Exemplifying Framing Change in WA

This article was written by FTMA’s Kat Welsh

The Coral Coast is a stretch of land in Western Australia, reaching over 1000km, from Cervantes to Ningaloo Reef. It holds an abundance of national parks, world heritage sites, and incredible wildlife. Wildflowers thrive, humpback whales migrate, and environmental phenomena exist with the Stromatolites, the Pinnacles, and the ragged coastlines. And within this wonderous landscape is Coral Coast Homes and Construction – a business named after the incredible environment it calls home.

Based in Geraldton, the original business was set up in 2010 by Arron Parker. It is family owned and run by Arron, with wife Natasha Parker as the Office and Accounts Manager. About 18 months ago, they took over a frame and truss business, and now also operate Coral Coast Frames and Trusses. Arron is a local to the Coral Coast, born and raised, and always loved helping his dad with handyman building. After leaving school and doing his apprenticeship, Arron managed construction for Perth-based BADGE Constructions, before returning to Geraldton and working with Geraldton Building Services and Cabinets. Natasha originally worked in social work, disability, and aged care back in Queensland where she is from. She moved to WA and continued her career in the support industry, before meeting Arron and taking on the role of Office and Accounts Manager. “She went from wiping the noses of old people, to tradesmen,” Arron joked about Natasha’s transition to the family business.

Arron and Natasha have recently been developing radio advertisements to reach potential consumers outside of the Geraldton area, to build up the frame and truss business. The ads promote the benefits of prefab, plus the environmental green renewable aspect. “There’s a big market up north that we’re pushing for,” Arron said, talking about the aims of securing work up as far as Exmouth and Karratha – a staggering 1000km away from Geraldton. There are also local projects that are utilizing the technology; a local school currently being built, and accommodations that they have tendered for, among a host of others. “It is slowly starting to change, which is good,” Arron said. “I can definitely see the benefits. Time onsite is reduced. Compliance is a big thing. Those nailplate software systems, you know it’s fully compliant with the certification behind it. It’s a no brainer.”

Their radio ads promote the benefits of prefab, plus the environmental green renewable aspect.

Coral Coast Frames & Trusses is family owned and run by Arron, with wife Natasha Parker as the Office and Accounts Manager

As a small business, and with Arron’s dual roles in building and construction combined with the truss plant, they have close connections and links with local architects, which allows them to have a better involvement and understanding with the whole framing process. “One of the things we’ve found is our customers here, because they know Arron’s a builder, can ask questions that probably they wouldn’t be able to if he wasn’t. Because a significant amount of our work has been local, Arron’s able to go out onsite when they’re putting them up. That customer service side of things is appreciated,” Natasha said.

In terms of the frame and truss business side of things, “we’re trying to build that up more,” Arron said, “mostly focused at the residential market, we don’t get involved too much in building new houses, so the other builders are happy to buy from us.” The offsite prefab is still minimal in WA compared to other parts of Australia. “It’s definitely still very early in its evolution over here,” Arron said. It is inspiring to see Coral Coast Frames and Trusses working in offsite manufacturing, and setting a great example of the benefits, compared to stick-built constructions. With that in mind, and having taken over an existing business with the industry facing timber supply problems, Arron and Natasha held back a bit for a while with the frame and truss. They took on the business right as COVID hit. “We’re going to start pushing it more now. We’ve been steady, we haven’t been quiet. But mainly it’s been through word of mouth, but the potential [to grow] is there.” Geraldton and surrounding areas are still a small community where word of mouth and having a good reputation means everything.

The waste reduction has been incredible since taking on the factory. “Every little bit of wood you use. The offcuts that are long enough, we stack them, and when we need little blocks for wall frames they get used. There’s not much waste at all.” Being in an area where there’s not many options for waste timber other than land fill, reduced waste is not just great for business costs, but the environment too. The business is also impacted by what timber is available in the area – as most places won’t stock the range of timbers that are available closer to the city – so efficiency with what you can get, is crucial.

A lot of the construction side of business has been infrastructure within the local community – including shop refurbishments, local police station builds and refurbishments, visitor structures within the national parks, and a local hydro-therapy pool for a special needs school.

Arron described enjoying getting out and about around the countryside and being able to do work in remote locations – although it’s a seasonal regard working around the environment, summer heats, and harsh conditions. “The stakeholders know that now too, in terms of Parks and Wildlife, they know they’re not going to get it done in the middle of summer, so they put them out for tender in summer knowing that they’ll get done over winter,” Arron said. Geraldton and the surrounding coastline is also well known for its winds – whilst this might bring the coolness and great waves for surfers, it can also be a consideration for construction and getting work completed on time.

But as a small business, life can also be tough – it was apparent that Arron and Natasha are extremely hard working and dedicated people. The realities of owning an industry business with several hardships to deal with over the time, have been impacting them business-wise and personally. They don’t stop. “It’s definitely getting hard now,” Arron said, “with little return, The labour shortages obviously, and all the regulations keep piling on top of each other.” And even though WA was the least locked down state, COVID definitely created major issues. “Before COVID, there were people everywhere, now it’s effecting every industry, mechanics, cafes, shops, everything. I don’t know what happened.”

To balance work and family life, Arron and Natasha, like most small business owners, fit what they can around the business. “Because we do a bit for the national parks, when we go and inspect a site, we’ll try and make that a weekend away with the kids. You make what you can out of it,” Arron said. Also making the most of Geraldton with its beautiful beaches and sea winds, Arron and the kids love to sail and are part of the local Yacht club. Arron competes each year in sailing, and recently completed the Flying Fifteen World Championship in Fremantle this year. Natasha though struggles with sea sickness, so her passion is land based – in the veggie garden where she grows heirloom vegetables for the family.

In terms of what drives them, despite the difficulties, Arron said “There’s a bit of enjoyment knowing that it’s getting used by the community. Every job we do is a little bit different.”

And for the community, there have been major added problems with Cyclone Seroja hitting Kalbarri and the area in 2021. About 70% of houses in Kalbarri were damaged or destroyed. As most Australians who have lived in disaster impacted areas would know, recovery is slow enough and hampered by sluggish or ailing supports. But this was amidst supply and worker shortages – compounding issues more for the locals. The communities are still rebuilding. This has impacted Natasha and Arron, with Arron saying that he’s hardly had a day off in that time.

With the cyclonic zoning set to change for the coast of WA, this has been something that Coral Coast Frames and Trusses, can conform with. “The prefab systems can definitely design for region C and D, D is the strongest. It comes out as a fully designed and compliant system,” Arron said. When it comes to building safer homes and infrastructures, it is a valuable asset to have Arron and Natasha working within the community with their frame and truss business.

I was really struck with how dedicated both Arron and Natasha are with their businesses, and also what they are doing for the area – both locally and extended. When it comes to what they do, they give 110%. They are modest about their achievements but are devoted locals and embody what it means to be part of the community. They’re doing a wonderful job in demonstrating the benefits of prefab – as a time effective component to work with, the ability to make safer structures for the community, and the environmental advantage – for the Coral Coast and beyond. It’s truly amazing everything that they are achieving, and not just with the framing side of things. A massive thank you to both Arron and Natasha for taking the time to catch up amidst the craziness of small business and their hectic schedule, and I wish them the absolute best with everything they do in the future.

Our Principal Partners