21 February 2023

The broadacre dream, with room to grow and space to play

| Dione David
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Duane Brinkmeyer

Duane Brinkmeyer at the Elm Grove Estate site in Bungendore. Photos: Michelle Kroll.

Duane Brinkmeyer’s father learned what would become his family’s business while working for a major land development company in the 1970s.

In 1981 began the search for parcels that would be appropriate to develop at scale.

“Instead of ad hoc smaller parcels, he was after broadacre parcels – places he could plan something long-term on. It was part of a masterplan,” Duane said.

“He believed this would be the best way to get the economics to scale and offer better value to buyers.”

This model is why the Brinkmeyer name has been associated with land development in Canberra and the regions for some 40 years, and tied to some of the city’s most well-recognised suburbs and developments.

Duane said the focus was on enabling customers to secure the largest blocks at the lowest prices.

“The way to do that was, my father decided to take on the risk of rezonings. That is to say, he purchased parcels of land which weren’t yet zoned for residential development, but where council would consider it,” Duane said.

“Not paying the high rezoned price of the land allowed us to offer better value for money on larger blocks, once we had secured the rezoning ourselves.”

READ ALSO Secure more land for less at Elm Grove Estate in Bungendore

The Brinkmeyers’ group of companies has been behind thousands of residential lots in Jerrabomberra, Gordon, Conder, Amaroo, the first five stages of Palmerston and some of the first houses in Gungahlin.

They’ve developed about 8500 residential and rural subdivision blocks over the past 30-odd years.

In the early 2000s, they created Elmslea Village Estate, a 500-lot development in Bungendore.

Their most recent development, Elm Grove Estate, is in effect an extension of that.

“They offer a highly attractive option for people looking for larger blocks at lower prices, in a location still close enough to Canberra and Queanbeyan to not lose the benefits of proximity to the city,” Duane said.

“Lots of Bungendore residents work in Canberra because it’s only a 30-minute drive to the heart of the city.

“They get to enjoy the benefits of a country lifestyle and pay less per square metre for their land compared to neighbouring developments, leaving them more to spend on building their forever home.”

Elm Grove in Bungendore

Elm Grove in Bungendore is 30 minutes from Canberra. Photo: Shayna Siakimotu.

Duane said plots less than half the size in developments the same distance from Canberra were attracting two to three times the price.

He believes a quarter acre (1000 sqm) is the perfect block size for a growing family, and is troubled by Canberra’s affordability trends.

“To me, it’s so disheartening to see people paying so much and getting so little in return. And that’s when they can afford anything at all. It’s not conducive to social inclusion,” he said.

“People want to raise their families with space to breathe. Not places where you’re poking your nose into your neighbour’s fence after taking three steps into your yard.

“Instead, kids are forced to hop on bikes and ride off on their own when they could be in the safety of their own backyards.”

READ ALSO Accused of ‘strangling land supply’, government says no simple answers to questions of housing affordability

When he was selling properties in the late ’90s, Duane recalled it was the older generations buying the larger parcels in areas where amenities hadn’t caught up.

“They didn’t care about access to schools or parks because they didn’t have young kids,” he said. ”They didn’t mind so much not having local shops or public transport because they all drove cars. Moving from Mawson to Gordon didn’t bother them.

“Years later, when the amenities were there, they saw the opportunity to sell up, take that equity and build that new forever home.

“This transition freed up the older established properties for younger families to purchase, which already had access to the established amenities they needed.

“In the last 15 years or so, because the Government has gone for a maximum use of land policy, the new blocks are smaller. If 20 years ago you bought a good-sized block in Wanniassa and you’re now in your 50s and can get $1.2 million, but your only option is to buy 400 to 500 sqm further out – why would you?

“They’re staying put, and now it’s the younger families who are forced to buy tiny blocks that cost sometimes $2000 a sqm, without access to the amenities they need.”

Duane has higher hopes for Elm Grove Estate residents, where a new high school is set to open this year, a multimillion-dollar sports hub will be completed soon and the parcels are a minimum of 850 sqm.

He wants it to reflect the foundation of the Brinkmeyer legacy his father has worked hard to build.

“I’ve learned a lot from him, the principles being the most important lesson,” he said.

“Because we’re a family ourselves, we’re mindful that what we’re onselling is people’s futures, and it needs to stand the test of time.”


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