An innovative group of property professionals have ensured they get a say in the Fraser Coast region’s social, economic and environmental development, with the establishment of an industry body aimed at giving residents a voice on local issues.
Created in recent years, the Fraser Coast Property Industry Association (FCPIA) comprises about 70 corporate members from local property-related businesses, including real estate agents, property managers, builders, developers, consultants and legal representatives.
Association president Glen Winney, who is also the managing director of Win Projects, says the group was created to help shape the region’s future, particularly in the Hervey Bay and Maryborough areas.
A local voice
Glen says while organisations such as the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) and the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) often focused on issues from a state or national perspective, the association concentrated on local issues such as council policies, infrastructure and town planning.
“We wanted a 100 per cent local organisation that focused on the local issues,” Glen says.
“We become members of other organisations to do the broader and bigger things, but it’s all about people on the ground that actually live here and make a living here, fixing the issues that we want to fix on a local basis.”
One of the first things the association did was set up a memorandum of understanding with Fraser Coast Regional Council to open lines of communication and establish protocols around how the two bodies would communicate.
“We’ve got meetings every six weeks, and we’ve got feedback on any new policies as they’re coming through,” Glen explains.
Creating a clear path for the association to communicate with the council has helped the group start to tackle the housing boom and the shortage of rental properties in the region.
“We’ve got infrastructure that’s behind, and we’ve got a lot of developers trying to bring on new land subdivisions,” Glen says.
“So what it has actually helped us do was get a communication channel to council saying, ‘Hey, private enterprise is bringing on all this product, but we need your assistance to get the approvals through quicker’.
“It’s helped bring stock into the market a lot quicker than it would have otherwise.”
“We’ve had them, the council, participate in meetings with us on working on long-term plans, but also short-term changes that could be adaptable to our community as well,” she says.
“We’ve utilised that group to be able to facilitate that conversation, which just allows all members of the community to be able to be involved in those meetings and those presentations that have occurred.”
Looking to the year 2040
The association has a committee of 10 representatives, including a president, vice president and secretary, and subcommittees that specialise in certain areas, such as policy, legal, events or media.
Glen says a core focus for the association is what the region will look like in 2040 and what infrastructure, services and housing will be needed.
“The Fraser Coast has about 108,000 people now, but we’re going to have more than 140,000 people here by 2040,” he says.
“So in the next 20 years, we’ve got to fit almost 40,000 people in, which is probably about 20,000 housing products.
“We’re talking over 1000 housing types, whether it be unit, lifestyle, village, or traditional houses, we need to produce per annum.
“So we’re doing a lot of stuff that’s not so exciting, such as talking about the infrastructure under the ground, where the water’s going to come from, how we are going to get a surge in infrastructure in and where the stormwater is going to go with all of the new housing projects.”
Part of the solution
Glen says the council is just starting to prepare a new town planning scheme, and the association is working on that as well.
The idea is that the association can take the community’s views to the council and help “get ahead of the curve” and plan for the future.
“What we’re trying to do is make people aware of it and get people in the industry involved in it, so we don’t just complain about it after it comes in,” Glen says.
“We’re part of the solution, and we’re trying to give council the feedback about where private enterprise thinks it should be going.”
Another key area of focus for the association is personal development, and in line with this aim, they organise regular events including keynote speakers, property forums and masterclasses with industry experts.
Focus on education
The association also often brings council representatives in to sit on a panel or a forum to help educate members.
“The next one we’re looking at doing is where our rates money goes,” Glen says.
“Everyone whines about paying rates, but not everyone understands what council has to pay for.”
Glen says some forums are open to the public, but many are for members only.
“We have to have a balance so that there’s a benefit to becoming a member,” he says.
“So, for us to survive and put resources into this, we need to vary it.”
Tara says the association represents a model that could be duplicated across the country to enable those in the property industry to create better connections with all levels of government, but particularly present local voices on local issues.
“It’s such a fantastic concept, especially in a regional area,” she says.
“But it could be very adaptable in city locations for real estate businesses, where they could be doing the same thing.
“Rather than sitting back and complaining about what council is doing, they can actually establish a similar organisation and truly get involved.”
Tara says the work the Fraser Coast Property Industry Association has done so far is fantastic, and she’s delighted to have become a member.
“I can only imagine the next few years, we’re going to see really positive changes within our community, and ones that will be community-supported, not just based on the opinion of the local council,” she says.
Membership for the Fraser Coast Property Industry Association is $200 a year for a business or a company and $100 for an individual or sole trader.