With a vision to turn KwaZulu-Natal into the number one province, property developers are all on the same page – but unfortunately, all face the same obstacles hindering their progress.
GAVIN PETER STRYDOM
CEO of Edstan Group of Companies, one of which is Beachwood Golf Course
For Strydom, one of the best things about his Group’s role in KZN, is that by contributing to what he views as an under-developed landscape in KZN, it generates so much opportunity: “We are considered the poor second cousins to Cape Town and Johannesburg, and that’s not an accurate reflection of who we are. That perception is largely due to our under-developed landscape – we have fewer iconic developments – and as developers, it’s our job to correct that.”
Strydom is blunt about the obstacles to progress: “It begins and ends with the statutory applications via the municipality. It’s imperative we remove the red tape and delays in applications such as those for environmental, SPLUMA rezoning and WULU. We need to assimilate all those statutory applications, and streamline them.”
Strydom firmly believes that by 2030, South Africa will have matured as a nation: “The world will be looking to us for opportunities. And because KZN is so under-developed, we’ll be a focal point. KZN is, and will continue to be, a good place to live and invest.”
CEO of PGA uMhlanga Rocks Investments
Prakasen – or Prak as he’s known – is a professional architect. His work in the development field began as one of the ways to create a continuum of work for their own offices. That, in turn, led to partnerships with other developers: “We get a buzz out of creating jobs – 500 per development which supports so many more families – but equally, we enjoy creating wealth for investors and generating rates for the city. For those who buy off-plan – long-term investors – it generates wealth. Real estate is a big part of our asset base in South Africa.”
But it’s not all smooth sailing, and he’s frustrated by the recent resurgence of the construction mafia: “We’d had a quiet couple of years, but their disruptive influence has resurfaced.” Alongside that, he points to the hurdles caused by the poor understanding and lacklustre work ethos of municipal employees tasked with facilitating and fast tracking the processes: “It’s imperative we cultivate a different ethos, so we can get things moving. It also needs to be understood that these constant delays and errors push up the price of the product.”
But having said that, Govender believes KZN has so much going for it: “Nowhere in the world do you have it all, but we certainly have a great deal. From our wonderful sunshine, to the ocean, a great hybrid culture and a good standard of living.” He adds, “I’m also a firm believer that it’s our civic duty to help build our country – if you can, you must. That approach by each of us, will speed up change and build a future.”
Upbeat about the future of development in KZN, Thompson is particularly focused on the move to sustainable power and water solutions: “Innovation and solutions need to come from the private sector – self-run power plants, water filtration systems, sewer package plants and more. In my opinion, all long-term developers should be taking this approach.”
For Thompson, “New developments with new infrastructure inclusive of sustainable power and water solutions, will continue to grow and thrive.” He sees this as the future blueprint: “By 2030, I see increased privatisation of residential areas, and a stronger leaning towards more privately managed precincts with a focus on maintenance and service provision.”
He does however premise his positivity around growth on three factors: the urgent need for high level intervention around the cumbersome approval processes, the destructive labour cartels, and the highly onerous rates on undeveloped land.
What drives him? “Opening up new areas on prime coastal land, and bringing upliftment to the economy by creating jobs, opportunities, and raising hope in the city.”
MD of True North Developments
Strong, robust and relatively active. Those are the words Bremner uses to describe the KZN market. For him, “I find the collaboration and engagement with the industry professionals an absolute pleasure – they’re receptive, effective and efficient.”
Bremner considers the availability of developable land the biggest impediment to growth: “I believe that’s primarily due to the severe restriction of bulk services – electricity, water and sewer – as well as the extremely high costs levied by the local authorities to make these available.”
His vision for the future is quite clear: “KZN North Coast and related inland areas specifically, will be fighting Cape Town for second place as the economic hub of South Africa. The quality of developments here – residential, industrial and commercial – is of an exceptionally high standard which, along with our ever-strengthening industry and positioning of our province as a superb leisure destination, will be the factors determining our rightful place in SA.”
CEO of Collins Residential
“Our magnificent coastline, the untamed natural landscape, and a rich natural heritage makes the KZN North Coast staggeringly beautiful to both the local and international market,” says Collins.
“We’re extremely fortunate with the canvas we have to work with. Developing sensitively, responsibly and in a manner responsive to nature and people’s needs aren’t just concepts we throw around. We’re intentionally positioning the region from an environmental perspective, unlocking the natural assets, rehabilitating the landscape, and making way for future generations through sustainable development.
“The only impediment to growth is not being able to keep up with demand. Having said that, progress is hamstrung by poor service delivery, bulk infrastructure and developer approvals. Government must acknowledge the processes aren’t where they should be, and remedy this. It’s debilitating to Collins Residential as large scale, greenfield developers, and the industry as a whole. The whole value chain, right down to grassroots communities, suffer.
The future? “By 2030, KZN will be THE place to live. Picture this – you go to CT for a holiday, Joburg to work, and Durban to LIVE.
“By 2030, Collins will have completed a game-changing international hotel further up the North Coast, solidifying the province as a sought-after tourism destination.
“In ten years, we hope to have settled into being a peaceful, integrated community, aligned and working together to realise our massive potential.”
CEO of Wakefields Real Estate
“I’m fourth generation Wakefields family, with over 77 years’ experience matching people to homes in KZN. Much has changed, but that hasn’t – it’s still about the value of home ownership. An exciting arm of our business is assisting developers to get their product to the right market. It’s gratifying for our sales team to support developers and developments such as Palm View Estate at Shakaskraal, and be part of the drive to facilitate home ownership for all South Africans.”
For The Bridge development in KwaMashu, Wakefield is excited by the combination of an innovative residential development with a supportive financial product offering: “This makes it far more accessible for first-time homeowners. We’re keen for partnerships which enable us to play our part in unlocking home ownership and wealth creation for ordinary South Africans.”
He acknowledges frustrations with municipal processes: “If we want to move forward and thrive, we have to find easier, quicker ways to do things.
He’s positive about the future: “We have so much going for us, and so many assets: KZN’s natural beauty, proximity to Johannesburg, our infrastructure and port to name a few. I think we’ve bottomed out. We have an innovative private sector which navigates well around the obstacles, and although progress is slower than we’d have liked, we’re going in the right direction.”
“Property development is a multi-faceted business,” says Barnes. “It stretches from ordinary, grassroots people creating work for bricklayers, artisans, gardeners and painters, all taking home money at the end of the day to feed basic needs, all the way through to educated, financially savvy, powerful decision-makers who shape the country. Property development talks to families and their values, in building homes and shaping communities – it creates places of safety.”
Barnes believes that KZN needs everyone to pull together to get the wheels turning smoothly: “Our diverse KZN culture requires a ‘samewerking’ of people with the drive to make it work. No single person’s involvement is more important or greater than another’s – everyone has a part to play.” He considers his role in guiding those processes and people as both a responsibility and a privilege.
Like most, if not all, in the industry, Barnes sees room for improvement at local government level: “I do believe all parties are committed to helping us, but we need swifter authorisation processes to facilitate development.” He adds, “Access to capital, too, could always be improved.”
Looking to the future, he doesn’t see much changing: “2030 is only eight years away, so I foresee a continued swelling of our middle class, and a growing need for goods and services.”