Brisbane about to ‘fire up’ – Brett Warren

Brisbane has long been thought of as the bridesmaid but is this south-east Queensland city about to fire up?  Brett Warren looks at what is shaping Brisbane for the future.
Kevin:  Just like shaping a personality, that’s how we shape our cities for the future. It’s always good to look ahead. What’s a city going to look like? How’s it going to be? What’s it going to be like to live in it? That’s the topic of this conversation.
I gave that title to Brett Warren, who’s written some fascinating articles about the future of Brisbane, where it’s headed, and he joins me now to talk about this.
What did you make of the title, Brett, and what do you think about the shaping of Brisbane?
Brett:  Hey, Kevin. I think it’s an exciting decade coming up. Obviously, there haven’t been many positives on the horizon in the last decade, with the floods and the GFC and the mining downturn. But a lot of my research is looking at what Brisbane may look like in the next five or ten years, both physically and also economically and financially and things like that, and I must say, it’s certainly a lot more exciting and there’s definitely that light at the end of the tunnel.
Kevin:  When you go through tough times like the floods and some of the things that we’ve had – change of government and so on – it makes you a bit tougher. It makes the city more prepared for those sorts of events. We look back at some horrific cyclones in Queensland and so on, but you come out the other end a lot stronger and lot more ready for it, don’t you?
Brett:  Yes, absolutely. And you don’t take things for granted. You probably don’t overextend yourself as much, and you keep within your own comfort level a bit more. I think that’s good, because you don’t go through as many of those boom-and-bust cycles where people are getting carried away in other areas and stuff like that.
Yes, most definitely, people are a lot more focused on the shorter term.
Kevin:  What does your research reveal about what Brisbane’s going to be like to live in in the next decade to 20 years?
Brett:  It’s pretty exciting. If we start from an economic point of view, obviously, Queensland has been very resources-oriented, the mining and things like that. And that’s where we’ve really struggle in the last decade, when we’ve lost probably one of our biggest employers and influences in the economy in Brisbane.
So, the first thing we have to do is transition our economy. At the moment, you’ve seen the construction and infrastructure boom, which is taking over the mining downturn and re-employing a lot of those people. That will probably last another five or six years as some of those bigger infrastructure projects we’ll mention shortly will take on.
But we need to transition to more of a services industry, just like Sydney and Melbourne. They’re the kind of industries that they’re financial recession-proof kind of industries, because people always need those services and stuff like that. So, you get a lot more resilience in your economy.
A good example is Western Australia. It’s very boom or bust, because 80% of their economy is the mining and things like that, and when that’s not performing well, everything else suffers.
Kevin:  It’s like some of the smaller regional areas, if there’s only one major industry in that area, it becomes quite vulnerable to downturn, doesn’t it? But if you have diversity, then you have strength.
Brett:  Yes, absolutely. And importantly, diversity in things that are recession-proof, like we just talked about – the services industry. People always need doctors and financial services, hospitals, airports, central business districts, stuff like that.
Moving on to the next one, the exciting thing for me is to see some of these projects that are happening within the next five years that will influence the next five to ten years. Kevin, if we start at the CBD, that Queens Wharf project, that’s a huge project, and that’s really going to put Brisbane on the map.
There are seven-star hotels going in there. There are big amphitheaters and waterfront restaurants and dining. That’s a real lifestyle precinct, and that’s what draws people to Brisbane.
Kevin:  What other projects have you seen on the horizon that are exciting?
Brett:  You probably would have heard me talk about the second runway at the Brisbane airport there. Our airport is going to really expand quite rapidly. Let alone the runway and the airport precinct, there are a number of things happening in that are really going to drive economic growth.
But even the airport, there are four Chinese airlines that have come in out of China from different locations that haven’t serviced Brisbane before. So, you think back to the 1970s and 1980s when the Japanese led that tourism boom to the Gold Coast. Potentially something could happen in Brisbane, obviously, but more importantly in South East Queensland and Northern Queensland as well.
People who’ve never had the option to come to Brisbane and those kind of areas before will probably come out here in droves, and we could become the playground of that Asian quarter there. So, that’s another exciting project that’s happening, as well.
Kevin:  What are you seeing on the horizon for health?
Brett:  Our hospitals are becoming major employment hubs, Kevin. There are a few people talk about hospitals in different areas coming up and things like that, which is fantastic, but you look at our three biggest hospitals – the Royal Brisbane Woman’s Hospital, the PA, and the Mater – they’re not just hospitals.
The Royal Brisbane is about to get the Herston Quarter put in there, which is a another huge development that’s going to draw specialist fields in age care and things like that. You have the Mater that’s had the children’s hospital there. And the PA has a lot of those research facilities and stuff like that. So, they’re becoming massive employment hubs within themselves.
I think in the next five years, probably 20% to 30% of Brisbane’s employment will be in those fields. So, again that’s leading that transition from mining and construction into that services industry, and they’re the industries that attract people from overseas, people from interstate to work in our great state, as well.
Kevin:  Let’s walk away from services at the moment, and have a look at the lifestyle. What’s happening around the state and particularly in South East Queensland and that area?
Brett:  Again, Sydney and Melbourne have huge lifestyle precincts and things that draw people to the city. Brisbane has that a little bit but we’re going to start seeing… I’ve already mentioned the Queens Wharf project. We have the Howard Smith Wharves and things like that. We’re transforming the Ekka area at the moment with King Street and those kinds of lifestyle facilities.
Brisbane Live is another project that’s in the pipeline that’s quite exciting, which is an amphitheater above Roma Street parkland. The benefit of having that above a transit hub, like a railway station, is it’s accessible to everyone around Brisbane. There are concert facilities there and things like that, and those types of things are what attract people to the inner city. And high walkability, easy access to get around.
It brings people in from overseas. It brings major artists in, and also people who come along with them. That’s a huge thing that I think Brisbane has probably missed a little bit out on, but something that’s definitely on the horizon.
Kevin:  We’ve seen some tremendous advancements in some of the suburbs that surround infrastructure improvements. We’ve seen the tunnel development in recent decades. What impact do you think all of this development is going to have on the property market, Brett?
Brett:  Like I said, Kevin, let’s compare it to the last decade. There’s been a few and far projects that have evaporated or not taken place at all, so I think the next decade will be really good. It’ll drive jobs growth. And wage growth has been really poor lately, so hopefully there will be some more wages growth and things like that.
Around that inner city precinct, when jobs are being created and people are being attracted to that area, there’s a greater demand for housing. So, capital growth and properties start to grow again, rents start to grow again, and everything starts to get moving.
So, very, very optimistic about what Brisbane will look like. And financially and economically as well as from a property-investment perspective, the next ten years is really, really positive.
Kevin:  Brett, great talking to you mate, thank you. And a great insight as to what Brisbane is going to look like in the future. So, thank you for your time.
Brett Warren, of course, is buyer’s agent. He works at Metropole Property Strategists in Brisbane.
Thanks for your time, Brett.
Brett:  Thanks, Kevin. Good to be with you.

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