Springfield shows how modern cities really should work

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

THE MUR group of companies is developing a multi-award-winning smart city, Springfield, just outside of Brisbane.

It has been on this journey for 30 years and Springfield is today classified as a city, having started out as a 3000 hectare parcel of bush land. It has been converted from a timber and forestry operation with a population of one, the caretaker, to an emerging city on the edge of Brisbane with a population of almost 50,000 people.

This is an unusual project. Usually governments run these types of developments, but Springfield is the vision of, and is being managed by, a private developer whose figurehead is the visionary Maha Sinnathamby, MUR founder and chairman of Springfield City Group.

The first move was to build the residential component but Bob Sharpless, the managing director of the MUR Group and deputy chairman of the Springfield City Group said it was realised early on that things had to be done differently.

Springfield City aimed to create employment, with one job for every three people, and to do this, it had to identify the business themes that would create future employment. These included education with 11 schools, a university and a TAFE and lots of childcare centres for a young population with an average age of 29.

There are more than three children per household in Springfield. 



There is a focus on health at Springfield, with a component of the project called Health City involving public and private health provision. There is also the traditional shopping precinct called Orion Centre which includes Coles, Woolworths and K-mart.

The smart city has also developed strongly in the information technology (IT) space with the Polaris Data Centre and dark fibre connecting Springfield back into Brisbane.

“We’ve reticulated fibre through the community a long time before NBN was a requirement,” Mr Sharpless told Talking Business.

“And increasingly, we’ve started to play in the energy space where we are working with a French company, Engie, to achieve a zero net energy position by 2038.

“They are just a few of the themes we have identified,” Mr Sharpless said.

“What we’re trying to do is attract businesses that can be located in Springfield that will create the future jobs for the people that either live here or can commute here in a pretty efficient way.”



As part of the development, Springfield is also working with major corporations such as Mirvac and Lend Lease.

“We knew very early on that we couldn’t do everything and we didn’t have the expertise to do everything, so we’ve tended to adopt a model where we play the role of ‘master developer’ and we have a number of long-term partnerships with the organisations,” Mr Sharpless said.

“We work collaboratively with them for them to develop in accordance with out master plan.

“We give people the opportunity to develop our land under a sub-development arrangement and we share, sometimes, the provision of infrastructure which is required for the land that they’re developing together with other parts of the project that we’re developing.”

Springfield also enters into royalty arrangements in which it takes a percentage of the sale price of the development.



Springfield is also promoting environmental sustainability. A third of the total land area has been retained for open space and conservation.

Usually, in projects of this nature, that figure would be about 10 percent. So this is a city considering its local habitat along the way.

Springfield aims to be a lot more efficient than other city and suburban areas in terms of energy. It is, in fact, the suburb in Queensland with the highest penetration of solar panels.

“We tend to be ahead of the curve,” Mr Sharpless said. “We look at ways of creating more uniqueness within our project. Our green credentials, our ability to put in high quality energy and telecommunications infrastructure has certainly been something that set us apart from other large residential projects

“And we have been doing it for a long time. Over 20 years ago, we were working with Apple to put computers into a school here and then testing the levels of numeracy and literacy that the students were achieving as a result of having that type of technology in the school.

“You’d laugh at it now and thinks it’s rudimentary but back then it was the novel thing to do,” he said.

“We also had Optus in there with an intranet and we were giving free computers to everyone who bought a block of land here to build a house.”




Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.


Peak organisations release new design guide to support NSW building reforms

FOLLOWING UP on major NSW legislative and regulatory reforms to improve building quality and safety, three peak bodies have released a landmark guide for design practitioners and engineers.

Consult Australia, Engineers Australia and the Australian Institute of Architects have joined forces to develop the Guide for design practitioners and engineers to help their members tackle the recent NSW Building Confidence reforms.

The guide is a practical resource that highlights key issues relevant to contracts and professional indemnity (PI) insurance relating to the recent legislative and regulatory changes.

There are multiple new obligations on design practitioners, engineers and building practitioners throughout the life of a building under the NSW Design and Building Practitioners Act 2020 (the D&BP Act) and the Design and Building Practitioners Regulation 2021 (the D&BP Regulation). 

The three peak bodies have worked closely with the NSW Government and authorities on the reforms which aim to ensure better compliance with the Building Code of Australia underpinned by higher quality design documentation in a positive step towards rectifying issues that have had significant negative impacts on consumers and building industry practitioners.

Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter president, Laura Cockburn, urged architects and other design and construction professionals to take full advantage of the new guide.

“We are determined to continue driving quality and safety improvements in our built environment," Ms Cockburn said.

“This new legislative framework is an important step in that process that will also rebuild consumer confidence and augment the safeguards detailed design documentation brings to any project, but particularly projects at scale.”

Consult Australia CEO Nicola Grayson said, "The interplay between contractual obligations and PI insurance policies is a critical issue for our members that must be considered before signing any contract.

“This guide helps design practitioners and engineers understand this interplay in the context of the latest NSW reforms.”

Engineers Australia chief engineer Jane MacMaster said, “The building reform agenda in NSW encapsulated by the D&BP Act and Regulations will help to ensure buildings are built to the high standard expected by our communities. This guide will assist design practitioners and engineers with their role and obligations in the new regulatory environment.”

Office of the Building Commissioner director, Matt Press has supported the work by the industry bodies.

“The implementation of the Design and Building Practitioner Act creates new roles, responsibilities and liabilities for many players. It’s so important that these are reflected in contracts to make sure clients, designers and engineers are on the same page and we minimise disputes. The Australian Institute of Architects, Consult Australia and Engineers Australia have shown great industry leadership to produce a one stop shop for practice-focussed guidance.”

A copy of the Guide for design practitioners and engineers is available on the following websites: Consult Australia, Engineers Australia and Australian Institute of Architects.



Deloitte research shows Melbourne CBD economy will bounce back

NEW RESEARCH by Deloitte Access Economics shows Melbourne’s CBD economy should grow by $6 billion in 2021 and would be on-track to return to pre-COVID levels by late 2024.

The research was produced for the City of Melbourne in May 2021 and includes comparative data on CBD economies in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Despite the economic devastation caused by the pandemic, Melbourne’s CBD economy is predicted to bounce back strongly, growing by 16.9 percent or about $5.9 billion to total more than $41 billion by the end of the 2021 calendar year.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said quickening the city’s economic recovery was her top priority. 

“Many Melbourne businesses have been through the toughest trading conditions in living memory and need our ongoing support to bounce back and thrive again,” Cr Capp said.

“The stronger our economic recovery is the more job opportunities there will be for Melburnians. A strong economy means Melbourne will continue to have growing finance and technology industries, vibrant cultural and hospitality industries and all the other experiences that make our city so marvellous.”

The recovery timeline for the CBD is forecast by Deloitte Access Economics to be four years, with the CBD returning to its pre-COVID-19 peak of approximately $74 billion in the second half of 2024.

CBD employment is forecast to bounce back, with 332,600 workers expected to be working in the city each day by 2025, only 5.5 percent (or 19,700 workers) fewer than in 2019.

The research comes shortly after City of Melbourne councillors endorsed a new Economic Development Strategy that sets a 10-year plan for the city's economic, social and cultural recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

The strategy includes targets for economic growth across the municipality by 2031:

  • $150 billion Gross Local Product (GLP) (2019: GLP $104 billion);
  • $250,000 GLP contribution per job (2019 GLP contribution by job: $209,000);
  • 600,000 jobs (2019 employment: 497,000);
  • 270,000 residential population (June 2020 residential population: 183,000);
  • Less than 5 percent shopfront vacancy rate (May 2021 vacancy rate: 19 per cent).

Gross Regional Product (GRP) or Gross Local Product (GLP) typically measures the output of all firms based in a region or municipality. Council’s Economic Development Strategy and other documents such as the Census of Land Use and Employment (CLUE) use this methodology and cover the entire municipality.

In contrast, the Deloitte research is focused on Melbourne’s CBD only and it measures output based on where the employees are currently located, not where the firm is located, to account for the working from home phenomenon.

The Lord Mayor said while Melbourne was facing challenges such as work-from-home practices there were major economic opportunities on the horizon including the re-opening of Australia’s borders and international students returning.

“We’ve all made sacrifices during the pandemic and it’s time to be ambitious about a quick and strong recovery. I couldn’t disagree more with those who say the city will never recover. With the right support, the city can grow into a $150 billion economy over the next decade,” Cr Capp said.

City Activation Chair Roshena Campbell said the city’s economic recovery was the council’s key priority.

“With our Economic Development Strategy, the council has a strong plan for Melbourne to rebound from the pandemic. Avoiding lockdowns and ramping up vaccination rates will mean the city can recover faster than expected.” Cr Campbell said.

“Prior to COVID-19, rental vacancies in the city were at record lows but there has never been a better time to start and grow a business in the city than right now. Competitive rents provide a fantastic opportunity to secure a CBD location for both start-ups and businesses looking to grow.”

The Deloitte research did not take into account restrictions in Melbourne in June 2021 or restrictions in Sydney in June and July 2021.


City of Kalgoorlie Boulder to stage SEGRA national economic growth conference

AUSTRALIA'S foremost regional economic development conference, Sustainable Economic Growth in Regional Australia (SEGRA) will be held in the City of Kalgoorlie Boulder from November 16-18 this year.

“SEGRA is widely recognised as Australia’s most credible, independent voice on issues affecting regional, rural and remote Australia,” SEGRA Conference convenor Kate Charters said. 

This annual event highlights  trends and opportunities affecting regional Australia as well as showcasing examples of successful regional initiatives from government, business, social ventures and the community.

SEGRA attracts more than 300 delegates from all levels of government, senior members of Parliament, policy advisers, industry players, academics and practitioners to develop and promote solutions to regional issues. 

Conference convenor Kate Charters said the organisers were delighted to bring SEGRA to the City of Kalgoorlie Boulder.

“In addition to profiling the Kalgoorlie Boulder region to delegates, the conference offers an excellent opportunity to showcase the success of the region’s economic development strategies and its capacity to create economic opportunities, through innovative business, strategic planning and a commitment to sustainable living” she said.

City of Kalgoorlie Boulder Mayor John Bowler said, “The successful SEGRA bid was testament to Kalgoorlie Boulder’s unique position as an important innovative, creative and technologically savvy hub in inland Australia as well as  the capacity for regions to progress and prosper on their own strengths."

SEGRA 2021 is hosted by The City of Kalgoorlie Boulder with event partners Regional Development Australia (Goldfields Esperance), Goldfields Esperance Development Commission and Kalgoorlie Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Industry.





Queensland resources sector develops as a hydrogen and jobs hot spot

THE Queensland Resources Council’s (QRC) latest State of the Sector report highlights the continuing adaptability and resilience of the state’s $82.6 billion resources industry, in spite of the impact of the global pandemic, chief executive Ian Macfarlane said today.

Mr Macfarlane said a survey of QRC member company CEOs in February 2021 showed resources companies were actively looking at new technologies such as hydrogen to reduce emissions and grow their business in a sustainable way.

“More than two-thirds of the CEOs surveyed said they were thinking about hydrogen-related opportunities, and 10 percent are already committed to projects involving hydrogen,” Mr Macfarlane said. 

“In a clear sign hydrogen will play a role in Queensland’s response to the global challenge of climate change, 33 percent of CEOs believe hydrogen will provide an opportunity to reduce emissions in their own business, and a further 33 percent see hydrogen as an opportunity for growth.

“The resources sector’s interest in hydrogen supports Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s decision to appoint a dedicated Hydrogen Industry Development Minister, Mick de Brenni following the state election last year. 

“I’m also pleased to have been invited by Minister de Brenni to serve on the Ministerial Energy Council, which provides the resources sector with an opportunity to engage with the government and other stakeholders in the critical area of energy policy.”

Mr Macfarlane said Australian Bureau of Statistics’ figures showed Queensland mining and gas jobs increased by 15 percent over the 12 months to February 2021, indicating the number of jobs supported by the resources sector is now well over 420,000.

“Even better, 24 percent of the CEOs who responded to our survey said they planned to increase employment at their Queensland operations over the next 12 months, with half expecting to increase their workforce by more than 25 percent,” he said.

“This response from our CEOs is a huge vote of confidence in the resources sector which benefits every Queenslander through a stronger state economy and more jobs.”

Mr Macfarlane said maintaining a ‘people first’ approach to COVID-19 and following Chief Health Officer protocols has helped keep Queensland communities safe and allowed the resources sector to keep working, earning and employing its way through the pandemic.

“Resources companies are now also looking at how to best support the government’s state-wide vaccine roll-out to ensure people living and working in regional communities are vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.

Three quarters of member CEOs who responded to the QRC survey said they would consider providing employees with information about vaccination benefits and risks; two-thirds would arrange for employees to be vaccinated voluntarily during work hours; and almost one in 10 said they would consider incentivising employees to be vaccinated voluntarily.

For the sixth consecutive quarter, the QRC report found the number one area of concern keeping CEOs awake at night was the volatility of the global economy.

Sharing equal second place was concern about poor regulation including regulatory uncertainty, and problems raising capital, with the link between the environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of companies and their ability to capital-raise consistently raised as a major issue.




CEDA report points Australia in direction of social, digital, climate investments

GOVERNMENTS should seize opportunities that deliver long-term economic and social benefits to secure Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CEDA’s 2021 Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) report. 

CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento said COVID-19 "has taught us we do better when we are bold" . Investments in social infrastructure such as childcare, aged care and housing should be high on the list, she said.

Australia should also build on the momentum of 2020 in the digital and data space by improving data sharing and linkage, to underpin evidence-based policymaking, Ms Cilento said.

“A key message from the economic contributors to this report is that despite periodic outbreaks of the virus, confidence and economic activity has been incredibly resilient,” Ms Cilento said. 

“Australia remained resilient by taking bold steps on health and the economy – 2021 will be no different.

“A rapid and widespread vaccine rollout will be crucial to maintaining recent momentum. In 2021, everything will flow from this, especially as governments wind back income support such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper that kept much of the economy afloat last year.

“The government should not be afraid to provide continuing support to the hardest-hit industries and individuals to support jobs and incomes, ensuring that the recovery is not derailed.”  

Australia’s openness to the world has come under increasing pressure and will be an important watchpoint as COVID-19 recedes.

“We must ensure our migration program emerges stronger, to support the recovery,” Ms Cilento said.

Some key policy debates are already re-emerging, although growth and jobs will dominate this year. 

“Climate change should be front of mind, given its business, economic and social significance, as well as the global policy shifts driven by the new Biden Administration in the United States,” Ms Cilento said.

“The Federal Government is moving towards committing Australia to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Embracing that goal as soon as possible, and outlining more ambitious policies to get Australia there, would build confidence among business and the broader community.”

Another theme is the need to address inequality, which ANZ chief economist Richard Yetsenga said had been rising across many parts of the globe. Lower-paid roles are bearing the brunt of job losses in many nations, and the inequality implications of this will be one of COVID-19’s more important legacies.

“To address inequality in Australia, a permanent increase to the rate of JobSeeker is long overdue,” Ms Cilento said.

“It will do much to support the recovery, and as Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Phillip Lowe has said, it is a fairness issue.”

There are clearly many question marks hanging over this year. CEDA’s Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) 2021 provides valuable analysis to help policy makers and business respond to these issues.

This analysis will be complemented by a keynote speech by Australia's Ambassador to the US, the Arthur Sinodinos, who will share his insights into the US-Australia relationship, at the launch of the report.

The 2021 EPO will be launched at a two-day digital forum today  from 11am to 12.30pm and tomorrow, February 17, from 11am to 1pm (AEDT).

The economists and journalists who have contributed to this report are:

  • Political outlook: Phillip Coorey, Political Editor, Australian Financial Review
  • Domestic economic outlook: Alan Oster, Group Chief Economist, NAB
  • Policy outlook: Cassandra Winzar, Senior Economist, CEDA
  • International economic outlook: Richard Yetsenga, Chief Economist and Head of Research, ANZ Banking Group

In addition to the authors, speakers include Australia's Ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos, in conversation with ABC Insiders host David Speers; Griffith Asia Institute director, Prof. Caitlin Byrne; ANU Australian Centre on China in the World director, Prof. Jane Golley; ABC RN Breakfast presenter, Fran Kelly; and Asialink Business chief executive Mukund Narayanamurti.

Download the report here


Major review of Sydney's city centre planning - Clover Moore

THE MOST DETAILED planning review of the city centre in more than four decades is set to play a critical role in Sydney's recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City of Sydney’s Central Sydney Planning Strategy provided a long-term vision that would promote job creation and economic growth, "while protecting the inner-city’s heritage and public spaces".  

“By providing for buildings taller than 300m and creating increased employment space, while ensuring high-quality design and protecting our important public places, this strategy provides a vision for the city’s commercial, residential and recreational future,” Cr Moore said.

“Our communities, businesses, landowners and industries have all had the opportunity to contribute to the development of this strategy. It will help us lay the foundations for the city’s recovery from the devastating economic and social impacts of the coronavirus and maintain Sydney’s status as an attractive place for business investment. 

“Following extensive consultation and three years of block-by-block research, we are proud to present this blueprint for planning done well – allowing the city to grow with new skyscrapers that will also ensure sunlight continues to shine on treasured public spaces such as Hyde Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Martin Place and Wynyard Park. 

“This is about strengthening public open space, accessibility and connections to make moving around the city easier and more enjoyable for workers, residents and visitors. The new strategy uses extensive evidence-based work and considers the current and future needs of our city. 

“We will protect, enhance and expand Central Sydney’s heritage, public places and open spaces for all to use and enjoy," the Lord Mayor said.

“If we want Sydney to maintain its status as an economic powerhouse of innovation and collaboration, it’s vital we safeguard economic floor space while allowing residential development to continue in the city centre.”  

After community consultation and feedback during the public exhibition, the City has made changes to the planning framework. These include: 

  • phasing out the incentive for residential development of additional floor space over two years;
  • saving time by allowing a project to proceed to a detailed design development application (stage 2) based on the approval of the concept design;
  • excluding the northern part of the Kent St tower cluster around Gas Lane, which is a transition area between the residential character of Millers Point and the commercial centre;
  • removing the proposed additional 30m in height control in the same northern Kent Street area;
  • updating guidelines for site-specific planning proposals in central Sydney to allow landowners to lodge planning proposals.

To ensure local infrastructure keeps pace with growth, the council will ask the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to amend the regulations to allow for a contributions levy of up to 3 percent to apply to new development. 

"This increased levy will fund new infrastructure to support the increase in floor space in the planning proposal and ensure Central Sydney remains an attractive place for investment," Cr Moore said.

She said other key elements of the strategy include supporting emerging designers and architects and promoting more women into design leadership roles to ensure central Sydney’s ongoing growth, success and equity.



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