20 February 2017

Property development millionnaire resigns from Townsville Enterprise Board

 Image: Lawrence Lancini, ex-Board Director, Townsville Enterprise

Townsville's business and commercial arm of the City Council has announced Mr Lawrence Lancini, reportedly in the top 100 richest Queenslanders and current Chairman of the North Queensland Cowboys, NRL Club has resigned from Townsville Enterprise after 11 years serving on its Board.

Mr Lancini was appointment as the President of the Property Council of Australia in 2016, which is the main reason for his decision to leave the Board official reports have claimed.

Managing Director of the Lancini Group of Companies, the company's staff profiles describes Mr Lancini by saying; "Laurence Lancini commenced his construction business over 30 years ago. He started as a house builder based in Townsville and progressed over the years to grow his construction business to a statewide operation covering all aspects of property development."

The current Chairman of Townsville Enterprise, Mr Gill said; "Lawrence Lancini is a visionary who knows how to get things done. He has played an instrumental role in helping secure commitments for some of North Queensland's most game changing projects and initiatives. He will remain an important stakeholder and friend of our organisation."

Mr Lancini offered high praise for Townsville Enterprise colleagues and the leadership of the City. "Our region and city has seen enormous growth in various sectors of the economy with many of these initiates lead by Townsville Enterprise.", he stated.

The city of Townsville's performance and its business and government leaders have come under enormous pressure over the past few years. The economy has struggled with high unemployment and high vacancy rates, significant falls in median dwelling prices, and a sluggish commercial sector.

Losing such an influential businessman and leader in the governance of the City's business and commercial agenda is a significant loss to any civil administration apparatus.

Mr Lancini has transitioned with grace expressing full confidence and support of the Board of Townsville Enterprise and the City. "I have confidence in the current management structure and I know the organisation will do well into the future.", Mr Lancini said.

Given the emphasis on stability by the Townsville Enterprise Board in their press release, the statements come with an undertone of sensitivity aimed at reassuring the City and its stakeholders that Mr Lancini's resignation is business as usual.

However, Mr Lancini has played an instrumental role in the strategic direction of Townsville's brand, infrastructure and facility developments sponsored by governments and the private sector over multiple decades.

The North Queensland Stadium, a controversial focus for economic stimulation for the City, was a significant achievement for the directors of Townsville Enterprise who engaged with all levels of government to gain political and financial support for the development.

The stadium development indirectly serves the real estate investment interests of investors in the City and the broader community. The Lancini Group and its partners are key stakeholders in various property developments in the city precinct, benefiting substantially from the commercial contracts that have flowed.

The majority of these developments have now completed, including the City Lane, City Arcade and City Point which includes various retail, food outlets, Woolworths and state government office for the Department of Emergency Services.

Also included in the list of Lancini developments is the 9 stories commercial tower at 420 on Flinders. Delivered as part of the state government subsidised CBD Revitalisation Project. 100 percent of the upper floors of the 7000sqm building is occupied by the majority state-owned, Ergon Energy.

198 Ogden Street which includes a McDonalds, planned service station and 300m2 of retail space, is also a Lancini Group development project.

Over the past 4 years, multiple development plans have been commissioned by the Council at arm's length with Townsville Enterprise. Questions raised about the balance of power on Walker Street, under Mayor Jenny Hill, has manifested perceptions of unsubstantiated conflicts of interest with elected representatives on government funded programs and board members' indirectly benefiting from the commercial enterprise.

The effectiveness and functions of Townsville Enterprise have also come under heavy criticism as the City has struggled to respond with economic stimulation measures after the Global Financial Crisis.

Shifting costs and revenue streams that are driven by climate change policy, advances in technologies and globalisation, and the subsequent fall in commodity prices impacting the mining industry and most of Queensland's regional economy, have been significant factors.

But the "build it and they will come" back to the CBD strategy hasn't delivered the outcomes that many people, particularly in the retail, office and residential sectors had expected with commercial vacancy rates, accommodation occupancy rates, unemployment and dwelling prices showing unfavourable results over a sustained period.

Yet if you talk to CBD retailers and shop owners, they are optimistic about the future and can sense a small pick up has occurred in city trading revenues.

With the federal government's Developing Northern Australia initiative, lead by a dedicated federal Minister for Northern Australia, Mr Canavan, and the associated governance Boards including the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Northern Australia - residents and some councillors are again questioning the relevance of Townsville Enterprise.

Sources inside Townsville City Council suspect the resignation of Mr Lancini is an indication of further resignations to come on the council and state-sponsored boards and committees. As the federal government implements a more vertically integrated funding system, backed by smart technologies, different skill sets and mindsets from local leaders are necessary.

Given the climate of economic uncertainty, dysfunction and rampant waste of taxpayers funds on bodies that are being superseded, the federal government is seeking urgent momentum on their innovation and infrastructure policies. On the eve of a state in 2018, the whispers of more resignations from inside City hall seem to be as credible as they come. 

And then to top it all off, Townsville City Council announces they are engaging the services of Pure Projects. Led by Mr Williams and tourism Australia identity Mr Morris OAM, to develop yet another master plan for the City, demonstrating a new federal doctrine has arrived in the region causing the Mayor to "throw the baby out with the bathwater".

The list of current studies, plans and schemes are extensive as shown below:


But the seemingly cordial and smooth exit of Mr Lancini, despite the unimpressive record of the Townsville City Council and Townsville Enterprise over the past decade, must be projected to appease the only positive matrix in the City's economic report card, that of business and investment confidence.

"I thank my fellow Directors and Townsville Enterprise staff for the respect and friendship they have all shown me. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work along side such as great team.", Mr Lancini said.

Townsville Enterprise CEO Patricia O'Callaghan said, "he will continue to play an active role in Townsville Enterprise initiatives focusing on mentoring business initiatives and developing the local business community."

A further announcement about the details of the initiatives on which Mr Lancini is expected to participate has been anticipated by Ms O'Callaghan in her internal statement to the membership of Townsville Enterprise.

Recruitment for a new Board Director has already commenced, the Townsville Enterprise press release announced.