22/04/2010 - 00:00

Hawaiian develops appetite for the arts

22/04/2010 - 00:00

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Property developers rarely get mentioned in the same breath as the phrase ‘corporate social responsibility’.

Hawaiian develops appetite for the arts

Property developers rarely get mentioned in the same breath as the phrase ‘corporate social responsibility’.

While the sector spans everything from the white shoe brigade to big construction behemoths, it is hard to find the soft or cuddly edges that are more common in other industries. Perhaps the closest most come to this concept is the more frequent references to sustainability, the latest buzzword in building and urban design.

That makes foreign-owned Hawaiian a somewhat unusual player in this spectrum.

Hawaiian is a Perth-based property development and investment group owned by the Wen family from Malaysia.

The group owns numerous buildings, notably office towers like Parmelia House and London House in the Perth CBD and shopping arcades like the Colonnade in Subiaco.

It also has several joint venture developments with Brookfield Multiplex such as the Bishops See site at 235 St Georges Terrace and Carillon Arcade, as well as the new Claremont Quarter retail development.

It is also a big backer of community groups, especially arts organisations like His Majesty’s Theatre Foundation where it is a major sponsor and some of Hawaiian’s key management are directly involved with arts businesses.

Hawaiian general manager marketing Kate O’Hara is on the Black Swan State Theatre Company board, joining Rio Tinto’s Australian chief Sam Walsh, Alcoa’s Australian chief Alan Cransberg, University of Western Australia vice-chancellor Alan Robson, KPMG partner Craig Yaxley and McKenzie Moncrieff founder Rob McKenzie, to name a selection.

Hawaiian chief executive Russell Gibbs is also a councillor on the Australian Business Arts Foundation, one of dozens of business luminaries from around the country who offer their name to this increasingly powerful institution.

Hawaiian won’t disclose how much it spends on its support for the arts, but HMTF indicates the funding is significant enough to underwrite whole projects for several years.

Hawaiian spokesperson Angelika Fawcett said that the company’s founders have always had a view on giving back into the communities they operate in.

“We see that as a real responsibility, it is not about putting Hawaiian’s brand out there,” Ms Fawcett said.

“Yes we are here and have some big buildings on the terrace but that is not sustaining society in its own right.”

Ms Fawcett said that investing in the arts was about improving the communities in which the business operated, taking a long-term view that this was a virtuous circle that would benefit the business.

“It is good for all of us,” she said.

Hawaiian’s initial involvement with the foundation was in 2006 through the Brainbox project, which sponsored small stage theatre in the basement of the century-old His Majesty’s Theatre. The move was, in part, aimed at stimulating activity in the CBD during the week, an issue for many business operators in the downtown area.

Recently, Hawaiian funded Malaysia’s Duma Orchestra to perform at His Majesty’s for the second time.

But HMTF is not exclusively focused on the historic theatre building and has remit to help provide access to cultural activities and performing arts for all people in the state.

The latest collaboration between the foundation and the property developer, a project dubbed Hawaiian Alive, certainly reflects wider ambitions.

The program involves introducing students around the metropolitan area to a wide range of arts workshops, from bringing leading photographers to schools to transporting whole classes to sites such as the Playhouse for dance sessions.

Foundation executive director Patria Jafferies comes with a distinguished business background of her own, as a founder of Dome Coffees she currently chairs the Small Business Development Commission.

“You need someone with the vision to understand the importance of creative development,” Ms Jafferies said.

Hawaiian sees the value-add to people that work or live in the communities where they have their businesses.

“If you have a healthy, happy community it is a better place to do business.”

 

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