Monthly Archives:June 2019

Empire of the sun: Havaianas’ march to the top ( admin posted on June 21st, 2019 )

Havaianas were first created as cheap footwear for Brazil’s peasant workers.How did cheap footwear for Brazil’s poor become a must-have accessory for the world’s most fashionable?

Amelia Maribondo-Aspden isn’t happy about the ice in her champagne. She calls the waiter, who points out that the fashionable new brand she ordered was intended to be served that way. The Brazilian-born businesswoman screws up her nose. “Is boolsheet,” she says. “Who would put ice on wine?”

The waiter at the Gold Coast restaurant offers further explanation, but Maribondo-Aspden isn’t buying it. She orders a replacement drink and we return to our examination of her adventurous life. But not before she offers a last word on the ice-in-champagne trend. “I think,” she confides huskily, “this must be something for high-heel women.”

Indeed. And as everybody who knows her is aware, Amelia Maribondo-Aspden is not one of them. She’s the party-girl/entrepreneur who in the late 1990s single-handedly introduced Havaianas (pronounced ah-vai-YAH-nas) thongs to Australia and helped make them a global fashion item. In the process she went from being broke to turning over millions of dollars, with a staff of 40 and offices in three states. Not long ago, she bought the MasterChef warehouse cooking premises in inner-Sydney’s Alexandria as her new HQ, prompting its famous tenants to decamp to Melbourne.

But although she now lives in Sydney’s exclusive Vaucluse and has succeeded “beyond my dreams”, Maribondo-Aspden spurns formalities. Her staff joke about the vigour and inventiveness of her swearing. “I love Australia,” she tells me, “but can you trust a bank here to lend you money for business? No f…ing way! Now, ’cause I’ve got money, they all lick my balls whatever time I want. But in the beginning they wouldn’t give me a f…ing cent.”

Like the Havaianas brand itself – still the “poor people’s” shoe for millions of Brazilians – Maribondo-Aspden’s life seems a curious mix of privilege and knockabout practicality. Born to wealthy parents in 1964 (the same year Brazil fell to a military dictatorship that would last two decades), she became a “really spoilt little curl” with her own nanny at their mansion in Brasília. Back then, two years after Havaianas were first created as cheap footwear for peasant workers, corruption in Brazil was particularly rife.

“My [late] father was an accountant in the army’s construction section, so he was very well placed to take advantage of the corruption,” she says without a sign of unease. “He was also one of the few to get caught. He wasn’t prosecuted, but in the end they called him in and said, ‘Hey, Geraldo! Goodbye.’ Then we lost everything and moved to São Paulo.”

Coming home

A few years later, her parents separated, each taking three children. Being the youngest she stayed with her mother, but remained her father’s pet. Despite his losses, he managed to send her to one of Brazil’s best Catholic schools: “He wanted me to be a laay-dee, and have a good marriage, but unfortunately I didn’t behave as he wanted me to.”

Instead, at 14, she moved with her mother to Rio de Janeiro, where her older sister had opened a clothing boutique. “So I am coming from the boring school of nuns to Rio, where my sister’s boutique is full-on with gay boys and crazy people! And I am home. For the first time, I feel I am in the right place.”

At 18, she married an older, rich but unhappy businessman who did his best to “tame” her. “He didn’t like my gay friends at all,” she says. “I have no prejudices – in Brazil, as we used to say, every sort of love is accepted! – but my husband was very prejudiced, macho, controlling. I was his little trophy, but I was also full of life. And he, as well, wanted me to be this laay-dee.”

Four years after they parted, the businessman took his own life. By then, she was in Bali buying sarongs and fabrics for the Rio boutique she managed on behalf of a group of local “surfer boys” who’d discovered Indonesia. She later moved to Sydney where, in 1997, a friend visiting from Rio brought with her a range of bikinis, which they sold in local stores.

“Then my girlfriend said, ‘Why don’t we bring out some Havaianas as well?’ I said they were just traditional thongs, and anyone could buy such things in China for 50 cents. But my friend said, ‘No, no, no! Havaianas changed to monocolour in 1995!’ And I said, ‘Why is that better?'”

A billion-dollar question

This, as it turned out, was part of a billion-dollar question. The answer, with all its contradictions and fashion absurdities, transformed the fortunes of the brand, as well as Maribondo-Aspden’s life. She began by buying samples of the new-look Brazilian flip-flops and giving them away outside Sydney supermarkets; within two years she’d married an Aussie carpenter, Peter Aspden, started her Aqueo Import and Distribution company (supplying General Pants, Surf Dive ‘n’ Ski, and Beach Culture stores) and was importing Havaianas by the container-load to meet the seemingly insatiable demand here, where 2.5 million pairs are now sold annually.

By the early 2000s, the thongs-as-street-fashion craze had spread to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, France and New York. Supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, as well as Brazil’s Gisele Bündchen, wore Havaianas by choice, other models paraded in them at Jean Paul Gaultier’s fashion show in Paris, and The New York Times and Wall Street Journal ran articles on the extraordinary revival of the humble thong, likening it to the “universal acceptance” achieved by Levi’s jeans 50 years earlier.

The origins of the humble thong

Of course, the basic three-point thong or sandal is almost as old as recorded history. Ancient Egyptians had a papyrus-and-palm leaves version as early as 4000BC; Greeks, Romans and Mesopotamians devised variations; India later came up with a strapless style in which a “toe knob” fitted between the first and second toes. The origin of modern flip-flops – a name derived from the sound they make – is generally linked to Japanese zori sandals, a flat platform with a three-point strap traditionally made of rice straw, but now widely produced in plastic.

In this form, it looks a lot like any other thong. Fortunately, for contemporary producers of the ubiquitous footwear, the Japanese never patented their much-copied sandals. American servicemen returning from World War II brought zoris home; by the 1960s, plastic versions in bright colours were part of Californian beach culture.

In the Antipodes, pub debate over whether Australians or New Zealanders “invented” thongs is older than the six-o’clock swill. Alas, it’s now generally conceded that a Kiwi called Morris Yock won the race in 1957 when he and his son Anthony began making trademarked, zori-style “Jandals” (an amalgam of Japanese and sandal) at their Auckland home. The Melbourne-based Dunlop company didn’t begin selling imported thongs here until 1959.

When Maribondo-Aspden started her import company in 1998, the world-wide thong revival had yet to happen. “I triggered it!” she exclaims over lunch. “I can say to you without any doubt, I triggered it. Not just me, though, but me and [she names several former executives with Havaianas’ Brazilian parent company, Alpargatas SA]. They saw what was happening in Australia with us and our retailers, and they said, ‘This is fashionable. This is something we ought to be doing all over the place!'”

A far cry from Brazil’s south

In Brazil’s hot and dry northeast, a hired minivan is taking us from the airport at the bleached coastal city of João Pessoa to Havaianas’ vast factory at Campina Grande, 90 minutes’ drive to the west. Rarely mentioned in tourist brochures, these are the homelands of Brazil’s poorer castes, often descendants of African slaves brought here to work the sugar-cane fields that made the country’s early colonial cities so wealthy.

Spurred by government incentives for decentralisation, Havaianas (the Portuguese name for Hawaiians) moved its manufacturing base from São Paulo in the south to the job-starved northeast in 1984. Now 7000 employees work around the clock churning out the hundreds of millions of pairs of thongs the company sells each year. Our van bumps and rattles through villages where donkeys still pull carts and people take naps in the shade of their tiny stone and concrete homes.

It’s a far cry from the congestion and commercial frenzies of São Paulo, the largest city in South America (home to 20 million), where, a few days earlier, the woman in charge of Havaianas worldwide – Carla Schmitzberger – sat at the head of a table of executives in Alpargatas’ corporate HQ talking of how the Amazing Flip-flop Revival began with Brazilian surfers “inverting their soles”.

This happened in the early 1990s, when the surfers – bored by the only thong then produced by the company, with a white upper and matching straps and soles in five basic colours – began removing the soles and turning them around so the uppers were the same colour as the straps. This apparently made the surfers feel “different”.

Noticing the trend at a time when sales were falling alarmingly (from 85 million pairs in 1988, to a low of 66 million in 1992), the company figured it could be the key to reversing its own fortunes.

“So in 1994 they launched a fully monochromed product,” says Schmitzberger. “By observing consumer behaviour, then selling it back to the consumer, we made the thong more than just a commodity, and it became much more aspirational.”

After that (like Henry Ford discovering colours other than black), inspiration reigned – with thinner straps, wider straps, different patterns, decorative pins – and aspirations soared. Wealthier Brazilians, once embarrassed to wear their thongs outside the home because they were deemed a poor person’s shoe, were led by various celebrities and opinion formers to stride boldly forth in their newly tricked-up rubber footwear.

Hearing stories of people trying to enter restaurants in their thongs, and being turned away, Havaianas commissioned a TV commercial showing a handsome thong-wearing actor getting the same treatment. Dismayed, girls in the restaurant complain, “Well, if he can’t stay, we’re leaving, too!” Notes Schmitzberger: “After that campaign, it started to become more acceptable to wear thongs in restaurants.”

Conquering colour

Amazingly (at least to me), the monocolour/aspirational theme worked. Five years after it began, sales were up 7 per cent. Last year they topped 210 million (with exports accounting for 16 per cent), and demand is such that another factory is being built near São Paulo. Even better, although the basic thong still sells for about $5 in Brazil, consumers happily pay more for all the fancier types, and up to $140 for a version featuring straps encrusted with Swarovski crystals.

In 2000, inspired by Amelia Maribondo-Aspden’s booming sales in Australia (still among the company’s highest per-capita market penetrations), Havaianas stepped up its campaign for export markets. And when Europeans embraced the product, Brazilians – proud of their “ugly duckling turning into a swan” – bought even more thongs themselves, until, as Schmitzberger puts it, “you come into this circle where one likes it because the other likes it, and so on and so forth”.

Nice business. Yet, despite all these contortions, Havaianas’ most valuable market remains the no-frills workers upon which it was founded. The battlers of the north-east (Região Nordeste) still buy 80 to 90 million pairs of thongs a year, making them easily the best customers. “Children, men, women – this is what the poor people of the north-east wear,” says Schmitzberger. “They wear thongs day in and day out, and with that sort of use they last six or seven months before they wear out.”

A thin black dog lies dreaming in the middle of the service road as the first coaches arrive bearing workers for the 6am shift. In the dawn light, everything about Campina Grande’s industrial outskirts appears grey: the sky, the streets, the giant Havaianas factory itself. The largest in northern Brazil, it grumbles and hisses as the workers straggle through the gates in their grey-and-white uniforms. Two thousand of them are bussed in and another 2000 out, on 36 coaches, at every shift change.

Ninety per cent are men, most are young, and because of safety regulations none wears thongs. En route to the company cafeteria for breakfast before starting work, many pause to check the promotions notice board: a changing tableau of headshots and captions showing who among them is going up in the world – typically, from production work to administration, then into specialised positions such as engineering or industrial chemistry.

‘You know, we made those!’

Brazil’s contemporary fixation with self-improvement and status isn’t confined to affluent classes in the south. Helped by the company’s subsidised study scheme, which also applies to their direct families, the workers have their own dreams and aspirations. (Although they still have a way to go: the minimum wage in Brazil is $300 a month. At the Havaianas plant, the pay for basic process work is about $450 a month, rising to $1000 after the first round of study/promotion. In São Paulo, a good executive income is $100,000 a year; in Campina Grande, a worker earning $6000 a year is considered to be doing well.)

Yet the upbeat mood here goes beyond considerations of income. Workers and office staff tell of how proud they are to see TV and movie stars wearing footwear from their factory. “We have helped to develop this city,” says Virginia Araujo, a teacher turned secretary who has been at the factory 11 years. “And when we see famous people wearing Havaianas, we can say to our friends, ‘You know, we made those!'”

On the wall behind her are a series of company posters of Brazilian celebrities, all wearing or fondling company products. One handsome young actor sports a shirt with the message: “Kiss me – I’m loaded!”

Our guided tour of the factory begins in off-cuts, where all the bits left over when thong soles are stamped out on presses spill from colour-coded bins, awaiting recycling in heat chambers. We visit the sound-proofed laboratory, where chemical engineer Fatima Farias demonstrates how the thongs are pounded, stretched and even “sweat tested” (on a machine that simulates the friction of a sweaty foot) for flaws.

Farias, 46, began as a factory intern 27 years ago, studied hard, and has since devised a new thong colour and developed rubber injection processes unique to the company. She says that unlike cheaper PVC-based thongs, those made here involve a “secret recipe” combining, among other things, multiple types of man-made rubber (derived from petroleum waste) and natural rubber from plantations in Brazil and Mexico. “I think of them as my children,” she beams. “If someone comes to my home and roughly kicks off their flip-flops, I always say, ‘Hey, be careful of my babies!'”

At the pounding heart of the process line are the presses that cut the soles, and the robot-like workers whose flying fingers attach the straps and package the thongs, all at warp speed. Nearby is the colour printing section, where people are randomly tested by medical teams for ill effects from exposure to chemical fumes. (Only yesterday, we’re told, blood tests were taken from workers who suddenly developed sore throats and coughs.)

Twice a day, production workers in small groups enter an enclosure and spend five minutes doing synchronised, arms-up stretches. First to the left, then – a whistle shrills – to the right, over and over, until the next stretching group replaces them.

Study, and lots of it, is seen as the best way of escaping this daily grind. Cesar Amorin, a single 34-year-old who lives with his parents, has been studying flat-out since he began as a process worker eight years ago. Now, as a production supervisor, he’s studying to be an engineer: “After that, I will study to be more than an engineer!” Amorin says that until quite recently only a few workers bothered with study. “But now more and more want to improve and get more money. The promotions notice board you saw is inspiring everybody to compete and improve themselves.”

Unlike in the smart and culturally connected south, there is little here to distract a weary worker at shift’s end. Family, religion, work and study – and perhaps a little soccer among friends – are the typical components of life in the Nordeste. As another shift change occurs, fork-lift driver Andre Sileasantos, 28, grabs a coffee before heading home to take his wife to the local university, and his daughter to school. After that he will study himself, then get some sleep before his next shift. Is he happy? “Oh yes! Every day I give thanks to God for my life.”

All around us, workers stream from the factory gates through a line of security guards. Every so often, a guard steps forward and pats someone down as a deterrent against pilfering. A donkey struggles by towing two fat pigs in a cart. Watching over all this from a giant Havaianas billboard is the serene visage of yet another southern celebrity who can’t live without her monochrome thongs.

Is it really fashionable to be fashionable?

Back in São Paulo, Rui Porto – one of the executives who helped pull off the trick of making cheap shoes irresistible to the wealthy – is wrestling with a modern conundrum: is it really fashionable to be fashionable? Porto, formerly vice-president of Alpargatas SA and now a company consultant, has just finished explaining how “unconventional” people (surfers, artists, celebs and others given to inverting their soles) were used to lead conventional people (the middle classes) into accepting the fashionability of Havaianas’ re-vamped thongs. “The middle class all over the world are, by definition, followers,” Porto concludes. But wasn’t it also likely that unconventional people wouldn’t want to wear them once conventional people were? Porto furrows his brow. “Some unconventional people are now preferring to revert to the old simple styles,” he concedes. “But others love to wear a product that is very fashionable.”

(Less-ambitious Brazilians, especially in the nation’s teeming favelas, proudly remind visitors that their unadorned Havaianas gave rise to the term pe de chinelo, or “slipper foot” – slang for downtrodden – and were once part of a basket of staples, along with milk, bread and beans, used by the government to calculate the basic cost of living.)

From a marketing perspective, Porto would obviously prefer that the fashion of unfashionability doesn’t gather too much momentum. The vast US market, which he deems the world’s most difficult, has largely resisted the Havaianas export push – partly because of its diversity, and the fact that Middle America isn’t impressed by fashion. “Even now,” says Porto, “despite the huge difference in populations, the US market remains about the same size as the Australian market.”

Is it a case of Amelia Maribondo-Aspden doing particularly well, or her counterparts in the US dragging the chain? He laughs. “Let’s say Amelia is doing really well!”

Porto seems off guard when asked what one of the world’s largest thong producers is doing about its product inevitably ending up as landfill, or in the oceans. “We’re doing a study of it now,” he says. “But nothing has been resolved yet.”

Carla Schmitzberger noted earlier that the company donated 7 per cent of sales from two types of thong, with designs depicting endangered species, to Conservation International, a US-based non-profit environmental agency. The money went towards research into the health of Brazilian forests and the world’s oceans. One of the creatures depicted on the thongs is a whale, but Schmitzberger couldn’t name the other: “I think it’s a type of monkey, or something …”

Right time, right place

Marketing experts identify cultural branding – emphasising Brazil’s “vibrancy, youth, fun, sensuality and humour” – as the real key to Havaianas’ global revival. As for her own good fortune, Amelia Maribondo-Aspden reckons it was largely a matter of luck. “There was a lot of work involved, but mainly it was right time, right place. The product name was exciting, but if I had brought it here two years earlier, or later, I probably wouldn’t have succeed.”

Now also distributing thongs in her old stamping ground, Indonesia (where one of her brothers heads the expansion), she remains a lover of most things Brazilian – especially “that music from 500 f…ing drums that resonates in your chest!” – but not its institutionalised corruption. “I feel safe in Australia,” she says, “because everything is black and white. I have an accountant, and I pay my 30 per cent f…ing tax, and everything works. But in Brazil you never know where you stand. You might be cooking your books, like everyone else, but tomorrow a supervisor from the government will come and say, ‘Hey, I know you are cheating. Give me money!'”

At which point, whatever shoes you’re wearing, you’re left without a leg to stand on.

Frank Robson travelled to Brazil courtesy of Aqueo.

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Selling flak jackets in the cyberwars ( admin posted on June 21st, 2019 )

When the Israeli army and Hamas trade virtual blows in cyberspace, or when hacker groups like Anonymous rise from the digital ether, or when WikiLeaks dumps a trove of classified documents, some see a lawless Internet.

But Matthew Prince, chief executive at CloudFlare, a little-known Internet start-up that serves some of the Web’s most controversial characters, sees a business opportunity.

Founded in 2010, CloudFlare markets itself as an Internet intermediary that shields websites from distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks, the crude but effective weapon that hackers use to bludgeon websites until they go dark. The 40-person company claims to route up to 5 percent of all Internet traffic through its global network.

Prince calls his company the “Switzerland” of cyberspace – assiduously neutral and open to all comers. But just as companies like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have faced profound questions about the balance between free speech and openness on the Internet and national security and law enforcement concerns, CloudFlare’s business has posed another thorny question: what kinds of services, if any, should an American company be allowed to offer designated terrorists and cyber criminals?

CloudFlare’s unusual position at the heart of this debate came to the fore last month, when the Israel Defense Forces sought help from CloudFlare after its website was struck by attackers based in Gaza. The IDF was turning to the same company that provides those services to Hamas and the al-Quds Brigades, according to publicly searchable domain information. Both Hamas and al-Quds, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are designated by the United States as terrorist groups.

Under the USA Patriot Act, US firms are forbidden from providing “material support” to groups deemed foreign terrorist organizations. But what constitutes material support – like many other facets of the law itself – has been subject to intense debate.

CloudFlare’s dealings have attracted heated criticism in the blogosphere from both Israelis and Palestinians, but Prince defended his company as a champion of free speech.

“Both sides have an absolute right to tell their story,” said Prince, a 38-year old former lawyer. “We’re not providing material support for anybody. We’re not sending money, or helping people arm themselves.”

Prince noted that his company only provides defensive capabilities that enable websites to stay online.

“We can’t be sitting in a role where we decide what is good or what is bad based on our own personal biases,” he said. “That’s a huge slippery slope.”

Many US agencies are customers, but so is WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing organization. CloudFlare has consulted for many Wall Street institutions, yet also protects Anonymous, the “hacktivist” group associated with the Occupy movement.

Prince’s stance could be tested at a time when some lawmakers in the United States and Europe, armed with evidence that militant groups rely on the Web for critical operations and recruitment purposes, have pressured Internet companies to censor content or cut off customers.

Last month, conservative political lobbies, as well as seven lawmakers led by Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas, urged the FBI to shut down the Hamas Twitter account. The account remains active; Twitter declined to comment.

Material support

Although it has never prosecuted an Internet company under the Patriot Act, the government’s use of the material support argument has steadily risen since 2006. Since September 11, 2001, more than 260 cases have been charged under the provision, according to Fordham Law School’s Terrorism Trends database.

Catherine Lotrionte, the director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Law, Science and Global Security and a former Central Intelligence Agency lawyer, argued that Internet companies should be more closely regulated.

“Material support includes web services,” Lotrionte said. “Denying them services makes it more costly for the terrorists. You’re cornering them.”

But others have warned that an aggressive government approach would have a chilling effect on free speech.

“We’re resurrecting the kind of broad-brush approaches we used in the McCarthy era,” said David Cole, who represented the Humanitarian Law Project, a non-profit organization that was charged by the Justice Department for teaching law to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is designated by the United States as a terrorist group. The group took its case to the Supreme Court but lost in 2010.

The material support law is vague and ill-crafted, to the point where basic telecom providers, for instance, could be found guilty by association if a terrorist logs onto the Web to plot an attack, Cole said.

In that case, he asked, “Do we really think that AT&T or Google should be held accountable?”

CloudFlare said it has not been contacted about its services by the US government. Spokespeople for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, told Reuters they contracted a cyber-security company in Gaza that out-sources work to foreign companies, but declined to comment further. The IDF confirmed it had hired CloudFlare, but declined to discuss “internal security” matters.

CloudFlare offers many of its services for free, but the company says websites seeking advanced protection and features can see their bill rise to more than $US3,000 a month. Prince declined to discuss the business arrangements with specific customers.

While not yet profitable, CloudFlare has more than doubled its revenue in the past four months, according to Prince, and is picking up 3,000 new customers a day. The company has raked in more than $US22 million from venture capital firms including New Enterprise Associates, Venrock and Pelion Venture Partners.

Prince, a Midwestern native with mussed brown hair who holds a law degree from the University of Chicago, said he has a track record of working on the right side of the law.

A decade ago, Prince provided free legal aid to Spamhaus, an international group that tracked email spammers and identity thieves. He went on to create Project Honey Pot, an open source spam-tracking endeavor that turned over findings to police.

Prince’s latest company, CloudFlare, has been hailed by groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists for protecting speech. Another client, the World Economic Forum, named CloudFlare among its 2012 “technology pioneers” for its work. But it also owes its profile to its most controversial customers.

CloudFlare has served 4Chan, the online messaging community that spawned Anonymous. LulzSec, the hacker group best known for targeting Sony Corp, is another customer. And since last May, the company has propped up WikiLeaks after a vigilante hacker group crashed the document repository.

Last year, members of the hacker collective UgNazi, whose exploits include pilfering user account information from eBay and crashing the website, broke into Prince’s cell phone and email accounts.

“It was a personal affront,” Prince said. “But we never kicked them off either.”

Prince said CloudFlare would comply with a valid court order to remove a customer, but that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has never requested a takedown. The company has agreed to turn over information to authorities on “exceedingly rare” occasions, he acknowledged, declining to elaborate.

“Any company that doesn’t do that won’t be in business long,” Prince said. But in an email, he added: “We have a deep and abiding respect for our users’ privacy, disclose to our users whenever possible if we are ordered to turn over information and would fight an order that we believed was not proper.”

Juliannne Sohn, an FBI spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Michael Sussmann, a former Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted computer crimes, said US law enforcement agencies may in fact prefer that the Web’s most wanted are parked behind CloudFlare rather than a foreign service over which they have no jurisdiction.

Federal investigators “want to gather information from as many sources as they can, and they’re happy to get it,” Sussmann said.

In an era of rampant cyber warfare, Prince acknowledged he is something of a war profiteer, but with a wrinkle.”We’re not selling bullets,” he said. “We’re selling flak jackets.”


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Caringbah should become medical hub says shire mayor ( admin posted on June 21st, 2019 )

SUTHERLAND Shire mayor Kent Johns believes Caringbah should follow Kogarah and become a medical hub.

He said that by designating an area close to Sutherland Hospital as a medical precinct, with specialist doctors’ rooms and accompanying services, developers would have more incentive for

new construction.

‘‘I see how successful Kogarah has been with its medical precinct in the area around St George public and private hospitals,’’ he said.

‘‘When you see something successful in another area, then sometimes it is worth replicating.’’

Councillor Johns was speaking after outlining his vision at a breakfast meeting of Miranda and Districts Chamber of Commerce.

He said the concept would be pursued through the new draft local environmental plan which would set a strategic direction for the Caringbah, Cronulla and Sutherland centres.

Proposed height and density increases for these and other areas already have been adopted by the council in its housing strategy.

In a separate move, an area stretching from Miranda to Caringbah may be nominated by the council as an urban activation precinct, in which the state government would take over the planning approvals.

Cr Johns told the breakfast gathering the council was not there to restrict business, and promised a full review of council services.

He said the housing strategy would be the biggest thing in the shire for years.

But some residents in older homes on the southern side of the Kingsway between Caringbah and Sutherland Hospital are understandably nervous about all the talk.

Al Alnzi said his parents feared they could be forced to sell the home they had lived in for 40 years.

‘‘However, from what I have seen in a similar situation in another area, there is probably not much they can do about it,’’ he said.

‘‘Hopefully, there will be

a long delay before anything happens.’’

Another long-time resident said no one had given them any information.

One tenant said their owner was aware of the development potential and had bought two properties and was seeking a third.


Mayor Johns’s address to Miranda and Districts Chamber of Commerce attracted the largest crowd for the year when he spoke at its recent breakfast meeting.

‘‘Business owners were not only interested to hear what he had to say, but were also eager to put a few questions to him, ranging from rates to garbage bins in retail areas,’’ a chamber spokeswoman said. ‘‘The mayor was upbeat about the new council’s relationship with business in the area.’’

She said other points made by Cr Johns had included that the new council had a ‘‘pro-business outlook’’ and this was being played out through a review of all council regulations.

The present: Homes between Caringbah and Sutherland Hospital.

Homes on the Kingsway between Caringbah and Sutherland Hospital. Picture: John Veage

The future?: A building occupied by specialist doctors at Kogarah. Pictures: John Veage

Do you agree with Cr Johns? Have your say or vote in the poll.

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Mammoth doubles its Melbourne efforts with twin towers ( admin posted on June 21st, 2019 )

Growing concern: Sean Ng, Jason Ooi and Andrew Fortey.MALAYSIAN property developer Mammoth plans to put its mark on Melbourne’s horizon and build a sister tower next to its landmark 55-storey MY80 development.

Mammoth paid $15.1 million to a Melbourne family for a 1028-square-metre block at 398 Elizabeth Street two weeks ago, beating two other parties in a public tender.

In a rare interview with BusinessDay, the directors of the little-known Malaysian group said they hoped to build a twin tower to complement the $250 million MY80 high-rise being built next door in A’Beckett Street.

”Maybe we will have another tower slightly taller or the same height. When you come to this area you will feel the vibrancy, you will see twin towers here,” director Joseph Ooi said.

At present the site houses a nondescript single-storey building tenanted to a hairdresser and software retailer.

The nearest skyscraper is the Melbourne Central tower on the corner of La Trobe and Elizabeth streets. However, one block away at 150 Queen Street, Planning Minister Matthew Guy this week gave formal planning approval for a soaring 71-level residential tower that will dwarf most other city buildings.

In the same area, Brookfield Multiplex this week finished building a $90 million residential tower at 33 Mackenzie Street.

Mammoth owner and director Sean Ng said his group was happy with progress of MY80’s construction, having sold 90 per cent of apartments in the complex.

Malaysian, Singaporean and Chinese-based developers have snapped up $385 million of prime CBD residential sites in Melbourne in the past 18 months and are proving to be a driving force in Melbourne’s property construction industry.

The company has a strong development pedigree in Malaysia. There, it is overseeing an enormous 40-hectare, mixed-use project on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

The 10-year-old firm has begun the first 10-hectare phase of Empire City that will include retail, hotel, apartments and offices in a 12-tower complex with two Marriott-managed hotels and a 20-screen cinema complex, Mr Ng said.

Mr Ng was unknown in Melbourne two years ago when on a week-long visit he bought the MY80 development site complete with permits from the Hampton Group.

But apart from the two sites in Elizabeth Street, the group has bigger plans for Melbourne.

Mr Ng would like to expand into retail development.

”We are looking at opportunities every day. We are here for the long term. We are starting to build our foundations,” he said.

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Doesn’t pay to be swayed on prices ( admin posted on June 21st, 2019 )

Valuers are standing firm amid accusations they are being too conservative.Valuers are coming under intense pressure from developers and mortgage brokers to justify their property valuations as conditions continue to deteriorate in Melbourne’s new home and off-the-plan apartment market.

One prominent industry figure has warned that valuers won’t be pushed to ”sell their integrity” as a growing number of sale settlements are threatened by falling property values, developer incentives and tighter funding restrictions.

”What it comes down to is the valuer has regard to the evidence and that opinion is not there to be manipulated by either side by the circumstances associated with the deal,” said Brad Papworth, spokesman for the Australian Property Institute and director of analyst group Charter Keck Cramer.

Mr Papworth said that regardless of ”pressures in the market”, the way valuers worked would not change to ”appease the wishes of a few”.

The comments were sparked by a series of recent media stories about buying incentives and their potentially distorting effects on property values in the new home and off the plan apartment markets.

Some developers and mortgage brokers complain that valuations are proving far too conservative and were unnecessarily causing financing and settlement problems, particularly for first home buyers.

Since the onset of Melbourne’s property slump in 2010, developers have been offering buyers big cash incentives, price discounts, and gifts such as whitegood packs, furniture, cars and holidays in a bid to close deals in a time of weak demand and rising supply.

These incentives are sometimes declared in the contract of sale, but it has become increasingly common for the sweeteners to be detailed in a separate agreement that is not seen by a valuer.

Industry sources say the practice has become so pervasive that it is affecting the ability of buyers to get financing, especially at a time when values are also falling between the time a contract is signed and settlement takes place. ”Valuers are seen as influencing the market when really what we are doing is sticking by our integrity to assess fair market value, and the sales that are occurring aren’t necessarily occurring at fair market value,” Mr Papworth said.

But industry group the Urban Development Institute of Australia argues that incentives are a valid technique for attracting buyers.

”The value of any property at any given time is determined by what the person who is buying is prepared to pay,” said Tony De Domenico, UDIA’s executive director.

Australand and Villawood Properties have called for an end to incentives.Source: BusinessDay

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