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Gibbs draws on industry experience in new post

Tracey Cook this week meets the new president of the Property Council of WA and finds out how the organisation hopes to tackle the problems faced by property owners and developers.

TAKING the helm of the State’s peak body for the property industry is not a task for the faint-hearted.

The industry has been slugged with increasing taxes and is fast losing patience waiting for promised planning approval reforms, while other battles also loom large.

Two months into his new role as Property Council of WA president, Hawaiian Management executive director Russell Gibbs is trying to take a fresh approach to find solutions to the industry’s woes. 

Drawing on the wealth of experience and knowledge found among the wide-ranging membership, Mr Gibbs has initiated the involvement of high-profile members to help educate both government and the PCWA members about the effects of government policy and taxes.

Members such as KPMG partner in charge Brett Fullarton, Acumen Capital property director Ben Charnaud and Stockland general manager Nick Perrignon, are able to give real life case studies to demonstrate to government the implications of policy changes and head up advocacy programs for identified priority areas.

The PCWA has pinpointed six priority areas – property taxes, planning approvals, heritage legislation, strata titles reform, business attraction strategy and retail tenancy legislation.

Mr Gibbs said that as president of PCWA he wanted to make members more aware of the implications of the issues facing the industry and how, as industry members, they could help PCWA find solutions.

Once seen as purely a networking organisation, in recent years under the guidance of executive director Joe Lenzo and his team, the PCWA has become more of a unified voice for the property industry.

Mr Gibbs said government believed the property industry was an easy tax target.

“Historically the property industry has been complacent as an industry,” he told WA Business News, indicating a historical failure of the industry to force governments to rethink many proposed tax and policy changes.

“Commercial property is seen as the domain of the wealthy, whereas most people have superannuation funds, which have exposure to commercial property. It is the mum and dad investors whose money is involved.”

Increased taxes affect more than just wealthy property owners, he said, with many businesses feeling the flow-on impact.

For example the purchase of a $20 million property will entail about $160,000 extra in stamp duty in the new financial year.

Mr Gibbs said this could mean the extra $160,000 may not be spent on a lobby refurbishment, which meant a missed opportunity for a local designer or contractor.

“Property serves as a base for so many industries and, if allowed, has the opportunity to be such a dynamic industry,” he said.

The billions of dollars being pumped into listed property trusts are already making the property industry an increasingly tight market. Mr Gibbs said excessive taxes made it even more difficult for the industry to reach its potential.

“The property is an industry that will pay its own way but it must be balanced,” he told WA Business News.

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