Developing and strengthening communities throughout Queensland
The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) is a national, not-for-profit organisation representing the development industry. Established in 1971, the Queensland office is the largest of the UDIA state bodies. The organisation was formed to represent on an industry-wide basis, and to provide feedback and insight to governments, both state-level and federal, on everything to do with development, particularly in the residential sector.
UDIA (Qld)’s membership is made up of the state’s property development professionals. “Our business is about building communities,” says President Brett Gillan, “It’s a whole lot more than just the bricks and mortar. Our members effectively provide the framework for communities to thrive, including the places where we live, where we work, where we recreate, and where we socialise. Putting that all together is what we do.” The function of the UDIA (Qld) within the development industry is to represent its members, and to assist them in the delivery of better communities through thought leadership, advocacy, knowledge and research. “The role we play in developing communities is essential,” Mr Gillan says, “because we all want to have great communities where we live; it’s the heart and soul of what we do.”
Through their advocacy for legislation that supports the development industry, the UDIA (Qld) works to ensure an adequate supply of land to facilitate sustainable and affordable community growth. “In real terms,” Brett explains, “that means efficient taxes and charges for new developments, efficient and effective planning, development legislation and processes. It also means adequate funding for infrastructure, because if you provide all of that, then you’re able to make it affordable, and you get great communities at an affordable price. There’s no use having one without the other.”
The UDIA (Qld) plays a key role for its membership by adding value to the development industry through a variety of events: The Signature Series, the Thought Leadership Series, the Knowledge Series, and the Sustainability Series. The Signature Series is the UDIA’s premier series, and the heart and soul of the organisation. An important component of the Signature Series is the UDIA (Qld) Awards for Excellence program. “That’s where we get to identify and applaud the exceptional developments that are getting done in Queensland,” says Brett. “The Awards program celebrates the best of the best. What it’s able to do is profile to the community some of the outstanding work that is done in Queensland, which is my view is world class”.
The goal of the Thought Leadership Series is to aid in the inspiration and innovation of their membership. “We get up close and personal with business pioneers and we learn from the teams that have delivered exceptional, landmark projects across the country,” Mr Gillan says. “It’s about being inspired and providing that leading edge.” The Knowledge Series aims to inform, educate, and elevate the industry, and provides a forum for knowledge to be transposed across the sector from leading experts in the field.
Through the soon to be launched Research Foundation, the UDIA (Qld) will provide rich insights, specific to the new development sector that are not yet available in the market. “It’s localised research that you just can’t get through any other source,” Brett says. “It’s our way of ensuring the entire industry has the information they need to make the best decisions possible – ensuring Queenslanders get the best product to suit their needs.”
Also within the Knowledge Series of activities, the UDIA (Qld) runs a successful Mentoring Program that carefully matches experienced mentors with mentees based on the mentees’ individual needs, in order to best help them progress in their career. The 2014 Mentoring Program began in May, and will run until the end of December.
The Sustainability Series builds on the organisation’s commitment to environmental sustainability. “It’s a really important area, it has been for a long time and it’s engrained in everything we do.” The advancement of sustainability practices within the property development sector is one of the numerous core objectives of the UDIA (Qld). “We do it for a couple of reasons;” Mr Gillan says. “We believe, socially, that it’s an important aspect to always keep in the front of one’s mind when we look at what our members do, and it’s also expected, by buyers and the community, that a very high level of sustainability is put into all developments that they consider purchasing or living in.” Most modern buyers understand the importance of living in a community that embraces sustainability principles. However, it can be difficult to completely understand or appreciate the various initiatives present in a development. The UDIA’s national EnviroDevelopment Certification scheme helps to crystallise and summarise the sustainability features of any project by categorising them into six different “leaves:” Ecosystem, Waste, Energy, Materials, Water, and Community. “This way,” says Brett, “someone who is interested in buying into a development can quickly see it, and work out how the development performs from a sustainability point of view.”
The UDIA (Qld) works to promote the positive impact the development industry plays in Queensland through media channels and the organisation’s official magazine, Urban Developer. Published every two months to provide data, insight, and profiles on the Queensland industry, as well as up-to-date information, such as legislation changes. The UDIA (Qld) also maintains a website that acts as a resource base that the industry can access and remain at the forefront of current industry events.
The UDIA (Qld) works very closely with the national UDIA body, and this year acted as the host for the National UDIA Conference a three-day event attended by almost 900 people. “It’s a fantastic way to showcase what’s happening in the industry across the whole country,” Brett explains. “We get to learn from other states, and they get to learn from us. It’s not just insular, we embrace development work that’s happening all around the world, and we get to understand what other people are doing, and we can find solutions in how they approach things, and vice versa.” Brett also notes the importance of working with members of other industry bodies under the large and diverse property umbrella. “There are a number of industry groups that focus on a particular area of that property sphere. We’re one dedicated part of that, and there are times when our interests overlap, so it’s important for us to have a healthy relationship with all of our industry bodies so when appropriate we can be seen as a united property voice.”
The continued funding of urban infrastructure is a key challenge for the future of the development industry. “We have a growing population, we have growing communities, and we have growing expectations,” Mr Gillan says. “We’re at that point in the evolution of our cities where there’s congestion, there’s upgrades required for the infrastructure to continue to support growth, and infrastructure is very expensive to deliver.” How to deliver new or improved infrastructure in a timely fashion, and in the right sequence, is not only a complex issue for a community, but for state, local, and federal governments as well. “I think it’s something that’s going to be on the agenda for a long time into the future,” says Brett, “because it’s expensive to deliver, and we need to deliver it to achieve prosperity, and continue to grow our communities.”
Brett Gillan first joined the UDIA (Qld) board in 2003. “I got involved because I wanted to give something back to the industry that’s looked after me, and that I’ve gotten so much enjoyment out of.” He was then elected as the Vice President in 2005, and became President of the board in 2007. After briefly relocating to Melbourne the next year, he returned to Queensland in 2010, and was asked in 2011 to consider returning to the UDIA (Qld) board. He was again elected as Vice President in 2011, and reclaimed his current position as President in 2013. “It’s been quite a journey,” he says, “and though it was interrupted by the development cool down, I really enjoyed coming back to the Queensland industry, and I enjoy being an active part of where development’s heading. It’s changed enormously for the better.” “I love being part of an industry that is continuously looking to improve on what’s just been done,” he said. Upon his election as President in the wake of the GFC, Mr Gillan noticed an entirely different industry dynamic than that of 2007. “We’ve lost a lot of people, and I’m keen to see the industry re-energised with new people coming into it and contributing their excitement and perspectives in their discipline.” Brett also aims to strengthen and support the organisation’s branch structure, and continue to maintain a statewide focus. “In Queensland, it’s very easy to be southeast centric, but the UDIA (Qld) really does embrace the entire state, and we’ve put a lot of energy and resources into doing that,” he says. “We’ve got a wonderful bunch of dedicated branches that work tirelessly to try to improve and move forward their regions, and we’re looking to make sure that that goes from strength to strength.”