How the two-speed economy worm has turned

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 01: Western Premier Colin Barnett and and Deputy Premier Liza Harvey are seen at the South Metropolitan TAFE in Fremantle announcing a major election commitment to support Western ‘s growing aquaculture sector on March 1, 2017 in Perth, . (Photo by Trevor Collens/Fairfax Media) Photo: Trevor CollensIf you learn nothing else about the economy, remember that it moves not in straight lines but in cycles of good times followed by bad times, and bad times followed by good.
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Nowhere is that truer than with our famed “two-speed economy”.

For most of the decade to 2012, the resources boom meant that the two main mining states – Queensland and, especially, Western – were growing much faster than the rest of the economy, which was being held back by the effect of the boom-caused high dollar on other export industries.

For the past few years, however, the roles have been reversed, with Queensland and WA now growing much more slowly than Victoria and NSW.

In an article in the latest Reserve Bank Bulletin, Thomas Carr, Kate Fernandes and Tom Rosewell argue that looking at what’s been happening from state to state does much to help explain what the n Bureau of Statistics is telling us about developments in the national economy.

It also helps explain why Colin Barnett was thrown out of office so unceremoniously in WA last Saturday. Forget the politicos’ obsession with the role of One Nation, the deeper explanation is economic.

After peaking at growth of 9.1 per cent in gross state product (the state equivalent of gross domestic product) in 2011-12 at the height of the mining boom, growth slumped to just 1.9 per cent in 2015-16.

There’s nothing new about governments getting tossed out when their boom turns to bust. Especially when it becomes apparent what a hash you made of the good times, spending like there was no tomorrow.

To see how the two-speed worm has turned, consider this. In 2015-16, real GDP grew by 2.8 per cent for the year as a whole.

Within this, NSW’s real GSP grew 3.5 per cent and Victoria’s 3.3 per cent. By contrast, Queensland’s grew 2 per cent and, as we’ve seen, WA’s 1.9 per cent. (If you must know, South ‘s was 1.9 per cent and Tasmania’s 1.3 per cent.)

What’s that? You think WA’s annual growth of 1.9 per cent doesn’t sound all that terrible? It’s being held up by the increased volume of WA’s exports of iron ore and liquefied natural gas.

Trouble is, that generates next to no additional jobs. In mining, most of the jobs come from building new mines. When construction ends, the building workers go back where they came from (which ain’t Perth).

Our trio from the RBA say that, over the period of the resources boom’s build-up and let-down, differences between the performance of the states have been explained mainly by differences in private investment spending.

Consumer spending accounts for a far bigger slice of GDP/GSP than investment spending. And consumer spending has been much less variable between the states than investment spending – although it’s been weakest in WA.

Consumers keep their spending reasonably smooth from year to year. They do this by cutting back their rate of saving when their incomes aren’t growing fast enough.

We know from the national accounts that, while wages and employment growth have been weak in recent times, households have been progressively lowering their rate of saving to help keep their consumption steady.

That’s normal cyclical behaviour. What we now know from the RBA trio’s investigations, however, is that pretty much all the decline in the national saving ratio is explained by the actions of West ns and Queenslanders. Ah.

Another national-level story we’re familiar with says the economy is making a transition from mining-led to non-mining-led growth. So, as mining projects are completed and mining investment spending falls way back, we need strong growth in non-mining business investment to take its place.

The national accounts tell us it’s not been happening. You’ve heard all the wailing and gnashing of teeth – not to mention speculation about causes – that’s accompanied this bad news.

But here again the RBA trio’s data diving shows the story in a different light. While mining investment was booming in the mining states, so was non-mining investment in those states. Confidence in one part of the local economy spills over to other parts.

While this was happening in the mining states, non-mining business investment in the other states was weak.

Illustration: Glen Le Lievre

As the trio almost admit, this was part of the RBA’s dastardly plan to ensure the mining boom didn’t cause runaway inflation – as every previous commodity boom had.

While the politicians were letting foreign miners make all the crazy investments we now realise they did – leaving us with a gas-bonanza-caused energy crisis – the RBA had to “make room” for the miners by holding back the rest of the economy and, in particular, non-mining business investment.

It would have been willing to achieve this restraint by holding interest rates higher than otherwise needed but, fortunately for it, most of the work was done by the abnormally high exchange rate, which crunched manufacturers, tourism and foreign student education.

Back to the now. While the national figures reveal non-mining investment failing to show signs of recovery, the trio’s data diving shows it’s actually falling in the mining states (as lack of confidence in mining spills over) but recovering elsewhere.

In NSW, non-mining investment has grown at an average rate of 8 per cent a year for the past three years. In Victoria, it’s been 4 per cent.

The obvious explanation for this recovery is the dollar’s return to earth. But much of it’s been in business services, including, in NSW, construction of new office buildings. In Victoria, there’s been investment in wholesale and retail, with investment by manufacturers stabilising.

But the other private investment category – new housing – is also part of the story. Home building has fallen in the West (what a surprise), but grown strongly in NSW and Victoria.

It’s surprising what you discover when you dig.

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China leave door open for Indian fightback

???’I’ve got a frog in my throat’: Maxwell’s joy at maiden Test tonIndia v : as it happenedComment: Smith carries team on his shoulders
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Ranchi: ‘s bowlers are locked in a gruelling battle of attrition as India launched a spirited fightback without their inspirational leader Virat Kohli.

The third Test remains anyone’s game after a grinding second day where the visitors blew a golden chance to bat India out of the match despite an unbeaten 178 to Steve Smith and a maiden Test century to Glenn Maxwell.

The ns have the advantage of runs on the board. History, too, is on their side as there have been only two instances where a side has lost a Test in India after making more than 450 in their first innings.

However, India showed during the series against England they can win from seemingly desperate positions by posting a huge reply then unleashing their match-winning spinners at the back end of the match.

India, who were 1-120 at stumps on the second day in pursuit of ‘s 451, have little reason not to believe they can repeat those performances on a wicket that has defied pre-game expectations and proven to be a batsman’s paradise.

That’s not to say it will stay that way – when pitches wear in India they do so dramatically, as England learned.

The hosts were given another boost with Kohli’s shoulder injury deemed external by the match referee, which means he can bat at No.4 despite his long absence from the field.

There are few signs of gremlins so far, however the scuff caused by the right-arm quicks at both ends will cause more concern to , who have four left-handers in their top seven compared to India’s zero.

had the chance to safeguard against this scenario but squandered it, with only Smith showing the ruthlessness to cash in.

The captain appeared far from happy as he left the field at the change of innings. He had wanted his team to bat big in the first innings.

The cost of their wastefulness was becoming apparent late on the second day when ‘s quicks found little assistance from the sluggish track.

Their only success came when Pat Cummins bent his back and defied the low bounce to get a delivery to rise sharply and catch the glove of Lokesh Rahul, who made 67.

Their total of 451, however, is a big improvement on their recent missions in Asia – it’s only the second time in their last 12 Tests on this continent that they have posted a score in excess of 400.

Smith reigned supreme in the benign conditions. Had there been last man’s tucker it’s conceivable he would still be at the crease such is the hold he has on India’s bowlers.

He is now averaging 90.5 in his past six Tests against India, his golden run starting when he deputised for Michael Clarke as captain during the 2014/15 series at home.

Maxwell resurrected his international career when needed him to fire and has left selectors with a major dilemma heading into next summer’s Ashes.

Having started the season at the crossroads, the mercurial all-rounder has now emerged as a potential magic pill to cure ‘s long headache at no.6.

One of the most talented players in the n system, Maxwell has promised at times to become a bona fide star but potential has outweighed performance throughout his 114-games for his country.

Pigeon-holed as a limited-overs specialist, Maxwell now has strong claims to be ‘s next long-term Test No.6 – but it will need a shift in philosophy from selectors.

The n brains trust is craving a batsman who can provide valuable overs to take the load off the frontline quicks. Their first preference has been for a seam-bowling all-rounder – hence the heavy investment into Mitchell Marsh – but options are now limited.

Marsh is facing a long stint on the sidelines as he recovers from a shoulder injury while Moises Henriques and James Faulkner are both out of favour at Test level.

His 104 was only the second century scored by an n at No.6 since Michael Hussey hung up his baggy green at the start of 2013.

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Litbits March 18 2017

What’s on
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March 18:Tales After Dark, starring musician and broadcaster Fred Smith, who worked in the war-torn islands of the South Pacific, is on at Teatro Vivaldi, ANU Arts Centre, at 7.30pm. Tickets $40. Bookings: talesafterdark18thmarch.eventbrite苏州夜总会招聘.au. (dinner beforehand from 6pm – book on 6257 2718).

March 19: At Paperchain Bookstore Manuka, the four authors who wrote as Alice Campion will discuss their collaborative work on The Shifting Light (2017) at 1.45 for 2pm. RSVP 6295 6723.

March 20: The authors of Behind Glass Doors: The World of n Advertising Agencies, Robert Crawford and Jackie Dickenson, will discuss their book at the National Library of Theatre, Lower Ground 1 at 6pm. Tickets $20 includes refreshments and book signing. Bookings: nla.gov.au.

March 20: At Smith’s Alternative, 76 Alinga Street, Civic, at 7pm, Melinda Smith will launch Not Very Quiet a new twice-yearly online journal for women’s poetry followed by readings by local women poets and an open mic. Free admission. not-very-quiet苏州夜总会招聘.

March 21:Losing Streak by James Boyce tells the 50-year history of politics behind Tasmania’s gambling industry. It’s being launched with the help of Senator Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie MP at the committee room 2S2, Parliament House at 10.30am.

March 23: A Constellation of Abnormalities, the new poetry collection by Paul Cliff, will be launched at Paperchain Bookstore Manuka at 5.45 for 6pm. RSVP phone 6295 6723.

March 24: John Clanchy will launch Phil Day’s A Chink in a Daisy-Chain, on the relationship between Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, personal identity and argumentative opinion, at Paperchain Manuka at 5.45 for 6pm. RSVP phone 6295 6723.

March 25: Femme to be Masc is a one-day memoir writing and story performance workshop exploring masculinities hosted by Tuggeranong Arts Centre with Homer founding editor Ashley Thomson. Participants will perform their work as part of an evening collaboration with hip hop dancers from the Fresh Funk program. tuggeranongarts苏州夜总会招聘.

March 28: At 6.15 for 7pm in the Great Hall, University House, ANU eat, drink and be political with David Marr and Laura Tingle who will be in conversation on Marr’s new Quarterly Essay: The White Queen. One Nation and the Politics of Race. Tickets $69 for two course meal and a glass of wine. Bookings at anu.edu.au/events or 6125 4144.

March 29: Jennifer Gall will discuss her book Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet by Jennifer Gall in the Conference Room, Level 1, National Library of . Admission free (includes refreshements). Bookings: nla.gov.au.

March 30: Chris Kunz will speak about his historical novel Maharani – The First n Princess, based on the true story of Elsie Caroline Thompson, who married an Indian maharaja in 1909, at Asia Bookroom, Lawry Place, Macquarie at 6pm. RSVP [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘. Entry by gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation

April 4: At 6pm in the Auditorium, China in the World Building. ANU is a free Canberra Times/meet the author event in partnership with China Matters Ltd. Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson will be in conversation with Paul Kelly, Editor-at-large at The n, on their new publication: China Matters. Getting it Right for . Followed by a reception. Bookings at anu.edu.au/events or 6125 4144.

April 7: At 6.15 for 7pm at University House, Great Hall, ANU. Eat, drink and be literary with Quentin Bryce and Virginia Haussegger in conversation on the formers new book Dear Quentin, Letters of a Governor General. Tickets $69 per person for two-course meal and a glass of wine. Bookings at anu.edu.au/events or 6125 4144.

April 8: Writer and Canberra Times book reviewer Ian McFarlane’s new collection of essays, stories and poems, Murunna Point Revisited, will be launched by Dr Tim Metcalf in the Bermagui Library at 10am.

April 26:Dympha by Judith Armstrong tells the story of the wife of historian Manning Clark. Armstrong will discuss her book in the National Library Conference Room at 6pm. Admission free. nla.gov.au.

* Contributions to Litbits are welcome. Please email [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au by COB on the Monday prior to publication. Publication is not guaranteed.

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Energetic political row – but will there be light as well as heat?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses the media after his tour of the Snowy Hydro Tumut 3 power station in Talbingo, NSW, on Thursday 16 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenWhat if the biggest government announcement in electricity generation in years was both a great breakthrough and a distraction?
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Depending on who you listen to, Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme is a bold piece of nation-building by a Prime Minister who had found his mojo, or a cynically timed thought-bubble that is years away at best.

The truth, as is often the case, probably lies somewhere between the extremes.

For his part, Turnbull didn’t hold back in tapping into n mythology. Speaking near the Tumut River on Thursday afternoon, he stressed the need for a flexible energy system in Dorothea McKellar’s land of droughts and flooding rains.

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” he said through a broad grin.

“This is the next step in a great story of engineering in the Snowy Mountains and the courageous men and women who are confident and committed to ‘s future.”

But timing is everything, and the PM’s announcement of the plan can’t be divorced from what has been – in the usually wonkish arena of electricity and gas policy – an extraordinary 10 days.

Consider the avalanche of events.

Most people know power bills have leapt in recent years, but the extent of the surge was stressed by two recentanalyses showing wholesale electricity prices had doubled in a year – and, despite what had been suggested would happen, are now twice what they were under Labor’s allegedly economy-wrecking carbon price.

Similarly, years of warnings about risks to the east coast gas supply received little attention until the n Energy Market Operator last week observed that some states could face shortfalls as soon as next summer. Already, depending on your arrangements, gas prices have either doubled or trebled, as most of what we have on the east coast is sold to Asia.

On Monday, think-tank the Grattan Institute highlighted another open secret – that the vaunted competition of privatised electricity markets has failed, or at least not been properly managed. It found up to 43 per cent of household power bills goes into the pockets of electricity retailers as profits.

Some have quibbled over whether this adds up to an “energy crisis”, but political insiders are in no doubt. They say the common response from punters is: how did a country with such plentiful energy resources reach this point?

South ns, who have suffered through four blackouts of various extents in recent months, certainly consider it a crisis.

On Tuesday, the Labor state government responded with arguably the biggest intervention in the National Electricity Market’s two-decade history. Incensed by what he sees as a lack of national action and a failure by the market operator – and an election for an unlikely fifth term just a year away – South n Premier Jay Weatherill took unprecedented steps to ensure the state’s energy supply. His grab-bag of policies, including a state-funded gas plant and a tender for a grid-scale battery, are designed to make South far less reliant on what he says is a failed national grid.

Lest we get bored, on Wednesday the Prime Minister held a meeting with the country’s major gas exporters, demanding answers. He emerged declaring an agreement from two of the three companies that would ensure enough supply to meet local business and household demand, with details to come. If they failed to deliver, he threatened to use constitutional powers to force their hand. His message was clear: the needs of n residents must be met or the government will step in.

Asked whether this would be enough to keep prices down, the PM demurred.

So to Thursday, and what Turnbull dubbed Snowy Hydro 2.0 – a proposed 50 per cent expansion of the iconic scheme. If it goes ahead, it will effectively introduce a 2000 megawatt battery – a quarter bigger than Victoria’s doomed Hazelwood power plant – into the system to smooth out supply as more and more intermittent wind and solar energy are introduced.

As the PM was extolling his Menzian vision for the future, the dysfunctional face of the n energy debate was on show in Adelaide, where Weatherill and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg traded barbs at an astonishing joint press conference in a suburban garage. Meant to promote a virtual storage project by company AGL, the event was hijacked as Weatherill accused Frydenberg of being part of “the most anti-SA government” in memory.

The Premier noted Turnbull had praised – and taken some credit for – South ‘s development of renewable energy during last year’s federal election campaign, before changing his tune. “For you to then turn around within a few short months, when there is a black-out, and point the finger at SA[‘s] leadership in renewable energy [as] the cause of that problem is an absolute disgrace,” he said.

In return, Frydenberg accused Weatherill of crashing the event and questioned whether he was fit to continue as premier.

What to make of this string of events?

For one, government investment in electricity generation is the new black.

After a couple of decades of leaving decisions about building new power plants to the private sector, governments of all stripes believe the market is not working. Weatherill says this explicitly. Turnbull and Frydenberg don’t put it that way, but you don’t heavy gas companies and propose to expand the Snowy Hydro Scheme by 50 per cent if you think energy systems are looking after themselves.

The disruption underway in the electricity grid – from an overwhelming reliance on coal to clean generation – is immense. The push for a pure market-based carbon price reflecting the cost of greenhouse gas emissions will continue, but experience shows the political reality will be messier.

And the electricity system is already being interfered with. There is a national renewable energy target of 23 per cent by 2020. There was a carbon price to help drive the change, but it was abolished. ACT and Victoria either have or are introducing incentives to deliver more wind and solar. There are a range of subsidies for various energy technologies across the country.

But the biggest – and, to date, vaguest – intervention in the electricity market is the Paris climate agreement signed by the Turnbull government in December 2015.

The government has signed up to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 per cent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, with deeper cuts to follow. Industry insiders believe the electricity sector will have to carry a significant part of the load given how difficult it is to cut emissions in some other parts of the economy – steel production and gas-reliant manufacturing, for example. It is no small task.

At the moment, there is no policy to drive it – but the industry believes it will inevitably come, and wants government to get on with it. Major energy companies, business groups, big miners including BHP and the National Farmers Federation are among those pushing for an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity sector to drive it at lowest possible cost.

But getting a policy through the Coalition party room will be difficult at best. Despite advice it would limit price rises, an emissions intensity scheme was ruled out in December within 36 hours of Frydenberg publicly raising it. The hard right, mostly made up of science contrarians, has an aversion to anything that could be described as carbon trading.

Until a policy is resolved, investment in new electricity plants is limited to the renewable target – only meant to be an add-on to the scrapped carbon price – and the federal and state governments’ new-found enthusiasm for using taxpayers’ money to pay for generation.

A second clear message from the past week is that Weatherill has had enough.

For six months, the South n government has been battered by Canberra as ministers and ideologues in the media have accused it of causing blackouts. In reality, the state renewable target is entirely aspirational – there is no policy to back it up.

The state was slow to respond after the closure of its last coal-fired power station last year, but the world-leading growth in wind farms in the state – they make up 40 per cent of its capacity – have overwhelmingly been driven by the national target. With the exception of the freak storm that shut down the entire state on September 28, the lights would not have gone out if all existing generators had been running.

Weatherill’s frustration is genuine, but he has also taken his stance with an eye on next year’s state election. Making Canberra the enemy tends can play well for beleaguered premiers.

It makes for a messy picture, but to the threshold question: is what’s planned likely to work?

As the old Irish joke goes, if you want to get functioning energy systems, well, you wouldn’t start from here. But that doesn’t mean none of the proposals have merit.

Weatherill has thrown everything at South ‘s problems in the knowledge that even a hint of a blackout next summer would mean his electoral chances are gone. Some of what he is doing has been widely welcomed. Some of it is likely to be redundant.

He gets a tick for the tender for the country’s biggest battery project, which may yet require mega-mogul Elon Musk to deliver on his Twitter promise that Tesla could build 100 megawatts’ storage in 100 days or give it away for free, but is open to other bidders.

Similarly, his introduction of new incentives for gas exploration – including offering farmers 10 per cent of the royalties for anything extracted beneath their land – has been applauded.

But the key step to the state keeping the lights on is likely to be far more mundane. He has required network operators to have 200 megawatts’ back-up in place when everyone turns on their air conditioners and demand soars next summer. It is likely to be met by hiring diesel generators. It’s an effective, if dirty and expensive, short-term answer, but doesn’t make much of a headline.

Other parts of the South n plan are more contentious. It will spend $360 million on a gas-fired plant that will only be turned on when absolutely necessary – perhaps as little as a week each year. Weatherill says it is justified as the plant will provide the “inertia” – a stabilising effect missing from intermittent plants – that the system needs. But grid frequency can be stabilised in other ways and the plant will take up to three years to build. It is hard to see it as anything other than a political solution.

The state will also give Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis the power to interfere in the market to ensure the lights stay on, reflecting that the state lost faith in the market operator after it failed to ensure all gas plants were operating before power was lost in tens of thousands of homes last month. How this would work remains unclear, but Frydenberg has not unreasonably warned of chaos in the market if other states followed the SA lead.

Turnbull’s desperation is not as overt, but is driven by the knowledge that his government will carry the can if the spiralling problems are not addressed. He also knows his options on electricity are limited by the powerful reactionary rump within his government.

He has won kudos for leading on gas, but the commitment from producers has been vague. Analysts have warned manufacturers, which need affordable gas or face going under, are unlikely to see prices comes down or supply increase unless more is done. The Prime Minister may yet have to make good on his threat to use his constitutional powers to force a change.

His hydro battery plan is a different story. It has the vision thing. The government is doing something. And it is potentially huge in scale.

While some have accused Turnbull of policy on the run, the proposal – for 27 kilometres of new tunnels, pumps and generators – has been around since the 1980s.

It would involve using excess electricity at times of low demand to pump water up hills. It would be stored and released at times of need to flow back down through turbines, generating electricity.

Among other things, it would make the government’s flirtation with funding a new “clean” coal plant – still being spruiked this week by Resources Minister Matt Canavan – much harder to justify.

It is worth noting that while the Prime Minister has joined colleagues in emphasising the role played by coal, to date he is tipping money only into green solutions. The latest announcement follows $20 million for pumped hydro research in February. Renewable power advocates are buoyant: the future suddenly looks that bit cleaner.

But plenty of questions remain unanswered. It is not clear how long the Snowy plan will take to get up – Turnbull says within four years, but the n Renewable Energy Agency has said this sort of project could take up to seven. It is not clear what it would cost, or who will pay for it. A feasibility study is yet to be completed. Its impact on the environment has not yet been assessed. We don’t know if its viability in a projected future climate with reduced river flows has been considered.

NSW and Victoria, which own 58 and 29 per cent of the scheme respectively, only found out about the proposal shortly before it was announced. They are broadly supportive, but are withholding their final position until more is known.

It is also not clear what the electricity market it will feed into will look like. Households are now investing in their own battery systems to store power generated by their rooftop solar panels. That has the potential to ease the huge surge in demand for electricity at peak times – the same problem the Snowy is planned to address.

No matter how worthwhile, the Snowy 2.0 is also not a substitute for a national energy policy to drive private investment in new power plants.

The wait for that continues.

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Investor pays $4.5m for KFC Tamworth

A Melbourne-based private investor has snapped up an existing KFC restaurant site in Tamworth for $4.47 million, reflecting a yield of 5.1 per cent. CBRE’s Aaron Arias, Nick Willis and Justin Dowers negotiated the sale of the 413 New England Highway property on behalf of a private investor.
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The property is leased to QSR, the largest franchisee of KFC restaurants in NSW, on a new 13-year lease with options until 2038.

Mr Arias said the sale campaign had generated strong interest, underpinned by the strength of the tenancy covenant and the site’s value-add potential.

In Sydney a three-level commercial building at 82-84 Dixon Street, Haymarket, right in the heart of the Chinatown precinct, has sold at a highly competitive public auction for $19.9 million. Knight Frank’s head of Asian Markets, Dominic Ong and director, Asian Markets Andy Hu managed the sale of the property on behalf of a private entity.

According to Mr Ong, the premium location of the Dixon Street property, as well as its redevelopment potential, made it a highly attractive opportunity for investors. Greengate board moves

Developer and operator of integrated care villages, Greengate has grown its board and executive team, with the appointment of Peter Hodgson as the chairman. He was previously a non-executive director, while John Russell, chief executive of Myer Family Investments, which is a major shareholder in privately owned Greengate, has joined the board.

Chris Rigby is the new CEO who will support Greengate’s expansion during 2017 as they complete two new villages: St Patrick’s Green in Sydney; and St Luke’s Green in Brisbane.

These villages come on the back of the new St Brigid’s Green in Maroubra, which was the recipient of the innovation award for Best New Retirement Living Village by the Property Council of in 2016.

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