The new lobby group for major Chinese developers will follow the local model of the Property Council of Australia but with a focus on Chinese developers and Chinese investment in Australia
Major Chinese developers with billions of dollars worth of local construction projects under way are planning to launch their own lobby peak group, which will seek to argue the case for foreign investment and to have greater input into local approval processes.
The organisation, likely to be known as the Chinese Developers’ Alliance, will have anchor member companies including Dalian Wanda, Macrolink and Hailiang, with the three alone emerging as key players in the nation’s property development market.
Dalian Wanda is building the $1 billion twin tower project known as Wanda One Sydney at Circular Quay and another $1bn mixed-use Jewel project on the Gold Coast, while Macrolink’s planned Opera Residences near the Sydney Opera House sold out all the apartments earlier this month, with one of the penthouses selling for $27 million, setting an Australian record for pre-sold apartments.
The new lobby group will follow the local model of the Property Council of Australia but with a focus on Chinese developers and Chinese investment.
“This will be a platform that Chinese developers can have opinions heard, and also help us to gain local recognition,” John Wei, managing director of Wanda One Sydney, told The Australian.
“But more importantly, we can help more Chinese developers to assimilate into the Australian market, succeed in their projects and therefore boost local employment.”
More Chinese developers are yet to debut in Australia and will potentially create more local jobs, according to Mr Wei, as they seek diversified earnings and growth out of their home market, which is under pressure from government tightening measures.
Mr Wei is one of the Chinese executives initiating the move, along with Hailiang Property Group Australia’s managing director Adrian Liu and Macrolink Australia managing director Michael Gao.
The organisation, yet to be registered, comes at a time when Chinese developers have built a sizeable footprint in Australia with many high-profile projects, mostly in the CBD areas, while local communities are growing increasingly wary of their influence on the market.
The backlash against Chinese investment in a broader sense came under the spotlight in August when the Foreign Investment Review Board advised Treasurer Scott Morrison to block the Chinese government-owned State Grid and Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings from bidding for Ausgrid on security grounds.
On the property front, suggestions about Chinese companies grabbing CBD towers and Chinese buyers queuing to buy apartments or outbidding at auctions often come with complaints about young Australians being priced out of the property market.
“Many locals have been blaming Chinese developers or Chinese buyers for pushing up prices. But is that alone the reason? Affordable housing is a topic that needs immediate attention and action,” Hailiang’s Mr Liu said.
“We are happy to work with the government, along with existing local developers, to see if we can help improve that.”
The Chinese lobby group will also seek to have discussions with governments when they implement policies that may affect the companies. State governments in NSW, Victoria and Queensland hiked taxes on foreign home buyers earlier this year in a bid to cool the overheated market.
“They (the governments) may not fully understand the investment philosophy behind many Chinese buyers, and they can consult with us in that regard,” Mr Liu said. “I’m sure this would be beneficial for all parties.”
Another area of concern is the approval process, he said, as “some local governments here have a particular, and often varying, approach to DA approvals”.
Hailiang is still awaiting approval for its Sydney Park site in Alexandria, where the company has proposed to spend about $185 million to build a mixed-use complex, including up to 519 apartments.
Dalian Wanda, controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, lodged a stage-two development application at the end of October for the 110m five-star hotel tower in Wanda One Sydney, the final move in winning approval for the whole project.
The companies have also flagged interests in other areas.