PAUL HAMEISTER OAMOctober 6, 2023 Friends of UPco
At UPco, we’re fortunate to have built long-term relationships with some wonderful clients – including the team at Hamton Property Group, a Melbourne developer with around $4 billion of completed and current projects, known for the ambition and excellence of its work. We spoke to Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Paul Hameister OAM, about what he strives for in work and life, and why UPco has remained an integral part of Hamton’s extended team.
Paul, you’re well known in the property game – but that wasn’t where your career began, was it?
No, I came to the sector via a circuitous route. At university, I studied Law and Commerce, and subsequently worked as a lawyer briefly before moving into investment banking. Then, at the age of 28, I was offered the opportunity to head up Viacom in Australia, which was the second largest media company in the world at the time. It wasn’t until 2001 that I moved into property development, and in 2006, we established Hamton.
What appealed to you about property development?
I really enjoy putting clever deals together and solving complex challenges, and development certainly provides plenty of scope to do that. It’s also enabled me to express my passions, skills and experience in a different context.
When you look at the projects Hamton has taken on, you’ll see that a common thread is their unique challenges that really push us. If it’s straightforward and any developer could do it, we generally won’t be interested!
We have also made a conscious choice to stick to our geographical ‘patch’ of Melbourne’s inner and middle rings. We care about our home town and the legacy we leave. In particular we care about supporting Melbourne’s cultural institutions with our skill set and also trying to lead the industry in terms of tree retention, new tree planting and the creation of green open space.
It also means we have the advantage of deep local knowledge. I believe that if you’re going to deliver really great property, you need that firsthand involvement – you need to be happy to jump in the car and visit in person. I also hate wasting time in airports, hotels and being away from my family, so it makes sense to focus on projects close to home.
What’s your connection to UPco?
UPco has been our go-to town planning consultant since we first established Hamton, back when UPco was still under the SJB umbrella. We’ve built trusted relationships with a number of people there, particularly Hugh Smyth, who is one the very first people I call when we look at a new site. Over the years, we have successfully worked through the challenges of several sites, and Hugh has come to instinctively understand how we like to operate, what is important to us, our risk appetite and our aversions. Hugh’s not only incredibly strategic, but he’s commercially minded – so, along with offering technical advice, he adds a lot of value to our projects. These days, Hugh and I are so in synch that we scarcely need to speak – he knows what to do and I know he always gets it done! I’d say that UPco is one of the key consultants that’s been critical to Hamton’s success.
Is there a past project you’re particularly proud of?
One that stands out is Acacia Place, which we purchased as a development site during the GFC. UPco was involved from the start, providing pre-acquisition advice, right through to completion in 2015. Due to the site’s location on a bend in the Yarra, it was highly sensitive – and during the planning process, we had over 1600 objections. Even once we’d secured City of Yarra’s support for our proposed development, we still ended up in VCAT. Ironically, the Tribunal ended up approving even higher yield and a better outcome than what we originally proposed. Hugh was instrumental throughout that entire process, and the end result speaks for itself. It won the President’s Award at the 2016 Urban Development Institute of Australia’s (UDIA) National Awards for Excellence (which is awarded to the best development nationally across all categories). And many of the objectors ended up as buyers.
How do you spend your time off duty?
Family, friends, the beach, surfing, keeping fit. And I like to push the boundaries with bespoke travel experiences – ideally shared with people I care about. Last October, my two kids and I completed a 400km crossing of the Sinai in 20 days on foot with Bedouin tribe support. It was one of only three crossings in the last 20 years – we managed to get various tribes to escort, re-supply (by camel) and pass us on, as we crossed four tribal territories. We found out afterwards that central Sinai has become a base for ISIS. That was a very loose trip…
Anything left on your bucket list?
To be honest, I have been privileged enough to tick off most of my list.* These days, I really get a kick out of supporting other people in pursuing their own bucket list adventures and sharing those experiences with them.
*Items Paul has ticked off: becoming the first Australian to scale the Seven Summits (the highest peak on each continent, including Mt Everest), completing the polar hat-trick (North Pole, South Pole and Greenland Crossing), including setting a new route from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole (with his daughter), a 1000km expedition through unexplored Amazon (with his son) and being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019 for services to Business and Exploration (amongst other accomplishments).
Thank you Paul, for taking time out to talk to us. You’re an inspiration. Your cheque from Hugh is in the mail. To learn more about the work of Hamton, head to hamton.com.au