Leveraging the property industry to support economic recovery /

[Article first published in the Australian Institute of Project Management’s Paradigm Shift magazine – Spring 2020 – The Recovery Edition]

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NS Group has sought to shape and drive the property industry to play a pivotal role in our country’s economic recovery.

When the COVID-19 global pandemic hit Australian shores, no one could have predicted the duration of the disruption nor the magnitude of its impact on the nation’s wellbeing and economy.

In Australia, we were fortunate to ride through the first wave of infection and, so far, we have fared better than many other countries from a health management perspective. However, we are not immune to the direct and flow-on effects of closed borders, business shutdowns, social distancing measures and the ongoing uncertainty until an effective vaccine is available.

Like most other companies, at NS Group our initial priorities were to respond swiftly to safeguard the health of our staff, their jobs, and business continuity for our clients and their respective projects. Once the transition to a remote workforce quickly became the norm, we then turned to finding a way to help others.

Harnessing project management for the greater good

NS Group works with government, private, institutional, and not-for-profit clients on diverse projects across Australia.

With a community-minded ethos embedded across the company – and given our significant knowledge, skill sets and experience across property and construction – we asked ourselves: how can we share our unique capability and insights to contribute towards recovery efforts?

“We asked ourselves: how can we share our unique capability and insights to contribute towards recovery efforts?”

From this challenge that we set ourselves, the following initiatives were borne:

  1. Pandemic Series: a three-part digital update sharing information and thought-provoking discussion to assist businesses with navigating through the impacts of COVID-19.
  2. Emerging Stronger Together: a 60-page publication, developed in partnership with the Property Council of Australia and industry leaders, providing evidence-based guidance on key and innovative economic recovery initiatives for Western Australia.

Initiative 1: Providing support through the Pandemic Series

Released during March and April 2020, NS Group’s Pandemic Series comprised three data-driven online articles. They were designed to help others better understand the coronavirus context and its impacts in order to plan for a way out through to the other side.

“NS Group’s Pandemic Series was designed to help others better understand the coronavirus context and its impacts in order to plan for a way out through to the other side.”

This series of digital updates was developed by assessing the pandemic situation through a lens of recovery planning, bringing together relevant information and research, and generating discussion to guide action.

Part 1 of the series collated the various federal and state government fiscal responses throughout the nation. This served to provide a snapshot of all stimulus packages available and who could benefit.

Part 2 delved into a comparison of Australia’s fiscal response with previous global economic and pandemic crises. It revealed potential impacts and expected resilience across specific sectors, including property and construction.

Part 3, the final instalment of this series, centred around economic recovery versus nation building initiatives. Whilst the size of the total stimulus response was unprecedented, would it be enough and what lessons could we learn from the past? How could infrastructure projects play a role?

The feedback we received was that the Pandemic Series distilled critical data and presented insightful, future-looking perspectives. It helped other businesses by providing greater clarity and hope in a time that was filled with bleak information overload.

Initiative 2: Emerging Stronger Together for a brighter future

Commencing in April and officially published in early June 2020, NS Group partnered with the Property Council of Australia to develop an industry-led report, Emerging Stronger Together: Leveraging the property industry to support Western Australia’s economic recovery.

The 60-page publication was released ahead of the inaugural meeting of the Western Australian Government’s State Recovery Advisory Group tasked with leading recovery planning.

Completed pro-bono and within a very tight timeframe, this initiative unlocked the expertise of industry leaders across Australia from property, development, infrastructure, finance, legal, retail and other backgrounds.

We asked all participants and contributors to identify broad themes of opportunity – both within the realms of property and beyond – for kick-starting the local economy. We then challenged them to put forward innovative and effective recommendations that would maximise benefits to the state.

These discussions and insights were subsequently distilled and prioritised based upon viability, potential uplift to jobs and economic impact. The final
recommendations were supported with evidence-based research and real-life case studies.

The Emerging Stronger Together report proposed 10 key stimulus measures across three key themes:

  1. Driving demand in the property market
  2. Diversification of the economy
  3. Smarter decision making

“The Emerging Stronger Together report proposed 10 key stimulus measures across three key themes: driving demand in the property market; diversification of the economy; and smarter decision making.”

The recommended initiatives within these overarching themes presented a spectrum of quick wins through to game-changers and opportunities that may come only once in a lifetime.

Emerging Stronger Together summary table of recommended stimulus measures.

Whilst this report was developed for the WA context, there are parallels that can be drawn – or inspire similar undertakings – in every other Australian state and territory.

It is our hope that these recommendations will assist with informing and shaping immediate economic recovery planning, as well as longer-term decisions for a stronger, more resilient economy – plus encourage greater collaboration across the public and private sectors.

Several themes and initiatives recommended in the Emerging Stronger Together report were reinforced by subsequent forward-looking industry reports released in late June and early August 2020 respectively: Boorloo Kworp by the Committee for Perth; and A Stronger Tomorrow from Infrastructure WA.

Some of these themes and initiatives were also highly aligned with the State Government’s WA Recovery Plan unveiled in late June 2020.

Emerging Stronger Together continues to attract ongoing interest and discussion amongst media, government and private sector alike.

At NS Group, we will continue to challenge industry to think differently – we must not squander this chance to think smarter about how we can capitalise on our strengths, create new opportunities, and leave an enduring legacy.

“We will continue to challenge industry to think differently – we must not squander this chance to think smarter about how we can capitalise on our strengths, create new opportunities, and leave an enduring legacy.”

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