About the UDIA Outlook Interviewer:
Full Name
: Michael Arena

Job Title: Senior Civil Project Engineer

Company: TABEC Senior Civil Project Engineer

About the Interviewee:

Full Name: Ryan Hunter

Job Title: Project Director

Company: Peet Limited

UDIA Young Development Professional Award Winner – 2006

Interviewee Introduction:

Ryan was the 2006 UDIA Young Development Professional Award Winner and has worked in the WA land development industry for 19 years, backed by a BCom (Property) and MSc (Project Management).

Starting his career at Peet whilst finishing his studies full time, Ryan has been afforded exposure to roles in national acquisitions, funds management and development management and has seen Peet’s transition from a private company when he commenced through to the ASX-listed national developer that it is today.

As a Project Director at Peet Limited and a member of Peet’s Western Australian Leadership Team, Ryan manages a portfolio of projects that are set to deliver more than 7,000 lots within the Perth metropolitan area.

Ryan has been actively involved with the UDIA since 2006, having been a past chairperson of the Outlook Committee and committee member of the Taxation and Infrastructure committees.  Ryan is current a member of the UDIA Urban Water Committee, UDIA’s representative on the Water Resources Reform Reference Group and was recently a member of the Regional Advisory Panel of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities.

Serving up the Hot Question

1. Can you please share a brief overview of your career in the property industry to date?

I commenced my studies with a Bachelor of Commerce at Curtin University, but I hadn’t decided to major in Property until the end of first year.

At that time, the property course had a very small group and you realised pretty quickly that a lot of the people in the room had some pre-existing relationship with the industry.

Commencing with Peet provided a fantastic grounding in the Industry as Peet was growing, and I was exposed to both the development management aspects of the industry as well as the acquisition side of things nationally.  At that point Peet had not listed, so it was a great opportunity to learn from some great developers such as Warwick Hemsley.  As we listed, I had the opportunity to really hone my skills on understanding different decision drivers given the breadth of investment structures that Peet had within its portfolio.

In 2006 I became involved with the UDIA through its committees and have found that to be an integral part of my career development.  The opportunity to broaden your exposure and apply your skillset to industry wide issues is a fantastic development opportunity for a young professional.

2. How did the property industry appeal to you during your studies? Did you have contacts who informed you of potential opportunities, typical job roles and/or involvements?

The course was very broad. It covered a range of areas, but it really was the guest speakers that came in from time to time who provided that early guidance of what your career may look like.

I remember being very naïve about the industry at that time, but I think the industry has done a good job in recent years to really enhance the understanding of students in regard to what they should expect coming out of uni or from other professional pathways.

3. Did you have mentors or other individuals who guided your career and recognised your potential leadership capabilities?

I’ve always taken the mantra that hard work takes care of itself and that you create your own luck.  That approach saw me identified as having potential leadership capabilities, and I was grateful for a number of mentors at Peet who identified and nurtured my enthusiasm and drive and guided me down the path of how to transition into those traditional leadership roles.

Gwyn Davies who I worked with for a number of years was instrumental to my early growth as he was steadfast in his attention to detail and expectations of the same.  And the ability to work with others such as Warwick Hemsley, Brendan Gore, Paul Lakey, Peter Dumas, Paul Morgan, Craig Graham, Anna Ross-Adjie and Bruce Young.  All have had different impacts on my career with each having very different styles of leadership and approaches to the Industry.  But the point in common was that they were always prepared to challenge you and to push you to those moments of self-reflection that, in hindsight, are essential for the growth of your leadership capabilities.

4. What advice would you offer to recent graduates and young professionals entering the development industry?

There were many times through my career where I sat back and questioned whether it was time to move on.  “Is it bad for my development or bad for my CV to stay for too long?”.

I definitely experienced a period of time in my career where many of my peers were moving to bigger titles, or bigger projects, and the grass definitely looked greener.

I think early in your career you can be seduced by the desire of quick promotions, but it is important to balance those opportunities with taking the approach of investing in your skillset, your relationships and your long term career development.

In my experience, a Development Manager who has experienced the lifecyle of a project (experiencing the highs and the lows) is more rounded that a Development Manager who has not spent enough time on their projects to see the outcomes of the decisions that they have made.

Understanding the different perspectives of a decision is very important in guiding your decision making moving forward. As is learning from, and taking responsibility for, the outcomes of decisions that you have previously made.

These are all valuable experiences.

It is really important to put some effort into ‘understanding the why’ about so many things that we do in the industry.

If you can get your head around understanding the why, you will become a really valuable member of the development industry moving forward. 

5. You received the UDIA Young Development Professional Award going back 15 years now. How involved were you with UDIA and industry prior to your nomination?

The Young Professional Development Award was a relatively new concept when I received it back in 2006, and it was quite early in my career.  As a result my involvement with UDIA had been limited to attendance at events and reading the regular communications.

From winning the Award, it was great to get involved with the Outlook Committee and I was afforded the opportunity to chair the committee so that really pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

The motivation for applying had been to find a way to get more involved in the industry. I was keen to find a way to get the young professionals more involved in the industry, and my early involvement with the committee was really focussed around trying to drive that engagement.

6. Since receiving the YDPA you’ve had ongoing involvement with UDIA and other industry bodies. How has this involvement shaped your career?

The YDPA provided that initial opportunity to gain some exposure to how UDIA operates and to see how I could utilise my skills and experience to get more involved.  Whilst Deborah Goostrey was around, I found that my willingness to help and apply some time to industry issues saw me regularly asked to get involved.  And that really helped in shaping my career and reflected that mantra of creating your own luck.

It was that desire to help and follow through with the hard work that was then rewarded by being afforded more opportunities to be involved. The exposure to different stakeholders furthered my network, and the ability to build these relationships on the basis of a common interest is invaluable as you progress in your career.  It is important to demonstrate that you are committed to the progression of the industry as a whole, as that will break down barriers and build trust when you are confronted with complex challenges on a particular project down the line.

7. What attributes or qualities do you really value in your team?

As with all of our hires at Peet, it is particularly important to for someone to be culturally aligned to the Company.  We want good people first, as that underpins everything else.

From that point, I really value those team members who do what they say they’re going to do.  This really is essential.  We can work around any issue as long as we are taking accountability and responsibility

Don’t guess.

Don’t just throw something out because you’ve seen that another project implemented it and it sounds like it also applies to your project. Just make sure you understand you’re making a decision for your project for a reason and you understand the reasons. They are probably the biggest drivers that I have for my team.

As long as you are doing what are you going to do and actually putting that time in to understand the ‘why’, you’re going to be fine.

8. A depressed market can often be a trigger for major innovation. What key innovations have you observed in the development industry over the past several years and how have they benefited the industry?

Over the past several years innovation has been focussed on how we can make things more streamlined, implement cost controls, hit price-points and make things more affordable.  Its driven a lot of positives to market, but the thing with innovation is that there are always lessons to learn along the way.

As we start to move into a different part of the market cycle, the innovation mindset of a developer will change.

I see that many of the young professionals in the industry have only seen a depressed market, so it will take a different mindset – but not really any different to the 2000’s when most young professionals hadn’t experienced a soft market.

With innovation it’s important to come back to the point of ‘understanding the why’. If you understand why you’re doing something, then you will be well positioned and ahead of the game.

What has worked well in recent years is the greater collaboration between home builders and land developers regarding product development and coordinated release. I don’t see this changing going forward.

9. Do you still see there’s depth in that market for that smaller and medium, medium density seems to be the way that we’re all going, but that smaller product, what’s your sort of feel for it in the industry at the moment? Do you see that having legs moving forward?

What you can be certain of is that as the market starts to pick up again, there will be a whole pile of people that are effectively priced out of the market.

And those pressures will drive a whole range of innovative solutions that are being implemented to try and tap into that particular segment of the market.

On this basis I believe there is always going to be desire for smaller product as it responds to that basic human need of shelter and the desire to have a place to call home.

The market has been weighted to small lot product in recent years due to the tight access to credit and a range of economic factors.  Improved market conditions should see the top end of the greenfields house and land market improve (and respond to the impacts of COVID regarding the desire for bigger backyards, home offices, lifestyle changes etc).  This should see the proportion of smaller lots revert to a more long term trend compared with recent years.

10. How do you view the current level of industry collaboration as we move towards increased amenity and greenery in our communities?

Collaboration is always something that can be improved. I’ve definitely seen a shift towards local authorities desiring more involvement in regard to amenity and place making.

The challenge is making sure that stakeholders understand that everyone around the table has different constraints in how they operate – and collaboration needs to work with all of these constraints.  Things quickly break down when one stakeholder approaches the conversation from a position of saying “this is my checklist that must be ticked and that’s the only way we’re going to operate”.

Let’s start with a conversation about how this can play out, because it’s when you have those conversations and everybody understands each other’s concerns, that better outcomes can be delivered.

11. Have you always made a conscious effort to appreciate and consider alternative views in order to achieve positive outcomes?

Absolutely. Gaining an understanding, then talking about it and coming to a solution always gives a better outcome.

The challenge that we find sometimes is that whether right or wrong, the risk versus reward and the time value of money does come into play. It should never be dismissed from a conversation because it is just as important to some of the other factors that are being discussed.

Its takes collaboration from both sides to achieve a positive outcome – and it is usually through this collaboration that exceptional results are achieved.  And often, everyone ends up with an outcome that they are pretty happy with.

It is an unfortunate reality in the industry that we are in that sometimes the intent for collaboration isn’t met with open arms, and the rigid application of a policy is desired. As much as there is a need to appreciate alternate views and collaborate, it is also important to ensure that there is an understanding of the actions that may need to be progressed when a collaborative outcome hasn’t been achieved.

Have a conversation. The only time it really breaks down is when there’s no conversation.

The Final Sip….

12. What do you see is currently the biggest obstacle to delivering in the development industry?

The thing I’m really noting at the moment is when in doubt, it’s death by policy. Compared to 10 years ago, the number of policies that come out from a range of different authorities and providers is extreme.  They are usually fit for purpose but often conflict with other policies or are just cumbersome and challenging to implement. Trying to get across all of those, it just adds to that depth of reasoning as to why an outcome can’t happen.

The challenge we’ve got is there’s always a very, very important place for policy, just as there is a very important place for appropriate discretion based decision making.

Let’s be team WA.

It’s okay if you are presented with a proposal that doesn’t quite meet the parameters that are established in the policy.  If the outcome is aligned to the objectives, rather than putting up policy roadblocks let’s have a discussion and find a way to work together to make those things happen.

The last thing anyone wants it for policy to drive development outcomes that are the path of least resistance. Let’s be team WA.