21/10/2019 - 14:07

One shot for Marra and the A-team at DevelopmentWA

21/10/2019 - 14:07

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WA’s newest government agency has a clear mandate to deliver maximum community benefit through urban and regional regeneration.

Frank Marra says the rejuvenation of Subiaco is one of DevelopmentWA’s key early priorities. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira.

WA’s newest government agency has a clear mandate to deliver maximum community benefit through urban and regional regeneration.

Emerging the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority with LandCorp to create DevelopmentWA has been a complex undertaking, but chief executive Frank Marra says it was a necessary step to deliver on the state government’s extensive development plans.

About 18 months after the merger plan was announced, the government unveiled its newest agency in September, with DevelopmentWA to facilitate $3.8 billion worth of project opportunities across a diverse portfolio including urban infill and regeneration, industrial land, tourism infrastructure and Metronet precincts.

And for an executive whose workload has likely doubled, Mr Marra is remarkably upbeat and excited about the potential for lasting change brought about by creating DevelopmentWA.

Mr Marra told Business News that combining LandCorp with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority was not simply about reducing duplication and increasing efficiency, but rather about creating the capacity to deliver the state government’s strategy of increasing urban infill, diversification of housing choice, job creation and regional resilience.

“The individual ingredients of LandCorp and the ingredients of the MRA provide for that capacity,” Mr Marra said.

“LandCorp has always had a statewide mandate, it’s had good financial and commercial smarts and it’s had really good industrial development capability.

“The MRA, on the other hand, has had really good public infrastructure development capacity.

“Whether it be Elizabeth Quay or Yagan Square, it’s done some amazing urban renewal projects across Western Australia, and it has the added ability of bringing in planning powers so it can really cut through.

“If you apply that to the capacity across both organisations, I think that we really have a corporation that can deliver on the state’s bigger agenda.”

While Mr Marra said DevelopmentWA would extend the reach of the MRA’s special planning powers to more sites across the metropolitan area, it would also allow the agency to put in place MRA placemaking principles on regional projects formerly facilitated by LandCorp to create job opportunities.

“Jobs are what drives population growth and that’s what drives resilience, but people want to live in great places, they don’t just want to go to places because there are jobs there, that’s why you end up with FIFO,” Mr Marra said.

“They actually want to live in great places, that’s why it’s so important that we focus on the amenity of places like the Pilbara, the Kimberley, the South West and the Goldfields.

“The business is really well matched now because we can produce both sides of the equation.

“We can help diversify the economy and get people to live there.”

Mr Marra said the merger would also ensure LandCorp’s commercial and financial capabilities would extend to new projects across Perth, with one of the new entity’s key objectives to become a commercial bridge across public and private sectors.

He said DevelopmentWA’s commercial mandate would be to ensure the correct settings were in place to make sure its dealings with the private sector, which ultimately funds developments, were as robust as possible.

“Having said that, it’s really important for DevelopmentWA to set the standards for what it wants delivered,” Mr Marra said.

“It needs to take a point of view that balances the community’s interest with developers’ interests and with environmental outcomes.

“That doesn’t mean it needs to be difficult in dealing with developers; it means that we need a really transparent framework and a consistent operating model.

“We’re not going to say that it’s going to be a free run for developers or the community, it’s going to be a fair process and the developers I’ve spoken to, that’s what they are looking for.”

In the metropolitan area, DevelopmentWA’s first official announcement was the advancement of the East Perth Power Station redevelopment, with a preferred partner to be named early next year from a shortlist of five developers selected by the previous Liberal state government.

Mr Marra said sticking with that shortlist rather than restarting the tender process was a demonstration of the transparency and fairness that DevelopmentWA would strive to operate with.

“Part of the mantra of DevelopmentWA is trying to provide open and transparent and reasonable processes for both the developers and the community,” he said.

“We went to the market a number of years ago, we entered into a process, selected a shortlist of proponents, and if the project is still the same project, it’s fair that we go back to those people because they spent significant time and money formulating those plans.”

Alongside East Perth, a top early priority for DevelopmentWA is Subi East, which comprises the regeneration of 35 hectares of inner-city land from Subiaco Oval to the old Princess Margaret Hospital site.

Concept plans call for around 2,000 new dwellings to be inserted in the area, an undertaking Mr Marra said would be particularly complex and sensitive.

Mr Marra said the enhanced capacity of DevelopmentWA as compared to LandCorp or the MRA would ensure the delivery was carried out in a sensible and measured manner.

“We give it the best chance of succeeding by creating one entity and it’s probably not the project that you want to experiment on,” he said.

“If it’s a $1 billion project, why not throw your A-team at it? That’s what we are doing.

“This is not to say that the MRA or LandCorp could not have delivered it individually, they probably could have and they would have done a reasonably good job.

“But now we’ve created the A-team to deliver this project and the other projects in the portfolio.

“You don’t get these opportunities every day, so when you do get them, you really want to maximise the benefits so that the community gets the best outcome.

“We only get one shot at this, it will set the footprint there for the next generation.”

In addition to Subiaco and East Perth, DevelopmentWA will have a significant mandate to facilitate the rollout of Metronet precincts across Perth.

“Metronet is the flagship project of the state government, multiple billions of dollars have been invested, but it’s not a transport initiative, it’s about developing a different style of activity nodes around transport precincts, so it’s a transport enabled development opportunity,” Mr Marra said.

“That by its very nature is going to create the need for more diverse housing options around those station precincts.

“The government has set itself a really ambitious target to try and get greater amounts of housing around these transport nodes.

“We need to play our part, whether it’s around existing projects that we are already playing a role in, or future Metronet precincts that the state government wants us to get involved in to make sure we can provide that diverse housing.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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