By Natalie Rayment
“We’re on a mission from God!” Elwood Blues proclaims in the 1980 classic film, “The Blues Brothers”. Their holy mission is to save the orphanage from being sold to greedy property developers. Where would we be without the old ‘evil developer’ plot device? It’s been used in so many movies that one urban planner has created a blog to list them all: https://evildevelopermovies.wordpress.com/
While it’s generally acknowledged that popular culture is not a perfect mirror of society, it is also acknowledged that like every industry, the development industry is not perfect. It tends to be the bad apples that attract media attention. Given that we live in the land of the ‘fair go’, we wanted to highlight some of the good news stories about philanthropy in the industry.
The first good news story is about Clive Berghofer. He donated $50.1 million dollars to the Qld Institute of Medical Research. In 2013, this was the “biggest single philanthropic donation by an Australian”. In terms of philanthropy, he likes to lead by example and gives back $50,000 a week to his Toowoomba community.
Another example is ARIA Property Group. They have donated over $250,000 to the Smith Family to help disadvantaged students, were sponsors of the Brisbane Street Art Festival 2017 and have supported the University of Sunshine Coast Rugby, Mooloolaba Surf Lifesaving Club, West End Community House, The Ride to Cure Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis Queensland, Down Syndrome Association of Queensland, Leukaemia Foundation, Kids Cancer Project, Oxfam, Movember, Alzheimer’s Queensland, Mater Foundation and CEO Cookoff.
There is also the Property Industry Foundation which was formed in 1996 by leaders in the property and construction industry. It partners with respected charities to make a tangible difference to the problem of youth homelessness. From publicly listed development companies to private wealth operators, philanthropy is a common thread running through the industry.
Sunland Group have their own foundation which, for example, has assisted international schools, sponsored the Bond University Indigenous Scholarship for Law and worked with local businesses to raise $150,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave.
Gold Coast based Villa World have partnered with a community organisation to deliver two crisis care facilities for homeless young people. They also regularly donate to the Gold Coast Hospital Foundation, sponsor local school fairs and even sponsor elite sportsman, Shannon Eckstein.
Private development companies also give back to the community, such as a local developer (who remains anonymous) who, during the aftermath of the Brisbane 2011 floods, helped people to recover by volunteering their fleet of construction equipment.
Many developers do not wish to be named because of the fear that they will be judged negatively for practising philanthropy as a developer. This goes back to some people’s negative preconceptions that a developer only does good works to benefit their business.
Of course, at YIMBY Qld we believe developers make an important contribution to our communities beyond their philanthropic pursuits, by delivering good development outcomes that make for better living. Outcomes that feature design excellence, sustainability, innovation or community dividends (eg. housing for all stages of the lifecycle, density in the right locations, public parks, protection of wildlife corridors, rehabilitation of bushland, new lifestyle precincts, art, jobs and investment and new community infrastructure).
Perhaps as housing become less affordable, NIMBYs will become the pop culture villains. Instead of bulldozing the orphanage, they will prevent it from being built in the first place.