Recap: The Property Conference 2023

While a trip to the GC might have sounded (and let’s be honest, sometimes felt) like a holiday, we can assure you plenty of learning and networking was done across the three days of The Property Conference 2023. 

I doubt anyone in the audience will forget the impact of Hon Julie Bishop, who shared a few stories from her time as Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, which proved a valuable basis to explore various leadership styles.

“Men tend to be very transactional in their approach, whereas women tend to be more transformational – one style is not any better than the other, but you need a mix of both to ensure better outcomes.” 

“Most people can withstand the test of adversity, but if you want to test someone’s character, give them power.” 

Julie kept us entertained and enlightened with her take on the leadership styles of world leaders past and present and explained how her daily running habit became a source of connection out of the boardroom.

“I don’t think they’ve identified a leadership style that describes Donald Trump.” 

“This might come as a shock to you, but Boris is not a natural runner.” 

She also referred to Thomas Sowell’s decision-making process, which requires you to ask three questions: 

  1. Compared to what? Is this the only decision or is there something else on the table. 
  2. At what cost? Not just financial, but reputational, political. Who are the winners and losers? 
  3. What is the evidence? What is the hard evidence that you are relying on that will lead to the outcome you desire. If there is no evidence, make sure you’re aware you are taking a risk. 

Julie also added one additional question, which she referred to as “the first question”: What could possibly go wrong? 

Stephen Wu from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia provided an overview of Australia’s economy (hint: it’s not much rosier than ours): 

“Our population growth is outstripping the growth in housing stock.” 

“Since the RBA began raising rates last year, we have seen building approvals crash which will result in a very dry pipeline in the future.” 

Then The Catalysts Leadership Panel of Leonie Freeman (Property Council New Zealand), Alison Mirams (Roberts Co), Amanda Steele (ISPT) and Michael Zorbas (Property Council Australia) came together for a fantastic discussion that traversed everything from career challenges to resilience and diversity and inclusion.

“The pivotal moments in my career are when I’ve made the big decisions; the decision to throw myself into a role I feel unqualified for, the decision to take up something I’ve never done before.” Amanda

“Where I’ve really flourished is when I’ve said yes to opportunities.” Alison

“I never had a plan per say, it was always serendipity that dragged me forward.” Mike

“For every Dad I see in the office after 5pm at night there is a wife or a partner who’s picking up the load. If I can get Dads out the door on time, I can have a big impact on improving diversity across the board.” Alison

“Adversarial growth is looking at adversity and seeing the opportunity there. It’s more than ‘resilience’, which is coping with adversity. It’s reframing the challenge as the opportunity and providing as a leader that calm and considered vision that provides opportunity for growth. Rather than resilience, it’s about getting our team and ourselves into a space where we experience adversarial growth.” Amanda

“I got into a builders lift many years ago and was reading the graffiti on the wall and it said, “who’s got bigger balls than Alison?”. I went home to Dad and I said, ‘I’ve made it’.” Alison

“It’s really powerful when you’re underestimated. I’m not going to tell you what I know, I’m going to show you and out manoeuvre you.” Alison

“The gender pay gap, job-for-job, between some of our members can be in excess of 20%.” Mike

“I love Gen Z. I love the positivity of Gen Z and Millennials.” Amanda 

“The older workers are amazing, they have so much knowledge and so much experience. Our challenge is pairing them up with the younger generation.” Alison 

“One of my biggest achievements has been really pushing the industry to move to a five-day work week. I have caught a lot of flak for this move over the years – to the extent where I had to ask for a video recording of a speech I gave at a Property Council Australia conference to be removed from YouTube because of the level of vitriol I received.” Alison 

Our Indigenous Design panel of Dr Danièle Hromek (Djinjama) and Dr Rebecca Kiddle (Te Manawahoukura) discussed why embracing indigenous design is beneficial for a project and how to engage with local iwi. 

“The evidence shows that if you create a strong sense of place, it can have positive economic outcomes. So, how do you do that? You look to what was once there and create something authentic…it’s often referred to as ‘place keeping’.” Rebecca 

“We walk between two worlds and never quite meet either of them, I think.” Danièle

“Know and understand the place you are working in.” Rebecca

“We’ve been waiting for a really long time for you to join our circle. This is an invitation to enter our culture.” Danièle 

“Who are you to culture, who are you to this country and how are you going to integrate yourself?” Danièle 

Naveen Dath shared the incredible vision for the Queen’s Wharf Integrated Resort, which embraces Brisbane’s river culture, saying “we deliberately blur the edge of what’s inside and what’s outside to bring people back to nature.” 

Dr Sasha Maher presented The Managed Retreat, explaining the realities of climate change and inevitable managed retreat from coastal areas.

“It’s very hard when you don’t feel the sea lapping against your house to understand the risk. It’s only when the worst happens that people respond.” Sasha 

Our final speaker on Day One was Rabia Siddique, who gave a powerful account of her time in the British Army, when she was held hostage in Iraq in 2005, then faced discrimination when both the military and government tried to cover up her involvement in the incident, which saw her leading hostage negotiations for the release of two British Special Forces illegally kidnapped and detained by Iraqi based terrorists.

She told us to “remember the capacity and the power that we all have to create ripples and waves of change.” 

Day Two kicked off with Urban Designer Lucinda Hartley (Neighbourlytics), whose vibrant session covered how developments and housing models can better meet the needs of the community by using data-driven analytics in design and urban planning.

“It would be pretty easy to plan a city if it weren’t for humans.” 

“Wherever you look around the world you find a pretty standard model of housing. This model might put a roof over our heads, but it doesn’t meet our needs as a community.” 

 “The three things that stood out in increasing loneliness were really small apartments, homes with high fences and low street activation and spaces with high security, which left people feeling uncomfortable.” 

 “We’re good at measuring stuff but we don’t always measure the right stuff. So how do we measure what matters?” 

“It’s no longer about having a great location if you want to attract workers – it’s an anywhere economy.” 

 “It’s not about work from home versus work in the office, the biggest challenge is preventing large fully remote US companies from poaching my staff when they’re paying three times their salary.” 

 “People are not just working from home, they’re running businesses from home. This might mean we need to be catering for this in the type of houses we build.”  

“We need a new set of rules for living. It’s a new social currency that people are needing.” 

“We need to connect, we need to belong, we need to contribute. Those things are evergreen.” 

Following morning tea, Bernard Armstrong (Cedar Pacific) shared the lessons learned from Cedar Pacific’s Build to Rent journey. He said that the BTR sector in Australia and New Zealand are funded by offshore capital and, therefore, having certainty in the planning process is crucial to attracting investment and getting through council. 

“We’re not going to attract capital to fund BTR by putting up more barriers.” 

Bernard shared that having an operator who understands how to build and curate the type of community that is needed for a successful BTR project is where that long-term value will develop. 

“Creating an experience of ease for residents and connecting them with other residents so they feel at home and want to stay is paramount. Things like cinemas, private dining booking rooms, 24/7 concierge, co-working spaces, pet-friendly units and premium gyms/wellness centres amenities are a sure way to attract residents and investment.”

Our ESG Panel closed out the morning with Alec Tang (KPMG), Annelies Hodge (Norman Disney & Young) and Jessica Stewart (Ginninderry) exploring the transformative power of prioritising Social and Governance (S&G) considerations. They discussed fostering value creation, implementing robust sustainability policies, driving positive community impact, addressing climate change through action, ensuring ethical sourcing practices, promoting people wellness, and enhancing staff retention. They challenged us to strive for continuous improvement in our sustainability endeavours and remember the S and the G (social and governance) are just as important as the E (environmental) when it comes to ESG.

“Don’t be afraid of the opportunity of ESG, it doesn’t have to be flash, radical and new. There’s a lot of innovation out there that doesn’t involve new technology, it just requires some thinking outside of the box.” Alec

“As a leader in your organisation, walk the talk. The little things do matter.” Annalies 

“Talk about it. We don’t have to re-create the wheel at this stuff, there are plenty of tools out there – utilise expertise that already exists and build on it.” Jessica 

Our final speaker of the day was Erchana Murray-Bartlett, who shared her journey across Australia when she beat a Guinness World Record by running from Cape York to Melbourne – the equivalent of 150 marathons (6,200 kms) back-to-back, consecutively.

Erchana raised over AU$100,000 for The Wilderness Society and invigorated our audience with the Guinness World Record beating attitude. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us on the Gold Coast, we hope you enjoyed the experience as much as we did – save the date for next year when we head back to Wellington on 11-13 September 2024.

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Check out all the highlights and photos from The Property Conference 2023 on our website and remember to tag us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram! #TPC23

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