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Danni Hunter from the Property Council is wrong on the role of the CBD

Mark Fletcher
February 20th, 2021 · 13 Comments

From ABC News Thursday:

Danni Hunter from the Property Council, an advocacy group for property developers and owners, said CBD hospitality and retail businesses relied on office workers being in the city.

“We can’t have an economic recovery without a CBD recovery, and that relies heavily on people having the courage and willingness to come back to the office, and hopefully soon without masks as well,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

What selfish, self-serving ignorant nonsense from Danni Hunter … but on point for what the folks at the Property Council wold want said.

No CBD in Australia is key to economic recovery.

Danni Hunter and her Property Council mates need too spend time on the high street and non regional and rural Australia. there, they will find terrific economic activity bring income home to local communities, new jobs being created and healthier local communities as a result.

What frustrated me about the ABC report is that Danni Hunter from the Property Council was not challenged. No principles of journalism were applied to the claim, the nonsense claim.

As I have written here plenty of times, small business, particularly high street, regional and rural small business are the economic heart of Australia. They contribute more value than a CBD based landlord. While P&L and Balance Sheet numbers for a Property Council member business equal many, maybe hundreds, of small retail businesses, I suspect that a close study would reveal the economic value in terms of job creation, community investment and taxes paid per dollar earned are higher in small retail businesses.

I get that lobbyists like Danni Hunter and lobby organisations like the Property Council need to do their selfish bidding. We however, do not need to buy into this. I certainly don’t.

Let me change gears here though, and consider this issue of the importance of the CBD from the context of an office based business owner …

Thinking about this as the owner of a software company with a mid-size office and talking with other business owners in similar situations – the CBD has lost its appeal to us and to many who work in offices. Employees are loving working from love, the hours saved each day, being closer to family. They have more money in their pocket. Lockdown has shown them that the trudge to the city CBD or to an office in the suburbs is not as important as it used to be. Businesses are happy with happier people. Businesses are happy, too, at the prospect of saving on office costs.

Danni Hunter and the Property Council must be scared that their businesses will be harmed because things will not snap back to where they were, because not everyone will return to the CBD. Who cares? Change is something we all have to deal with in business.

I guess my core point here is with the reporting – it needs to be more balanced and not merely publishing propaganda from the likes of the Property Council.


Category: Social responsibility

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve // Feb 20, 2021 at 8:38 AM

    I can’t see office workers returning to the CBD any time soon. Working from home is providing these workers and their employers with huge benefits and let’s not forget about the reduced pressure on both roads and public transport. CBD office space and shopping centre tenancies are in the firing line of the next wave of the economic tsunami. This wave will hit hard as government support and stimulus are withdrawn at the same time as the rental protections are withdrawn.

    Again suburban and regional high street retail look to be well positioned to fill the void, The next few months will be telling


  • 2 Mark Fletcher // Feb 20, 2021 at 8:58 AM

    Steve it’s interesting to see what has happened in the less locked down states in Australia as well as in NZ. Where people have a choice, the majority are choosing to work from home. I’ve mentioned before the Tower team. Not a single person who moved to working from home last year wants to return. They miss the face to face with colleagues but we have found other ways to be connected.


  • 3 Peter // Feb 20, 2021 at 9:45 AM

    Agree with the general premise of the post. Both small and large businesses play important roles in a diverse economy. Small business has a better wealth distribution factor,I believe. Big business will point to the flow on to peoples superannuation and shares, but this wealth is often concentrated amongst the already wealthy group. The only issue we may be missing long term, is that if more people work from home it will mean your job is available to a much wider pool of applicants both here and overseas. If someone can do your job from their home much cheaper, many white collar jobs will be under threat. Personally though, I can understand the lure of working from home.


  • 4 Steve // Feb 20, 2021 at 10:57 AM

    Peter , regional professional firms have struggled with staff shortages for years due to the lure of the bright city lights for young graduates The current trend is leveling the playing field and increasing the available staffing pool for these firms. Again this is all positive for suburban and regional Australia and for retailers in such locations. Current house price growth is probably the best indicator of the trend.


  • 5 Jonathan Wilson // Feb 20, 2021 at 10:01 PM

    This whole idea that workers should be forced back to CBD offices in order to support cafes and other CBD businesses who rely on those office workers is just BS IMO.

    The decision about work-from-home should be made only by employers and employees (except where work-from-home is being enforced by governments for Covid reasons) and workers shouldn’t be forced into returning to the office by the government.


  • 6 Colin // Feb 21, 2021 at 8:38 AM

    The work from home enforced by the pandemic is not the end story. For most firms it is currently a work around to continue operating. The structures of the business are still built on the “office”.

    if working from home is to become the norm then businesses will evolve and develop into new models with remote workers seeing controls, monitoring and measuring of performance. Compliance systems will become more prevalent. The retail banks are an example of how this scenario plays out. Jobs are dumbed down, everything is answered on line, work becomes repetitive and narrow in scope.

    CBDs will go through a difficult period with many buildings no longer relevant. Eventually they will be redesigned to fit new needs. Not every town can have a 5 star restaurant, an art gallery, an apple store or a corporate head office. CBDs will survive.

    Employees will need to adapt. The transition to cloud based systems will take off exponentially (it already was). Middle managers will be most under threat. But I also see local professionals as the big losers in the longer term.

    Accountants and bookkeepers are a good example of type of service that integrated on line systems pose a risk to. One touch payroll, submitting BAS statements etc are things the average businesses owner can now do themselves. It is a short hop from this to annual account filing and tax returns.

    The pace of change will receive a massive boost from the pandemic. Work may be returning to the regions and commuter bases in the short term, in the longer term all bets are off.


  • 7 Mark Fletcher // Feb 21, 2021 at 9:13 AM

    Colin, businesses have evolved and developed. That started prior to the pandemic. Since February last year that process has sped up for the late and slow adopters.

    Through a range of platforms and connections I speak with folks in big businesses and small businesses. Structures of business are no longer centred on the office.

    Working from home and working regionally are not temporary moves. They are part of a fundamental shift in where and when people work. And, newsagents can benefit from this.


  • 8 Peter // Feb 21, 2021 at 10:12 AM

    Depends on the work involved. In some ways without the distractions and time spent commuting, more creativity will flourish. On the flip side, increased family distractions and the loss of close contact with work colleagues will diminish creativity and you will lose those moments of serendipitous group creativity. Time will tell I guess. Maybe streaming service useage rates will also tell 🙂


  • 9 Graeme Day // Feb 21, 2021 at 12:49 PM

    Colin, My experience so far is tha same scenario as you have stated. Long term after March 28 I believe many will be only too happy to return to work.
    I live in n area where 40,000 commuted dality to the Sdney Metro daily pre COVID. spo far it’s about 75-80% return. If a survey was conducted 6 mos ago it would not have been a third of the 40k.
    I believe it depends largely upon the type of work and more much more the type of home environment. Kids coming home from school -pertner woking or homebody. All this matters plus those that prefer a more collaborative lifestyle.
    As for the CBD a lot of these offices are Government Departmets and as employer they quite rightly are demanding the employees to return to work.
    It really is not a cut a dried situation with a large balance of return to go actually happenning.


  • 10 Mark Fletcher // Feb 21, 2021 at 12:56 PM

    I am not going to name them but I know and at least ten supplier to our channel that have have decided to not return to the office centric model. I mention this along with what else I have written here not as option or speculation but more based on what I know is happening.

    Now, for opinion – the CBD model is grossly inefficient and inappropriate for 2021.


  • 11 Graeme Day // Feb 21, 2021 at 1:04 PM

    We are not the only industry, there are Health, Hospitality, engineering tradies, physio’s opticiians a whole gamut of people who work in the CBD and whilst one canspeculate as to what the percentage is and the future is to say it is inappropriate for 2021 is probably a fairly moderate comment as the first 3 months has been the continuatance of COVID assist and with VIC W.A. and QLD leading lockdown for any reason it would seem this forecast is easy to be true. The CBD will continue after this little hiccup.


  • 12 Mark Fletcher // Feb 21, 2021 at 1:07 PM

    Oh, it will continue. But I don’t know of any in business in or near the CBD whop expect it to go back to what it was like the property council says is necessary for recovery.

    From the perspective our channel, we will do far better if it does not go back to the way it was.


  • 13 Graeme Day // Feb 21, 2021 at 1:54 PM

    Our channel certainly will be better off Newsagencies have been a thing of the past in the CBD for decades.
    The convenience of the right product that newsagents offer is totally community based, local and effective.
    We are about to enter the “risk” phase now the phase of returning to work and exposure to COVID as well as the confidence of vaccination its promise and its effect and affect on our lives. Interesting times.


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