Following some initial trepidation around if COVID-19 restrictions would impact on our annual sojourn to Bunker Bay for the 2021 UDIA WA State Conference, it was all systems go after the Premier lifted the lockdown in early February.

The conference this year focused on themes of Resilience, Recovery and Renewal with a carefully curated program relevant to our current global and local context, centred on how the development industry can increase resilience, navigate the recovery and renew business focus and activity in the coming years.

The welcome event on Wednesday night was a glorious evening on the lawns of the resort with food stalls, locally brewed beer and a relaxed vibe. The evening included an interactive welcome to country by Shaun Nannup who provided perspective and connection between delegates and the land we were meeting on.  Shaun included music, dance and personal stories in his welcome in order to ensure delegates were immersed in the experience.

The conference sessions then kicked off on Thursday with a session on the economic realities of the pandemic and opportunities for future growth.  Global economist Jonathan Pain set the scene via video link and Chief Economist from CCI WA Aaron Morey followed with a detailed look at WA’s economic recovery, outlining two key forces – mining commodity markets and federal stimulus and control of the virus. Both economists were eerily positive in their outlook and provided delegates with much hope for the year ahead.

Mr Morey provided assurance that China’s demand for iron ore is set to continue as growth in floorspace under construction starts to rebuild from the dip in early 2020.  Other commodities are also expected to work in WA’s favour including LNG and gold.

Mr Morey echoed UDIA WA’s calls for a clear population strategy to attract more people to WA over the longer term in order to support economic growth and assist in addressing the emerging skills shortage which is the biggest barrier to growth in 2021.

Government priorities

Following morning tea, it was time to hear from Ministerial representatives and the opposition on their key priorities over the next four years.  Parliamentary Secretary John Carey, Minister for Housing Peter Tinley and opposition planning spokesperson Tjorn Sibma were all in full election mode.  With Mr Carey outlining the state governments planning reform agenda to date and the importance of the infill agenda.  Mr Tinley focused on the state government’s success in working as a team to manage the impact of COVID-19, while Mr Sibma challenged the industry’s reputation in terms of the community’s acceptance of infill.

Following the government perspective, it was time to unpack what was learned from the 2020 stimulus package from an industry perspective.  Panelists Paul Blackburne, Steven Rowley (AHURI) and Minister Tinley considered the unprecedented success of the building grants and ‘where to from here’ in terms of opportunities to support the built form segment of the market.  The panel was ably facilitated by UDIA WA Councilor and General Manager of Lendlease Anthony Rowbottam.

Urban planning post COVID

With the focus moving to the world beyond COVID and what might change into the future in relation to urban development and design, Dr Julian Bolleter unpacked findings from the Plan My Australia Community Survey.

The survey considers how Australia’s population is expected to increase to 53 million by 2101 and where survey respondents think people should live. Findings show that the majority of respondents support population growth in their town or city, however the pandemic had caused people to be more concerned about using public transport and slightly more likely to live in a regional area.

Dr Bolleter proposed that in light of the pandemic, the development of smaller communities that are designed around self-sustaining bioregions or creating a series of urban villages within our existing larger urban areas would limit what he referred to as urban sprawl and reduce reliance on public transport.

A panel discussion facilitated by TBB Director Rachel Chapman followed, featuring Dr Bolleter, WAPC Chairman David Caddy and State Government Architect Rebecca Moore discussing in more detail what might change moving forward for planning, with discussion also covering the state government’s planning reform and approvals processes.

Landgate CEO Graeme Gammie rounded out the session with a detailed overview of the Community Titles Act and how it will influence the development of new communities in WA.

Future proofing projects

Thursday’s sessions concluded with a look at sustainability and future skills, with Luke Parker from OP Properties providing a case study on Montreal Commons Fremantle, one of Australia’s first carbon neutral apartment developments.

CEO of Construction Training Fund Tiffany Allen then provided a run down on Western Australia’s future training needs and the requirement to improve trade apprenticeship completion rates, create flexible pathways and consistent subsidies and to adjust the timing of incentives to employers.

Thursday evening’s social event on the deck above the glistening resort pool provided a perfect backdrop to watch the sunset, network with colleagues and listen to some fantastic live music.

Considering Perth’s future

Friday’s program opened with a focus on reviving our major cities as RAC General Manager of Public Policy and Mobility Sarah Macaulay outlined the impressive work that RAC is doing to progress their vision for a safer, sustainable and connected future.

With access to thousands of individual members, RAC has conducted detailed research into what Perth and Peel residents want in a liveable community and what it means to them including access to public transport, less requirement to drive, sustainable living, a caring community and safer streets.

Town Teams Jimmy Murphy and David Snyder followed with an outline of their organisations approach to community placemaking and ‘enabling great places to happen.’ The Town Team movement has grown exponentially in recent years and provides an example of a collaborative approach between community, local government and industry that really works.

Case studies on Perth’s City Deal and plans for the ECU City Campus Project by Sean Henriques and Murdoch Precinct by Hesperia’s Kyle Jeavons rounded out the final conference sessions.

Delegates finished the day with an inspiring, motivational presentation by a local duo – acclaimed photographer Russell Ord and big wave surfer Shanan Worrall.  Their stories of survival against many odds had the audience enthralled and capped off another epic conference that provided delegates with motivation and insight that they can implement back in their own projects.

A huge thank you to all the presenters and our valued conference sponsors for their support:

  • Lendlease
  • Western Power
  • Taylor Burrell Barnett
  • DevelopmentWA