What’s Ahead for the Minerals Industry? ChemCentre WA Chairperson Denise Goldsworthy

Denis Goldsworthy

Financial margins will always be low and the increasing requirements of regulators and communities mean significant innovation is a must.

If you put the themes of Blue Sky Future and mining together, many people will automatically think of the Midnight Oil song from 1990 – “Blue Sky Mine”.

This song about the disaster of mining blue asbestos at Wittenoom provides a good reminder of the significant changes to the Australian mining industry over the past 50 years, as well as the challenges that must be addressed over the next 50 years to ensure mining remains an acceptable and significant contributor to the Australian economy.

Australian miners are known for digging things up and shipping them overseas. We do it at scale, and in many cases at lower cost than our international competitors.

However mining in Australia is becoming increasingly difficult. The large, low-cost, Tier 1 deposits are in some cases nearing depletion and the limited discoveries of replacement resources are bringing challenges of deeper, wetter and lower-grade ore.

Financial margins will always be low as most are true commodities, early in the value chain, with minimal leverage outside periodic supply shortages to argue for prices much above cost plus margin plus sustaining capital. Combine this with a need for new commodities to support technological advances that are likely to be geologically rarer and more distributed, as well as the increasing requirements of regulators and communities, and significant innovation is a must.

The industry represents itself as innovative, and while there are impressive examples, many opportunities are handicapped by the on-again-off-again investment strategies of the industry, its investors and financial backers, due to the swings in commodities prices.

There is also a big difference between the ability of the majors and the small to mid-tier miners to access the latest innovations. This critical block to adoption of industry interoperability standards or shared platforms – to enable the industry to achieve its equivalent of the Internet of Things (IoT) – is currently preventing the mass use of technology, inhibiting adaptations from other industries and preventing removal of significant entry barriers for new technology suppliers.

Australia is up to this challenge, with some of the best minds working in Australian research organisations, mining and the supporting mining equipment technology and services (METS) sector to make this happen. The shared vision for mining should be one of an industry that is physically invisible to the community, but at the front of minds for the contribution it makes to the economic and sustainable supply of raw materials necessary for a modern economy.

This downhole sensing tool developed by Curtin researchers represents a step change in the quality and amount of data the minerals industry can now capture (Photo: Curtin University)
This downhole sensing tool developed by Curtin researchers represents a step change in the quality and amount of data the minerals industry can now capture (Photo: Curtin University)

Delivering on this vision will require major change in four areas.

Mining will be considered an integral part of the community, with shared accountabilities that cross lease boundaries. This integration will be at a deeper level than just the infrastructure. Mining will become truly integrated with its neighbours to ensure efficient management of resources (including air, water, and energy), minimisation of waste and sustainable ecosystem management.

High engagement will deliver net environmental and community benefits as regular markers of mining projects. We will take advantage of opportunities to link thinking about things coming out and things going into the ground – such as geothermal energy (heating and cooling), storage of non-mining wastes in mine voids (including carbon/CO2 sequestration, nuclear waste and current land-fill waste) and upgraded mine planning strategies, all of which will be enabled by increased data analytics capacity for complex modelling of these systems as well as the technologies to deliver repeatable performance.

This will be vital to maintain the confidence of stakeholders. Failure to do so is likely to result in more resource nationalisation agendas, so is not an option for the industry.

Mining will be optimised and integrated as a result of collaboration across the Australian value chains. This will come about from deeper connections with more of Australian industry – building on the relationships with the innovative METS sector and establishing new connections with the advanced manufacturing developments so that the smart technology products manufactured in the future Australia are matched with resources mined in Australia.

We will have learnt from the Lithium experience, where it took a while for Australia to match its exploration and metallurgical development activity to the foreseeable growing demand. The “old” bulks such as iron ore, coal and alumina that are the basics for economic development won’t be the core source of GDP in a sustainable future economy.

Australia doesn’t have big enough local markets to ensure competitive scale, and the tyranny of distance is another handicap to new industries. Manufacturing will be revitalised by new industries such as biotech, that create small, expensive components or items, that will potentially need new raw materials that will be sourced from Australia.

This will create a high value-adding opportunity for secondary and tertiary processing in addition to the mining of the commodities of the future – all of which are likely to be at smaller scale than the current bulks.

Within the industry, knowledge will be more integrated with reduced lease boundary limitations. In the case of geological knowledge, this will be facilitated by State and Federal Geoscience agencies, enabling extensive, complex modelling of geological and mineralogical systems for more effective exploration.

Cooperation to develop industry-wide step-change solutions will be facilitated through an increased role of METS-Ignited (the Mining Equipment, Technology and Services Industry Growth Centre), AMIRA (the minerals companies and suppliers’ research organisation), ACARP (the coal industry’s research program), the Cooperative Research Centre program and similar initiatives.

Sensor arrays on machines and in the ground, automation, UAVs, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), robotics and big data analytics, often adapted from other industries, will all be widespread. These changes will be linked to the other dimensions, reflecting the move to more selective recovery of the most valuable ore, and fundamentally reducing the scale of many operations.

These tools will eliminate human involvement in dangerous tasks, and guarantee more environmentally responsible and cost-effective performance by removing the variability inherent in people. Issues of interoperability and shared infrastructure, especially communications and data, will be overcome, with many tools developed using open-access software.

Mining applications will be a sub-market of more global strategies for technology companies. The equipment will be remotely controlled and either remotely maintained or self-maintained enabling the workforce to live anywhere, providing more family-friendly conditions.

One of the double-edged sword consequences of this change is that the high salaries of the last decade will be gone forever.

The required skill set of future miners will be as deep in STEM knowledge as any other. Much of this innovation or adaptation will come from multi-disciplinary efforts, with the tools such as VR/AR complemented by data analytics allowing geologists and other professionals to explore options in every sense of the word.

How we mine will be different. New metallurgical and mineral processing technologies that support fundamentally different flow sheets will be developed to respond to our unique geological and mineralogical differences as well as the need for new products and lower water and energy consuming methods that will leave a smaller global footprint.

These will be complemented with entirely new methods for in-situ chemical or biological recovery of specific elements that eliminate the need to mine large volumes of waste to access the valuable reserves.

All the foundation pieces are there for Australia to achieve this vision for mining.

The biggest barrier to achieving the vision is not the technical or innovative capability of our people – it is the lack of the belief that such a vision is both possible and desirable.

Making the mind-set change starts with our ability to convince the younger generations at school that mining is a high-tech, challenging opportunity for them to contribute to.

Engaging with young minds while they still think “how”, not “why not” will help us make the collective paradigm shift.

This editorial has been reprinted courtesy of ATSE Focus magazine.

——-

Ms Denise Goldsworthy FTSE is a non-executive director and advisor on research, technology and innovation. A former senior mining executive, she is experienced in manufacturing, mining and the technology and innovation sectors. She is currently Chairman of ChemCentre WA; a Director of the Export Finance and Insurance corporation (EFIC); a member of the Edith Cowan University Council and its Commercialisation Advisory Board; a trustee for the Navy Clearance Diver’s Trust; and a judge for the Prime Minister’s National Science awards. She was named the 2010 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year, is a member of Chief Executive Women (CEW) and was inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011. She chairs ATSE’s Minerals forum.

Sensing Our Way to a Bright Future: A multi-trillion-dollar industry – Professor Benjamin Eggleton

Ben Eggleton

A person with a casual interest in optical science could be excused for believing that it is a modern field of study, originating in the 20th Century. Although the invention of the laser and optical fibres dates only from the 1960s, the history of optical science actually stretches back for thousands of years.

Most recently this rich history was explored in the International Year of Light in 2015, a celebration of both the history of optical and photonic research and the bright future offered by this important discipline.

The truly revolutionary inventions of the laser and optical fibres in the 20th century were a major advance in the field, continuously transforming our communication systems and the ways in which modern humans can interact as a species.

Our 21st Century is poised to be an era of which will be defined by photonics and nanotechnology. It may seem that the global internet enabled by these technologies is already revolutionary enough, but we are only just at the beginning of the transformative opportunities offered by this technology.

Australia is well positioned to play a leading role in this future, both in terms of our capacity for fundamental discoveries and translation into new real world technologies such as photonic sensing.

We know that photonics is the linchpin of a multi-trillion-dollar industry and itself a 500-billion-dollar global industry and an essential part of the Australian research ecosystem.

As well as underpinning the telecommunications infrastructure, photonics technologies are playing critical roles in other areas – health and medicine, defence and security, infrastructure and transport and energy and the environment.

In these areas, photonic sensors are enabling new smart technologies that can sense and monitor the health of people, infrastructure and the environment.

Photonics sensing has been around for a long time. There are numerous examples of highly successful photonic sensors that have been deployed extensively – fibre optics that run along railway lines to measure strain and inform maintenance planning; sensors that are deployed in the mining industry to detect toxins; and current sensors that are used widely in the power industry.

Australia has a long history of leading-edge research and innovation in photonics sensors with numerous world leading groups and centres across Australia.

With the advent of nanotechnology and the establishment of major nanofabrication infrastructure in Australia, the research impetus is to establish new smart sensors that are small enough and low cost enough that they can be distributed everywhere and can address the grand challenges of the future.

The NSW Government, through the leadership of our Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane AC FTSE, has invested in the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN), a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales which I co-direct with Professor Justin Gooding from the University of NSW.

The Network will harness the state’s significant scientific, information communication technology (ICT) and engineering capabilities across academia and industry to provide state-of-the-art solutions in chemical and physical sensing to help address major societal issues: from the environmental impacts of the resources industry, to security at airports and improving quality of life for our aging population.

We are currently in an establishment phase, which is emphasising five pilot projects to address key challenges in NSW. At the same time, we are developing a network of researchers, end-users and industry partners to be the basis of the next phase of development.

At the University of Sydney, we are focusing on air-quality monitors with an emphasis on developing photonic sensors to detect particulate matter and gases, particularly related to coal mining and the associated rail corridor in the Hunter Valley. The challenge is to develop low-cost and compact sensors to be the basis of a network of sensors that map the spatial and temporal spread of coal particles around the rail corridor in the Hunter Valley, to better inform residents, policy makers and regulators of air quality issues.

This exciting project is applying photonic sensors to a real-world issue that is not only of local concern, but also has global applicability. We expect to apply this methodology to a whole range of pollutants.

In the longer term, we will incorporate these photonic air-quality sensors on chips small enough to be part of a mobile platform, perhaps even a smart phone. This vision aligns well with the CUDOS research program which has spent the past decade developing a photonic chip based on silicon technology – the same technology platform that is the basis of the microelectronics platform in your phone.

CUDOS, the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems, represents a consortium of six Australian universities and partner organisations all around the world, headquartered at the University of Sydney.

We now have photonic circuits that are etched into silicon wafers providing the basis of highly advanced signal processing devices. We are fabricating these “chips” using lithography equipment already used in the semiconductor industry, meaning the techniques developed can be translated to mass production using that same equipment.

We are working with local companies such as Silanna, based in Sydney, whose silicon-on-sapphire technology is well-suited to photonic sensor applications. At the same time, CUDOS is commercialising many of its inventions through spin-off companies and partnerships with local companies.

The most recent addition to the Australian photonics research community is the University of Sydney’s Nanoscience Hub, part of the Australian Institute of Nanoscale Science and Technology (AINST). This new facility incorporates more than 800 square metres of state-of-the-art clean room space filled with the tools that are needed to fabricate and prototype these photonic chips.

Our long-term vision is to bring a complete laboratory onto the chip, incorporating light-based circuits (photonics) with acoustic functionalities for manipulating and actuating fluids on the microscale, in the silicon platform that allows a seamless interface with electronic components.

Our future in our fingers – the silicon chip
Our future in our fingers – the silicon chip

We are already building photonic spectroscopy techniques into the same silicon chip that performs electronic processing in your smartphone. This will enable your smartphone to perform tasks such as medical diagnosis, including analysing blood or saliva, or sense pollutants in the environment via spectroscopic analysis.

The ability to manipulate fluids will be the basis of a biological laboratory that is part of the photonic chip. Our approach is to use acoustic waves (sound) that can be generated on the chip. These are not the traditional sound waves that we hear or use in ultrasound, but ultrahigh frequency sound waves.

We refer to them as “phonons”, which are particles of sound, just as photons are particles of light. We are talking about hypersound – phonons with frequencies from 100 megahertz to tens of gigahertz. Harnessing hypersound on a chip enables the manipulation of microscale biological and chemical elements, meaning we can mix, sort and select and even create a centrifuge on a chip.

This laboratory-on-a-chip will literally be small enough to be part of your smart phone and built into the same silicon chip already performing digital operations, and with cloud connectivity it will allow wide-scale environmental sensing with local accuracy.

Eventually we anticipate this technology will allow your smart phone to be transformed into a sensor that will sense your local environment and personal health.

Think of it like a Twitter feed on your smart-phone, except all of the information is about you, your body, your health and your immediate environment – as much or as little information as you need instantaneously available.

This will allow people to make informed decisions about their health or the environment they choose to live in.

We really are sensing our way to a very bright future.

This editorial has been reprinted courtesy of ATSE Focus magazine.

—-

Professor Benjamin Eggleton FAA FTSE is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney and is Director of the ARC Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) and co-Director of the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN). He worked in the US for Bell Laboratories/Lucent Technologies before joining the university. He won the 2011 Walter Boas Medal, the 2011 Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science, the 2007 Pawsey Medal, and the 2004 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. He is a former president of the Australian Optical Society (AOS).

Written by : Ben Eggleton

Where to from Here in Australian Politics? QUT Professor James Allan

James Allan

Not long after the July 2016 federal election the Coalition had run what, on any account, was a lacklustre campaign.

The Coalition did not fight Labor on the unions, or on the boats, or on the need for significant government spending cuts. Instead, the Liberal Party made Mr. Turnbull himself the focus of much of the campaign, and mouthed vapid slogans about ‘innovation’ at pretty near every opportunity. That is where the right side of politics chose to fight in the first post-Tony Abbott coup election. The results were far from pretty. Despite the loss of some million or so former supporters the Coalition did eventually scrape home with a one seat majority in the House, but with even more independents in the Senate. It was far from clear that the supposed or nominal cause for this July 2016 double dissolution election, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (‘ABCC’) Bill, would end up being passed by the Senate. At the time of writing it is still unclear. So the publisher picked up the phone and asked me what I thought of the idea of editing a book that would bring together some of this country’s leading right-of-centre writers who would then, in the light of the current political state of affairs in Australia, give the reader their takes on the theme – ‘Where to from Here? My job was to find the writers, give them their instructions, and put together the end result. The end result is this new book Making Australia Right.

The first thing was to find the top notch authors. Then I had to agree a general topic with each, be it defence, health, the economy, the media and all the others that make up the themes of the thirteen chapters of this book. After that, and in keeping with the general philosophical approach of many of us on the right, I gave each author a very laissez-faire and minimal set of instructions. Take this assigned chapter topic of yours, together with the book’s overall theme of ‘Where to from here for the right side of politics’, and run with it as you see fit. There was no one-size-fits-all mandated approach, no cut-and-paste imposed uniformity. Some authors ended-up being free-ranging, others more narrowly focused. Some looked at how we got to where we are; others were more concerned with where we need to go; some split the difference. What you will find is a variety of treatments on some of the most important issues facing this country. True, the overall tone is not one of bubbling optimism. How could it be with the current state of the Liberal Party in this country? But it does constitute, with the variety of views and approaches of the authors, a sort of handbook for how the right side of politics might get back on track in this country – at least for those of us who do not think that acting as the pale imitation of Labor is the way to go.

In conclusion what you have here are top people in their fields giving you something you will not find on the ABC, namely an outlook and an analysis that is something other than the blog-standard left-wing perspective that dominates so much of the airwaves, the newspaper columns, what you find on social media – and these days, alas, even what some Liberal MPs will voice inside the party room. What you will find here is an honest and open way forward for the right side of politics.

Written by James Allan, QUT Professor and Editor of ‘Making Australia Right’.

How Red Tape Almost Killed Me: Deborah Sims of the Institute of Public Affairs

Deborah Sims

To be told you are suffering from terminal cancer is a traumatic experience in itself. Discovering that life-saving medicine is beyond your reach because of government red tape is devastating. Yet this is the reality facing so many cancer patients in Australia, and I am one of them.

In August last year I moved to London in the hope of getting on a clinical trial that would potentially cure my leukaemia. This was the only way to guarantee access to a new drug producing remarkable results with little or no side effects.

And in a cruel case of irony, the drug was created in Melbourne.

Venetoclax has been described as a ‘miracle treatment’ and a ‘magic bullet’ for certain types of blood cancer. I can vouch for that. But it has come at a huge personal cost thanks to Australian red tape, and if it weren’t for the fact that I have a British passport, I wouldn’t be here at all.

It was just before Christmas in 2011 that I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), an incurable form of blood cancer that would kill me in about five years’ time. My little daughter was sitting on my lap as the news was broken to me. I hugged her and thought: ‘But she’s only two’. I was 38.
CLL is rare in someone my age. Almost 80 per cent of all new cases are in people over the age of 60, and the average patient is a 72-year-old man. It occurs more frequently in men than women, and very few are under the age of 40. The diagnosis came totally out of the blue. I mourned myself for two weeks and went into my shell.

I was in ‘watch and wait’ mode, so I launched my own in-depth research into CLL while continuing to work full-time. I’m a journalist and I needed information. I joined forums, subscribed to medical journals and was referred to a number of specialists for second opinions.

This included paying for a genetic test that is not the standard of care in early diagnosis. I wanted to know how bad my markers were, and I found out mine was the type of CLL you don’t want. It’s an insidious and clever cancer that relentlessly crowds the bone marrow and lymphatic system, becoming resistant to treatment. By October 2012, I was really sick and very tired. I couldn’t schedule afternoon meetings at work. In January 2013, I started chemotherapy.

Chemo is the standard treatment when patients become sick enough, and sometimes that’s enough to gain a long remission. I had no side effects apart from a sudden feeling of wellness.

Three months later I returned to ‘watch and wait’, with three-monthly bone marrow biopsies, but at six months it was clear the disease was slowly progressing. Most patients who relapse after chemotherapy as quickly as I did have less than two years to live.

My specialist talked about me getting ready to undergo a bone marrow transplant. I have a perfect match in my younger sister, so I knew it was a definite option. But the more you know about such transplants, the less you want one, and I’m always doing risk assessments to give myself the best chance of being here to care for my children.

By my next appointment, in December 2014, I was starting to feel sick again. Symptoms included bulging lymph nodes (so very unattractive), night sweats, weight loss and recurring infections – this is a cancer of the immune system after all. Pneumonia is the biggest killer. A transplant was earmarked for early 2015 and I had my hair cut short in preparation.

Before the transplant was scheduled I dipped into my superannuation fund in April 2015 to attend a patient conference in the US on CLL clinical trials. While there I had a consultation with Professor Thomas Kipps, an international expert on this type of cancer. ‘You should not have a transplant,’ he said. ‘We are on the verge of a cure. We just have to work out what the best drug is. You need something to buy yourself time.’

The next day by sheer chance, one of the guest speakers, Dr John Gribben from the UK, sat next to me. As we struck up a conversation, he told me about a clinical trial in London that he believed would be the best possible treatment for me at this stage. It was trialling Venetoclax, developed in Melbourne. The irony wasn’t lost on either of us.

I returned from America thinking it would be ridiculous to travel 17 thousand kilometres to get a drug that came from my hometown. But that’s when I came face to face with the reality confronting many cancer patients in Australia—the life or death battle through a complex maze of red tape.

This isn’t about risk aversion or rules that are in place for good reasons, such as restricting access to new medicines that are still under investigation. I’m talking about a needless burden of regulations blocking innovation and keeping Australia two years behind countries like Britain and the US. Cancer patients have to deal with layers of bureaucracy, not just at the federal level, but with each state. Hospitals and research centres are not immune, with unique rules at each facility and a frustrating clipboard mentality.

This confusing and complicated barrier forces people to go to great lengths to gain access to life-saving medicines, from fundraising to media campaigns to going overseas to join clinical trials. Some have to sell all of their assets. For many ill Australians, if they fail to beat bureaucracy, they die—killed in effect, not by cancer, but by toxic red tape. It’s a nightmarish absurdity worthy of Kafka.

Kafka’s book The Castle contains the scenario. A man tries again and again to overcome bureaucracy blocking his entry to the Castle, and therefore his salvation. The inevitable outcome is that he dies before being granted access. It’s a fate familiar to families of cancer patients.

The only chance I had of gaining access to Venetoclax in Australia was through a randomised trial. That meant a 50-50 shot at getting either the new drug or chemotherapy. I’d already had chemo so I couldn’t take that gamble. I asked one of my Melbourne specialists what he would do if he were me and he answered: ‘I’d get on a plane to London.’

It knocked me that the best treatment was on the other side of the world, but I used my super again to go to the UK, even though there was no guarantee I’d get on the trial. I had to be sick enough to qualify and well enough to tolerate phase one protocols. I also had to find a job in London (where I’d previously lived for 10 years) and get a National Health Service number before gaining a referral to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, known affectionately to Londoners as Barts. And, of course, there was a lot of paperwork.

There were only 40 places in the world for this trial—two at Barts and none in Australia—which was very frustrating. According to my risk assessment, this could buy me a long remission and possibly a cure. I went back to work at the BBC as a freelance reporter, started writing a blog and waited. When I heard the news that I was accepted for treatment I was so excited, it felt like I’d won the lottery. Altogether, I was away from Australia for seven months.

The good news though was that I suffered no side effects and a CT scan in February showed I was in partial remission. Since my return to Melbourne my blood work has got better and better. Now I’m back to working and going out, with my life ahead of me again. In April I got the fantastic news that I was in complete remission and in the very near future I’m hoping to have no detectable disease (molecular remission).

I’m loath to come off the drug, but because I can’t have Venetoclax dispensed in Australia, I have had to travel to London every three weeks. It’s part of a treatment odyssey that has cost me $500,000 in lost income, flights, accommodation and living expenses—so far. And all this is so I can receive an Australian-created drug that is available to me in Britain, but not here, and has been approved in America, but not here. This cruel absurdity puts life-saving drugs out of reach and must be dealt with. Ultimately, I’m waiting for a drug that is already regulated in one of the largest economies in the world to be reregulated here.

The Australian government has made a commitment to ensure new medicines are made available. Last month it confirmed plans to overhaul the rigorous regulatory approach and fast track the process to slash the waiting time for patients. Reform can’t come soon enough.

Australia must cut the tangle of red tape impeding breakthrough treatments and clinical trials by introducing a new national framework. For even though we have a global reputation for great research scientists and specialists, the burden of regulations makes us less competitive for clinical trial investment compared to other regions, such as Asia.

The medical system here must get up to speed and adapt to the rapidly evolving world of anti-cancer therapy. If I didn’t have dual nationality, I wouldn’t be alive.

It’s about to get Interesting & Truly Innovative

It’s about to get Interesting & Truly Innovative

By Michael Corcoran – Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) National President

A quarter acre block with a three-bedroom home and a Hills hoist out the back was the dream of many Australians for almost a century. In a matter of a decade, that has all changed. The dream is alive but the home looks decisively different. The supply of development ready land has been a major issue confronting every capital city for more than 15 years. The Development industry has had to innovate, especially with higher density living, and homebuyers have had to change preferences and expectations. Many would say that developers have been too slow to innovate and Governments create barriers rather than incentives.

In Sydney, the lack of supply of land has pushed many lower density-housing options off the affordability spectrum. In 2008, the median house price was around $530,000. Today, the median house price is over $1 million. Over the same time, household incomes have only increased by one third (not the almost doubling of prices of housing). In all major Australian cities the story is similar.

The real issue is that we haven’t released the development ready land necessary to match historically high population growth. Developers and builders are facing this affordability challenge by innovating. You will often hear commentators talking about how we need more density and apartments in our cities. To a degree that’s correct. But what is actually needed is a broader mix of housing solutions that meet the needs & price points of homebuyers at certain stages of their lives. Providing the mix is critical.

Michael Corcoran - Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) National President
Michael Corcoran – Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) National President

UDIA’s recent State of the Land report shows that lot sizes have plummeted across Australia. The median new lot size across Australia is 453 square metres down from above 600 square metres a few years ago. Small lot housing is gaining momentum across the country at a rapid rate. Whether you are in Oran Park in South Western Sydney or Lightsview in inner northern Adelaide you can see innovation at its best with developers introducing apartments, townhouses and small lot houses in masterplanned communities. The quality and scale of the developments are excellent and they emphasise the importance of open space & community connection over private space.

These innovations have been a boon for homebuyers and developers alike. Homebuyers can purchase a far more affordable home (with lakefront homes in Lightview selling a little over $500,000) and developers can maintain their margins as they are using the scarce englobo land more efficiently. Companies like Eden Brae homes, Seksui, Masterton, Stockland,  and the like have designed homes to fit on the blocks that from the street look like a similar in scale as houses on much larger traditional lots. Many developers are embracing the past with the re-emergence of the Terrace House as a highly demanded option, These innovations & reinventions have seen the market remain buoyant as a mix of dwelling and price points broaden the buyer catchment and have helped the industry recover from the doldrums of the 2000’s to produce historically high numbers of new housing.

This journey is producing better housing and community options, however if you look over the horizon you can expect to see expediential changes over the next 10 years. This is being driven by technology and the resulting disruptive forces. 3D printers have already been used for building a home in China but the immediate benefit is likely to come from real time design with homebuyers. Drones enable mapping fly throughs for developers, governments and potential homebuyers. Driverless cars will change the infrastructure demands in our cities for the better and free up new infill lands for re-development. Big data will mean town planners will no longer be sitting down with paper maps and development applications but will be required to be mathematically competent computer programmers who can transform what is an arcane regulatory system. It’s all about to get very interesting and the benefits to the economy, community, homebuyers and governments will be immense.

The development industry is full of innovators and entrepreneurs. More than ever before, the next 10 years will reward those brave and visionary enough to embrace & leverage the disruption ahead.

Michael has more than 27 years’ experience in Property Development and Contract Housing, working for market leading development companies He has he held a variety of senior executive roles over this period including National General Manager Marketing, Sales, Design, Sustainability and Development practices, and a variety of Business Unit General Manager-Development roles in NSW, Victoria and SA.

Michael’s currently heads his own Development Advisory Company, MC3 Advisory, which consults to major companies in the Development and Investment Banking Industries providing advice and management services in areas including development funding & delivery, strategic business performance review, mergers and acquisition strategy and asset review.

Michael has been a Councilor with UDIA NSW for the past eight years, is the Immediate Past President for UDIA NSW and has been the National Vice-President of UDIA for the past 4 years.

To read and download the full profile click on the cover image below. To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.

Air New Zealand Announces Fleet Investment – 13 New Airbus A320neo and Another Domestic A320

Air New Zealand has today announced further fleet investment with the purchase of 13 new Airbus A320neo (new engine option) aircraft to refresh its international narrow body fleet and an additional A320 to join its domestic operation.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Christopher Luxon, signed the purchase agreement with Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers, John Leahy at the International Air Transport Association’s Annual General Meeting in Doha, Qatar, today.

The A320neo aircraft will replace Air New Zealand’s current fleet of 13 A320s which operate the majority of the airline’s Tasman and Pacific Island services. Equipped with new generation engines and fuel efficient Sharklet wing tip devices they’re expected to deliver fuel savings of up to 15 percent.

The purchase agreement is for a combination of A321neo and A320neo aircraft. The exact mix will be confirmed over time but will be a minimum of three A321neo aircraft.

The A321neo aircraft will have 38 more seats than the A320s the airline currently operates across the Tasman and to the Pacific, allowing for future growth on these routes. The first A321neo is due in late 2017 with the remainder of the aircraft delivered at intervals through until 2019. The additional A320 for the domestic fleet will be delivered in early 2015.

Mr Luxon said, “Today’s announcement is incredibly exciting for Air New Zealand as we continue our unprecedented investment in next generation aircraft and tool the business up for growth.

“These aircraft will help to ensure we continue to operate one of the world’s youngest jet fleets. This new fleet will further enhance the experience for our customers and will drive fuel efficiency enabling us to minimise our carbon footprint by saving around 3,600 tonnes of CO2 per aircraft per year.”

Mr Luxon said the purchase supports the airline’s fleet simplification strategy which is a key part of Air New Zealand‘s Go Beyond business strategy.

“With the announcement of this purchase we can confirm our intention to have an Airbus narrow body fleet. Operating one narrow body aircraft type will bring important efficiencies in training, maintenance and operating costs.”

Mr Leahy welcomed Air New Zealand’s support for the A320neo family of aircraft noting that it’s the world’s best-selling single aisle aircraft. Airbus already has some 2,700 orders for A320neo models from 50 customers around the globe.

The purchase agreement represents a discount to today’s list price of NZ$1.6 billion. Shareholder approval is not required as the value of the transaction is below the relevant thresholds.

Commonwealth Bank Announces Appointment of New Directors

Mr David Turner, Chairman of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, today announced the appointment of Mr Shirish Apte and Sir David Higgins as independent Non-Executive Directors of the Bank. Mr Apte’s appointment is effective as of 10 June 2014, while Sir David will join the Board on 1 September 2014.

The appointments continue the Bank’s move towards greater diversity in experience and background, with both new directors having carried out senior international business roles and both being currently based outside of Australia.

Mr Apte was Co-Chairman of Citi Asia Pacific Banking from 1 January 2012 until 31 January 2014, when he retired from Citi. (Mr Apte remains a director of Citibank Japan and a member of the Supervisory Board of Citibank Handlowy, Poland.) From 2009 until 2011, Mr Apte was Chief Executive Officer of Citi Asia Pacific, with responsibility for South Asia, including Australia, New Zealand, India and ASEAN countries. He was a member of Citigroup’s Executive and Operating Committees.

Mr Apte has more than 32 years experience with Citi, including as CEO of Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa (CEEMEA) and, before that, as Country Manager and Deputy President of Citibank Handlowy, Poland. Mr Apte moved to London in 1993 as a senior Risk Manager for CEEMEA before becoming Corporate Finance and Investment Bank Head for CEEMEA, including India.

Mr Apte is a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree. He also has an MBA from the London Business School.

Sir David Higgins is currently the Chairman of High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd, the company responsible for developing and promoting the UK’s new high speed rail network. Prior to that, he was Chief Executive of Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd in London which is involved in the maintenance and development of railway infrastructure throughout the UK.

From 2006 until 2011, he was Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority where he oversaw the creation of the London 2012 Olympic Games venues, the Olympic Village and transport projects. Prior to December 2005, he was Chief Executive of English Partnerships, the UK Government’s national housing and regeneration agency for three years. In 1985, he joined Lend Lease and in 1995, he was appointed Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Lend Lease.

Sir David holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) degree and a diploma from the Securities Institute of Australia. He was knighted in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to regeneration.

Mr Turner said: “I am delighted with the appointments of Shirish and Sir David, who are highly respected business figures both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. Shirish will bring international banking knowledge and experience that will greatly benefit the Commonwealth Bank. Sir David brings a vast array of high-level business, infrastructure and major project experience. Both men will be invaluable additions to the Commonwealth Bank Board and I very much look forward to working with them.”

Origin Energy to Acquire Natural Gas Resources in Australia’s Highly Prospective Browse Basin

Origin Energy Limited (Origin) today announced it has entered into a conditional Sale and Purchase Agreement with Karoon Gas (Karoon) to acquire its entire 40 per cent interest in two exploration permits (WA-315-P and WA-398-P) in Western Australia’s Browse Basin (Poseidon permits). These permits contain large and prospective offshore gas fields, such as the Poseidon discovery.

ConocoPhillips, the project operator, and PetroChina hold 40 per cent and 20 per cent interests in the permits respectively and also retain pre-emption rights for a limited period relating to the sale of Karoon’s 40 per cent interest in the Poseidon permits.

Following satisfaction of all conditions precedent and appropriate regulatory approvals, Origin will pay US$600 million cash consideration with additional payments of US$75 million payable upon a project Final Investment Decision (FID) and US$75 million payable on first production. A further payment of up to US$50 million will be payable on first production if 2P reserves at the time of FID reach certain thresholds.

Origin will participate in the ongoing exploration and appraisal program – including the Pharos well which is currently being drilled by the joint venture – on a proportional basis to augment Poseidon’s existing resource position. Options to monetise the Poseidon field’s resources may include transporting natural gas to LNG production facilities in Darwin or through a standalone floating LNG facility.

Origin will initially fund the acquisition from existing committed undrawn debt facilities which totalled $5.6 billion as at the end of April 2014. Given these facilities were put in place to fund Origin’s share of Australian Pacific LNG and maintain an appropriate liquidity buffer, the drawdown associated with this acquisition will be refinanced through an equity raising of around $1 billion. This will occur through a pro-rata equity offer at an appropriate time following completion of the acquisition and, in any event, sometime after the release of Origin’s full year financial results on 21 August 2014.

Origin Managing Director, Grant King said, “Origin’s acquisition of a 40 per cent interest in the Greater Poseidon area will allow the company to establish a strategic position in one of Australia’s largest recent offshore gas discoveries at a competitive entry price when compared to recent transactions in the Browse/Bonaparte region.

“Poseidon is located in one of Australia’s most significant hydrocarbon regions and various options exist to monetise the gas through LNG export opportunities linked to growing demand in the Asian region.

“We welcome the opportunity to enter the joint venture alongside two significant global oil and gas companies, ConocoPhillips and PetroChina, with whom we share a common focus to maximise the value of Australia’s significant gas resources.

“The acquisition of these permits complements recent farm-ins in South Australia’s Cooper Basin and the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin, thereby increasing Origin’s exposure to growing demand for natural gas both in Australia and overseas.

“We are mindful that the Australia Pacific LNG project begins production in mid 2015 and over the next two years there will be a significant increase in Origin’s long-term cash flow and earnings. It is important that we act now to invest in Origin’s continued development and growth through the latter part of this decade. We believe that acquiring these resources, when compared with greenfield exploration, substantially reduces the risk of securing opportunities to drive the long-term growth of Origin,” Mr King said.

Leighton Holdings Appoints New Managing Directors

Leighton Holdings today announced the appointment of Managing Directors to its Construction, Mining, PPP, and Engineering businesses.

Construction will be led by David Jurd, who is currently the Executive General Manager of Leighton Contractors’ Infrastructure Division.

Mining will be led by Bruce Munro, who is currently Managing Director of Thiess.

PPPs will be led by Angel Muriel, who is currently Leighton Holdings’ Chief Development Officer.

Engineering will be led by Craig Laslett, who is currently Managing Director of Leighton Contractors.

Ian Edwards will continue to lead Leighton Asia, India and Offshore; Glenn Palin will continue to lead John Holland; and Mark Gray will continue to lead Leighton Properties.

Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Marcelino Fernández Verdes said: “I am pleased to announce these new appointments and I have great confidence in the leadership, insight and expertise each member of the team will bring to his role.”

Leighton also announced the branding of the construction and mining businesses. The construction business will be branded Leighton Contractors, and mining will be branded Thiess.

Mr Fernández Verdes said: “Keeping these valuable brands will enable us to build on the strong positioning of each of these businesses in the market, as we work towards making Leighton Contractors a global leader in construction and Thiess the global leader in mining.”