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Brisbane, time to put your big-boy pants on

Brisbane, time to put your big-boy pants on
July 27, 2018 Propertyology Head of Research and REIA Hall of Famer, Simon Pressley

As yet another year of underwhelming property market performance rolls in to the next, I’m often asked ‘When will things improve in Brisbane?’ And, while the short answer to the question is ‘whenever the Queensland economy significantly improves’, the longer that has taken the more I’ve questioned what’s actually being done about it.

A monument comparable to the Statue of Liberty, tourist attractions that people would travel the world to see, a serious marketing plan, and a drive to become a world leader at sports science – Brisbane must be brave, have a bold vision, and invest big bucks or seriously risk becoming irrelevant!

Brisbane has some good property market fundamentals, but we have to go way back to 2007 for the last time that its property market produced double-digit price growth. Coincidentally, that’s also the year that Peter Beattie retired from his post as State Premier. The man who wanted Queensland to earn a reputation as the ‘Smart State’ is the last Premier to win (and hold) strong majority support.

Queensland had four Premiers within ten years. While the parliamentary doors kept revolving, Queensland lost its way. I challenge anyone to tell me Queensland’s vision or long-term aspiration.

Brisbane’s long-running underachieving property market is a reflection of a city with enormous potential but lacking boldness and a clear direction.

At the core of Brisbane’s underperformance is its distinct lack of attractions to draw big crowds. International and domestic tourists – why would they plan a holiday to Brisbane? Similarly, when big business and industry groups are looking to book a conference for thousands of delegates, what puts Brisbane ahead of alternative cities?

Then there’s Brisbane’s sporting venues. Suncorp Stadium is world-class but the Gabba has become so irrelevant that it won’t even host a cricket test this summer. The Gabba is fifth-rate compared to the amazing redeveloped Adelaide Oval, Perth’s new Optus Stadium, and the recently redesigned Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney stadiums. Unlike the Gabba, these venues have become more than just stadiums – they are modern entertainment precincts.

Think about this: what iconic landmarks can Brisbane leverage off to market itself to the world? The Brisbane River is no Sydney Harbour, the Story Bridge is no Golden Gate.

Brisbane has been my home town for the last 29 years. Like most of the 2.33 million residents of Brisbane, I love the weather, the laid-back lifestyle, that you can get from A to B within half an hour, and I value that Brisbane is a safe place. But there are literally dozens of locations in Australia that can also offer that.

Australia’s third largest city has a population half the size of Sydney and Melbourne. Brisbane is fast losing its relevance. Industry, community, and political leaders all need to put their big-boy pants on!

It’s well overdue that Brisbane got bold and began behaving like a world city instead of a big country town. It’s time for the boring bureaucrats to assemble a team of creative minds with a brief that will see Brisbane transformed in to a modern city that sits comfortably alongside Paris, London, Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong. Get bold or get out!

In the hope that the next decade doesn’t become as uninspiring as the last, I’ve gone searching for some music within me and thought I’d share this in the hope that it arouses others.



  1. Become the Champion of something. Sydney is the leader in banking and finance and Melbourne is the Master-of-manufacturing and major events. Hobart is the Sultan-of-senses (food, booz, scenery and science). And Brisbane is the champion of… (the silence is deafening). Brisbane needs to identify its strengths and make an international statement – that’s what genuine world cities do. What if Brisbane built a reputation as the champions of Technology? Personally, I think Sports Science & Well-being could be an exciting niche. Whatever – aspire to be the best at something and pursue it!


  1. Develop a unique landmark attraction which places Brisbane on the world map. In global terms, Brisbane is a young baby so it doesn’t have a rich history possessing a Colosseum, pyramids, Notre Dame, or St Peters Basilica. But what’s stopping us designing something big and modern – a modern version of the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, or London Eye? Do we have a Queensland politician with the guts to make such a statement?


  1. Develop several major attractions for domestic and international tourists to plan a holiday around. Melbourne wasn’t always the cultural mecca that hosts numerous world-class events each year like we know it today. During the mid-late 1990’s, Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, implemented a bold vision that progressively saw the development of the Crown entertainment precinct, redevelopment of the derelict Docklands, Formula 1 Grand Prix, and Federation Square. If Brisbane genuinely wants to be known as a “World City” it must compete with other world cities.


  1. Design a serious tourism plan with year-round major events, a creative marketing strategy, and a serious marketing budget. The plan must include development of an iconic landmark plus a couple of creative attractions (they must be bold, original, different). Just look at what David Walsh’s MONA has done for Hobart. Does Brisbane build the world’s best Technology Factory? Or, a Sports Science Centre of Excellence with an adjoining modern museum that showcases sporting greats such as Wally Lewis, Michael Voss, John Eels, Mick Doohan, Susan O’Neill, Greg Norman, Cathy Freeman, Rod Laver, Vicki Wilson, and Kieran Perkins. Integrate Brisbane’s attractions with other parts of SEQ – do a feasibility study on a bullet-train to the Sunshine Coast. Be bold!


  1. Invest significantly in high-speed internet infrastructure. We’re in the technology age – get ahead of the game!


  1. Develop a strategy that attracts global enterprises to establish businesses in Brisbane. Encourage some of Australia’s biggest companies to make Brisbane their Head Office. Why not?


  1. Sell some state-owned assets (Queensland has plenty) or pale further in to insignifance! Great cities evolve through a bold vision, clarity, genuine leadership, community engagement, action plans, and funding. The transformation from boring to bold will cost big bucks. It’s time for both sides of government to stop accepting mediocrity, stop the scare campaigns, stop racking up debt, follow the infrastructure funding template set out by New South Wales, and transform the big country town in to a genuine world city!



As recently as 200 hundred years ago, the only people who moved to Brisbane were convicts sent from Sydney. These days, thousands of people migrate to Queensland every year by choice. Though now they are not all coming to Brisbane.

Housing affordability pressures are pushing residents out of Sydney and (to a lesser extent) Melbourne however, while the Sunshine State was Australia’s biggest beneficiary of interstate migration last year, the numbers prove that Brisbane is not their destination of choice. Brisbane City Council represents 24 per cent of the state’s total population yet it only attracted 4 per cent of Queensland’s 17,426 interstate migrants in 2017. What does that tell you?

Tourism data is equally disappointing. Since 2012, nations all over the world have benefitted from the biggest tourism boom ever seen and one would think that, with better weather and closer proximity to Asia, Queensland would prosper more than other states. Data from Tourism Research Australia confirms that Brisbane’s 44 per cent increase in international visitor volumes from 2011 to 2017 is significantly lower than Sydney’s (53 per cent) and Melbourne’s (70 per cent). What’s going on, Brisbane?

The 1982 Commonwealth Games, World Expo (1988), and Goodwill Games (2001) are distant memories. Meanwhile, big brother (Sydney) and sister (Melbourne) host major events as frequently as Sunday roasts.

Brisbane City Council, Australia’s largest city council, has a strong Vision Statement but words and actions are different things. Federal, state and local government must all get on the same page.

Like every other city, Brisbane has its liquorish-all-sorts urban renewal projects, but the last ground-breaking transformation completed was Southbank in 1992. Back then, Paul Keating was prime minister, Ansett was Australia’s biggest airline, Telstra was known as ‘Telecom’, and the internet wasn’t mainstream. The world has evolved but not Brisbane.

The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast have more attractions than Brisbane, their economies and property markets have been stronger recently, and (while their medium house price is actually more expensive than Brisbane) more people are relocating to the coasts than the state capital.

Of some good news is the healthy list of major projects in Brisbane’s pipeline. Over the next decade, the CBD will be transformed by good projects such as Queens Wharf (equivalent to Melbourne’s Crown precinct), Brisbane Live (Roma Street precinct redevelopment), Howards Wharf, Brisbane Metro (passenger rail upgrade), Kangaroo Point walk-over, Dexus Eagle Street Pier redevelopment, new hotels and commercial office towers.


Broken down in to four blocks of 5-years, the historical performance of Brisbane’s property market over the last twenty years shows a contrast of what it was once capable of and how lacklustre it has become. Median house prices increased by 40 per cent (5YE 2002), 112 per cent (5YE 2007), 9 per cent (5YE 2012) and 20 per cent (5YE 2017).

Sydney and Melbourne rolled off 65 per cent and 50 per cent cumulative price growth to the 5-years ending 2017 while Brisbane spluttered along for a decade with the best it could produce in a calendar year being a modest 5.6 per cent back in 2010 (and that was aided by the biggest stimulus package in Australian history).

I’d love to see Brisbane’s property market strengthen considerably. That would mean that the local economy had strengthened, the private sector was creating more jobs, and general consumer confidence was higher. But, joining the bandwagon of barrackers serves no purpose.

Australia’s third biggest city needs to grow up – develop a bold vision or remain boring!

I’ve got the music started, is there a genuine political leader out there who has the skill to write the song? It has the potential to be a Number One hit!

Propertyology is a Brisbane-based buyers agency and (national) property market research firm. We help everyday people to invest in strategically-chosen locations all over Australia. Testament to our multi-award-winning success is Propertyology’s expertise in being the only company in Australia to forecast Hobart’s remarkable resurgence and begin investing there in mid-2014, before the boom. Now, while others fight like seagulls over a chip to get in to that market, our buyer’s agents are actively investing in a few other locations that resemble what Hobart looked like in 2014. Like to know more? Contact us here.