25 Feb 2021
From the transformation of Melbourne’s Southbank in the 1980s to the benchmark breaking Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre by Frasers Property Australia, Rod Fehring has seen the property industry evolve for the better over time. Rod departed as the GBCA Board chair late last year and here he shares memorable projects and a few words of wisdom for the year ahead.
Rod Fehring found himself in the property and construction in his youth, driven out of interest and the need to sustain himself out of university. As a boy from country Victoria, jumping at a local government job in the centre of the state as an Industry Development Officer was an opportunity to be embraced. It also kept him close to his soon to be wife Karen.
Rod worked alongside stars of the future like Steve Bracks and shined as a footballer, all while commuting around the countryside to stay connected to loved ones and friends. He soon found that this well-travelled path for many country kids is also a trek that’s usually unsustainable.
“St Kilda invited me down to play football, but I didn't want to do the commuting again, so I needed to get a job in Melbourne. Lo and behold the job that I got was with the Department of Planning as project manager,” says Rod.
Here he worked with project teams on projects that shifted Melbourne’s city focus to the river it straddles, helping to transform it from an industrial, blackberry riddled backwater, to the alive and buzzing Southbank cultural precinct we know today.
“These courageous, ambitious projects in the early 1980’s turned sleepy old Melbourne from a place that was exporting 60-70,000 people per annum to Qld, to a place where people wanted to live. At the time hardly anyone lived in the city and now it's a significant population,” says Rod.
Another project that left a mark on Rod was the redevelopment of the Footscray ammunition factory which had manufactured bullets and explosives for 135 years. This project was kicked off jointly with Australian Defence Industries and LendLease, an organisation Rod would later lead as a result of LendLease’s acquisition of Delfin Property Group in 2001.
“This a theme that runs through my career; the longer that you stay in the property industry the more often large, difficult and long-term projects come back into your working life one way or another,” explains Rod.
For Rod, this breadth of experience carries an obligation to contribute to areas that need far-reaching perspective and leadership, which is why he joined the GBCA Board as Chair in 2017, “GBCA is one of those organisations that has had to earn its credibility over an extended period, all while the malaise of climate change scepticism plays itself out.
“Today it continues to attract really good people to work within it, it's maintained strong engagement with its membership, and as a consequence it develops products that enable us to validate the contribution we're making as an industry, to continuously improve rather than just talk about what needs to be done,” says Rod.
Looking forward, Rod predicts the disruption of 2020 will continue to playout in 2021 and that the pace of what’s ahead will challenge our industry, but he draws wisdom from his past to share how we might overcome this.
“The trouble with property is that your best project is always the next one, but in reality, the best project is the one you’re working on now and it's really important to recognise that. If you and your team can focus on improving what you're working on now, then the next project will take care of itself.
“As an industry that learns by creating and doing, we have the privilege of shaping the future. But as we work in an ever-changing operating environment there are natural forces at work that force us to constantly innovate in response to change. That is the magic that keeps us all on our toes,” he says.
Rod Fehring is Executive Chairman of Frasers Property Australia, Frasers Property Industrial, Chairman of Frasers Property UK, and Board Member of Frasers Property Logistics & Commercial Trust. You can see Rod speaking at TRANSFORM on the panel discussion, Driving action and change in the homes sector.
Tickets are available on the TRANSFORM website.Register for TRANSFORM