Commencing with little more than $30,000 Maha Sinnathamby and Bob Sharpless acquired 3,000 hectares of uninspiring land in 1992 in the middle of an economically and socially disadvantaged area of South-East Queensland.
Maha immediately saw the potential of such a massive undeveloped site on the doorstep of Queensland’s capital city. As a mason sees a beautiful sculpture in unrefined rock, Maha saw a new city in prospect and one to be built from scratch with the express intent of enhancing human and social capital. This mission continues to underpin the project today.
Maha, then a negative millionaire, partnered with Bob and his meagre savings to embark on the Springfield project, Australia’s largest master-planned community. Resisting the temptation to reap a small fortune by quickly selling off acreage lots, they sold just enough to seed finance commencement of a long-term vision. Funding continued to challenge their ambitions, especially having to overcome a call from their bank to repay their loan in full within 30 days. This proved to be a turning point as an agreement struck with residential developer Delfin, now Lend Lease, provided the stability to ensure a steady flow of property construction followed.
A major milestone occurred in 1997 when the Springfield master plan was legislated unanimously by the Queensland Parliament, reflecting the political and commercial belief in the transformative potential of Springfield. This is a city which, upon completion, will house 140,000 residents, a city centre, and all of the civic infrastructure needed to underpin a happy and high performing community.
To date, $17 billion has been invested in the project which houses 41,000 residents, 11 schools with 15,000 students (there will be 30 upon project completion), a hospital, town centre and 16,000 workers, despite only 25% of the project having been completed.
Other significant milestones include construction of the railway line to Springfield, extension of the Centenary Highway to Springfield and onto Amberley, and construction of the Greg Norman designed, international standard, Brookwater Golf course.
The remarkably successful partnership of Maha and Bob is a formidable combination of Maha’s visionary, restless entrepreneurship and Bob’s measured execution excellence. Together they are creating a truly nation-building project which will shape South-East Queensland for the next century.
Building a city from scratch with private money is unprecedented and is a model for others, both in Australia and around the world.