Matt Plumbridge

Matt Plumbridge, former head of sustainability at UrbanGrowth NSW, has landed back on home turf in Melbourne, as a director of development advisory consulting group ISG Projects, which is handling some of the biggest projects around town and has eyes on expanding northwards to Canberra and Sydney.

The company, off the radar for most readers but well-known to insiders, is run by Arvind David, ex-Arup, and after 10 years in his own business heading up a team of around 40 staff.

Meanwhile the word from industry sources is that UrbanGrowth NSW is still looking for a sustainability lead to replace Plumbridge, with many a call yielding little by way of suitable candidates. Why, is an interesting question. Industry sources at events this week say sustainability roles are in demand again and there is simply not enough talent to go around. A huge contrast to the very poor “jobs and growth” environment in the industry just 12 months ago.

Of course, there could be some reticence to work at UrbanGrowth itself after the flak it’s copped largely on behalf of state government prevarications on doing what it promised regarding world class urban regeneration at the Bays Precinct and delivering affordable housing on government-owned land.

From the property industry came considerable anger and annoyance when the agency rejected 13 proposals from industry groups for the White Bay portion of the Bays Precinct regeneration program on the grounds that each had failed to meet the specific guidelines set by the government to make this a technology hub.

And then there was the community anger and dismay when the first tranche of plans for the Central to Eveleigh precinct was released, absent a single additional affordable dwelling beyond those being replaced in the Waterloo portion of the precinct. This after planning minister Rob Stokes told the Green Cities conference just days before that the government would use government land to deliver affordable housing.

Yet speak to design insiders and you hear that the agency is actually doing good work. Some of the architects who attended NSW Architects’ Registration Board registrar Tim Horton’s recent working group on the future of the architectural profession said UrbanGrowth was doing a lot of things right, employing innovative boutique firms and delving into creative possibilities. Not a message that penetrates much beyond the rarefied confines of the industry walls.

A spokesman from UrbanGrowth said the recruitment process for a sustainability manager was “progressing as planned”.

He also said: “The Platform Apartments at North Eveleigh contain 88 affordable housing units and we contributed more than $8 million using money from the Affordable Housing Fund which is made up of contributions from various development projects.

“We also constructed roads and infrastructure for these apartments.

“Further announcements on affordable housing will be made across all our precinct in due course.

“The Central to Eveleigh urban transformation strategy is being drafted and will be released for public comment later this year. “

Meanwhile Plumbridge was just settling into his fourth week on the job, speaking to us from Canberra from where ISG is commencing its northward play.