal seam gas fields to feed Queensland’s large LNG processing facilities will require continual upstream investment in pipelines (and other infrastructure) over the long term. The Arrow Bowen Pipeline has been identified as a potential major project in this space although it is listed as unlikely.

Figure 8: ARENA’s Release of $2 billion in Core Grant Funding for Renewable Energy Projects3

Figure 9: Electricity, Pipelines and Telecoms Major Project Work Done by Funding Status

Combined, the aforementioned projects account for $810m in the pipeline between 2018/19 and 2022/23.


Queensland is also benefiting from the latest round of Commonwealth funded defence initiatives. Projects include maintenance infrastructure upgrades and the construction of the new Growler Airborne Attack Capability facilities at South East Queensland’s RAAF Base Amberley. Activity should also be boosted by the Australia-Singapore Military training initiative. The Initiative will provide increased access to Australian military training areas for the Singapore Armed Forces, building on Australia and Singapore’s existing Defence cooperation. Training facilities will be redeveloped at the Fitzroy’s Shoalwater Bay, which will first be remediated, as well as a training facility further north in Townsville.

Combined, the aforementioned projects account for $810m in the pipeline between 2018/19 and 2022/23. On the downside, there may not be as much engineering construction in the defence projects listed in the pipeline than anticipated here.

Figure 10: Defence Major Project Work Done by funding status

2019/20 TO 75% BY 2022/23


Mining and heavy industry major project work simply boomed between 2010/11 to 2012/13, increasing collectively by over 200% to reach an extraordinary peak of $13.6bn. This represented a second, LNG-focused, phase of the resources boom in Queensland, but there were also substantial coal developments during this time including the construction of the Broadmeadow, Caval Ridge, Daunia and Grosvenor coking coal mines, which also sustained a high level of major project work.

The completion of “once in a generation” large LNG projects in Queensland saw mining and heavy industry major project work collapse to just $700m in 2016/17.

Mining and heavy industry major project work has moved to higher levels over 2017/18 and 2018/19, although in total value terms it remains a mere shadow of the previous boom. In 2018/19, total major project work eased to $1.3bn following just over $2bn in activity the previous year.

The breakdown in work for 2018/19 includes:

$374m in gas-related works including $200m in upstream LNG gasfield development, as well as work on the Gladstone LNG, Roma East project and the Atlas Gas Processing Plant and Pipeline;

$475m in works on major coal projects including Byerwen, the Overland Conveyor System at Caval Ridge (now completed) and Caval Ridge Expansion, the Baralaba Coal Expansion, Jellinbah and Kestral Expansion; and

$465m in other minerals major project work, mostly related to the (now completed) Amrun bauxite development in the far north of the state.

The easing in mining and heavy industry major project work over 2018/19 can be most attributed to the completion or near completion of several very large projects in 2017/18 including Dugald River Zinc, Capricorn Copper, Bauxite Hills and Phosphate Hills.

While the outlook for total (funded and unfunded) major project work in mining and heavy industry is positive – the value of work in the pipeline rises to a peak of $3.1bn by 2021/22 before easing slightly in 2022/23 – there remains considerable downside risk to this profile.

Unfunded work in the pipeline for mining and heavy industry projects rises from 40% in 2019/20 to 75% by 2022/23 – the highest unfunded share of any engineering construction sector considered in this report. Given that Adani’s Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin is now considered funded in this report given their announcement to finance a smaller scale development internally – but is still subject to significant political and regulatory risks – the outlook for the sector could be considered even more risky than the unfunded project share suggests.

On a funded basis, oil and gas and coal have a reasonably sustained profile to 2022/23. Oil and gas projects are expected to remain underpinned by regular upstream gasfield development works to feed the downstream LNG processing trains, with the Arcadia Gas Project providing a lift over 2019/20 and 2020/21. Ongoing development of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) fields over the operational life of LNG facilities will require continual investment in related field infrastructure, including roads, pipelines and gas facilities, and water. Again, while not as significant as downstream processing and infrastructure projects, in aggregate they will keep the volume of activity high compared to pre-boom times and offer a higher share of work for domestic contractors compared to that which occurred on the LNG trains themselves.

Funded coal works are expected to remain steady through the forecast period, with approximately $370m in work done per annum on average over the five years to 2022/23. Much of this is focused on the Carmichael development (assumed construction value of $900m) from 2020/21, as well as the Olive Downs ($300m) and South Walker Creek ($100m) developments.

By contrast, all other minerals projects in the pipeline remain unfunded – amounting to approximately $367m per annum on average between 2018/19 and 2022/23 – and many of these are categorised as ‘unlikely’. Those that are not considered unlikely include Roseby Copper, Red Dome Mungana, Charters Towers and the North Queensland Bio Energy Ethanol Plant. There are also seven unfunded coal projects in the list categorised as either credibly proposed or prospective which could be developed if Australian dollar prices and global demand remains firm, including Eagle Downs Coking Coal, Maryborough, Peak Downs Expansion, Grosvenor Underground Stage 2, Styx, Middlemount Coking Coal Stage 2 and Wilkie Creek.

Figure 11: Mining and Heavy Industry Major Project Work Done by Funding Status


Major project workforces have been rising over the past two years in response to higher levels of major project activity. In 2017/18, we estimate that major project activity catered for just under 14,000 direct full time equivalent (FTE) roles spread across construction labour (approximately 11,000 FTE positions) and white-collar occupations in construction project management (approximately 3,000 FTE positions). The bulk of these positions were in telecommunications, followed by electricity and roads.

Given differences in the typical capital and labour intensity of major projects by sector – and the different projections for major project work by sector – growth in major project workforce demand does not exactly match growth in major project work done. However, as shown in Figure 12, the outlook for major project workforce demand is still similar to the overall major projects outlook. In particular, following a local peak in 2018/19, major project workforce demand is anticipated to weaken in 2019/20 before recovering in the subsequent two years, with the next local peak to be 2021/22.

There is significant variation in the outlook between total (funded and unfunded) and funded major project workforce demand which is implied by the projections in this Report. While the funded workforce profile is fairly benign – albeit with a sharp retreats in 2019/20 and 2022/23 – there is a strong positive cycle which could play out over the next few years if all currently unfunded projects were to proceed. In particular, total major project workforce demand is projected to rise 31% from around 15,600 FTE positions this financial year (2018/19) to a potential peak of over 20,000 FTE positions. Given relatively tight conditions in the major project market nationally,6 this means that achieving the full major project pipeline of work is likely to come with significant workforce supply challenges.

The sectors with the strongest FTE workforce demand growth potential to the 2021/22 peak are rail (+6,400 FTE positions across labour and project management – most of which is funded), water (+3,000 FTE positions), coal (+927 FTE positions), oil and gas (690 FTE positions). By contrast, the weaker major project outlook for roads, electricity and telecommunications over the same period sees their respective projected total workforce demand shrink by 1,100, 2,900 and 2,000 FTE positions respectively.

In practice, the path for major project work is likely to lie between the totals for funded work (a likely minimum demand) and total work (a potential maximum) although more projects could yet emerge to push workforce demand higher.