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The City Leaders Forum is a joint initiative between Griffith University and YP Gold Coast showcasing the people in our city, who are driving innovation and change within the business community.

3 November 2017

Q&A with Soheil Abedian

YP Gold Coast sat down with Soheil Abedian, Founder and Executive Chairman of Sunland Group, ahead of his appearance at this year's City Leaders Forum. Here's what he had to say.

What do you love about the Gold Coast?

The environment and entrepreneurial spirit.

Do you think the Gold Coast has potential to become a global city? If so, what is holding us back right now?

Yes, but we are held back by a lack of supporting infrastructure.

In your travels, what have you seen done in other cities that you believe could work well on the Gold Coast?

To cut down on bureaucracy.

What is your grand vision for the Gold Coast?

To capitalise on the natural beauty, as well as further strengthen the inherent DNA of tourism and to expand the industry base.

What do you want it to look like in 20 years?

To be a city that offers the future generation diverse employment opportunities that contribute to the growth of the city, and to see less crime.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Gold Coast?

Our brand is perceived as ‘cheap’ with the belief that the city only represents ‘surf, sand and sex’

And do you have a solution?

For the community to work together and bring greater dignity to our city, that will enhance the overall health and wellbeing of the Gold Coast and strengthen the city’s overall prosperity.

What advice would you give today’s young professionals and future leaders of the city?

To find your own strength and try to do everything with the highest level of compassion, integrity and service.

Soheil is just one of the insightful speakers on the panel at this year's City Leaders Forum.


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3 November 2017

Q&A with Mayor Tom Tate

YP Gold Coast sat down with Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate, ahead of this year's City Leaders Forum. Here's what he had to say.

What do you love about the Gold Coast?

The fact that we have grown considerably but we have retained the village feel that is so evident in each precinct, not only along the coastline but in our hinterland. For example, Mudgeeraba and its markets and village music scene is distinctly different to Miami Marketta or Burleigh Heads. The same with Nightquarter in Helensvale. Each area of the city is parochial about its own ‘village’. I love that.

Do you think the Gold Coast has potential to become a global city? If so, what is holding us back right now?

Access to world leading IT and fibre optics is holding us back – but not for long. By December this year, we will have laid around 45km of the world’s best high speed fibre optic along the light rail route and even further south to Coolangatta. This will be an absolute game changer for large businesses, research companies, medical science and technology start-ups to seriously look at our city.

In your travels, what have you seen done in other cities that you believe could work well on the Gold Coast?

Better public transport. Pure and simple. We are doing a lot but we have a long way to go. If I had my way, we’d have light rail all the way to Coolangatta and the airport by now and we’d have a network of express buses running east and west off the light rail spine.

What is your grand vision for the Gold Coast? What do you want it to look like in 20 years?

To retain the connectivity of people and the community spirit. Last year, we put out a call for 15,000 volunteers to be Games ambassadors and we got 47,000. Amazing. And of the 47,000, 80 percent were from the Gold Coast. I never want to see that diminish. Twenty years from now, I want the Goldie to be a lifestyle and business city for not only Australia, but a city of choice for investors from the ASEAN and UAE powerhouse economies. We will get there and that will create a dynamic economy where our children can secure high paying jobs right here in the city they love.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Gold Coast? And do you have a solution?

National perception that we are still a holiday-only destination. That is changing fast as people see what we are achieving, not only with the Games but in medical research, tertiary education and the film industry. But national perception is a challenge and it’s ironic that overseas, many countries have a very positive outlook on the Gold Coast. Our other big challenge will be to stay relevant to the free-independent-traveller (FIT). World economies are growing and every month, millions of more people have the capacity to travel as their wealth is changing. These same people have so many choices as to where they want to go, and what they want to see. So we need to renew our tourism products – both manmade and natural - to stay relevant to domestic tourists, and international visitors.

What advice would you give today’s young professionals and future leaders of the city?

Dream big and get the support you need. Surround yourself with people who share your vision. Sometimes, even business rivals can share ideas and opportunities and get the best outcome for their own businesses, and the city. Keep a close eye on debt and manage your affairs so you can weather the storms that will come your way as a business leader or entrepreneur. And lastly, make sure you are doing something you are truly passionate about.

Mayor Tom Tate is one of the many exciting panel speakers for the 2017 City Leaders Forum.

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31 October 2017

Q&A with Natalie Hoitz

YP Gold Coast sat down with Natalie Hoitz, Director of Urban Design at Urbis, ahead of her appearance at this year's City Leaders Forum. Here's what she had to say.

What do you love about the Gold Coast?

It’s perhaps cliché and a common answer but it has the be the coast itself with the hinterlands as a backdrop. The sheer length of coast, it’s pristine beaches and headlands - they are such a defining feature and probably what I love the most about the Gold Coast.

Do you think the Gold Coast has potential to become a global city? If so, what is holding us back right now?

Absolutely! The Gold Coast has many of the physical assets necessary to make it a global city – quality education, medical, infrastructure, tourism and entertainment facilities. Where grow and attention is needed is around the attraction and diversification of business and employment opportunities. The lifestyle offer on the Gold Coast is second to none but really cementing Southport as the business heart of the coast will be critical in the journey to becoming a global city

In your travels, what have you seen done in other cities that you believe could work well on the Gold Coast? 

When you look the best coastal cities around the world like Singapore, Los Angeles, Miami, Vancouver, Barcelona and Auckland they all enjoy a beautiful coastal location but this is only part of their success story.  Beyond the coast they all have a richly diverse offering of locally relevant galleries, museums, sports, arts and culture. These elements done well play a key part in elevating the status and attraction of a city. The Gold Coast has some of these features but much more can be done to grow this aspect of the city.

What is your grand vision for the Gold Coast? What do you want it to look like in 20 years?

My grand vision is for the Gold Coast to transform into a truly global city and a dynamic destination for locals and visitors alike. With the upcoming Commonwealth Games and the transformational infrastructure projects planned or underway, Queensland’s second largest city is quickly maturing into a place of broad opportunity and rich experiences. In 20 years, I see the Gold Coast being a creative city famous for its subtropical coastal lifestyle, arts and culture. These are the city shaping values that make a city enjoyable to be in and therefore more attractive to live, work and invest in.  

What is the biggest challenge facing the Gold Coast? And do you have a solution?

To me the biggest challenge remains the transient or tourist vibe that prevails in many of the densest and busiest parts of the coast. There is still a perception that the Gold Coast is mainly a holiday destination.  The golden rule of urban design is places need to be designed and delivered for the locals. This means locally relevant and accessible. Tourists want to go where locals go. They want an authentic experience. Therefore it makes good sense to put locals at the heart of any brief. For a long time many areas of the coast have been delivered specifically for the tourist market. A changed mindset of putting locals first needs to happen across the board. Becoming famous for more than tourism is the next necessary step in the evolution of the city.

What advice would you give today’s young professionals and future leaders of the city? 

My advice to young professionals is not be overawed by the pace of change and the quantum of information out there in the world. What remains most valuable is smart, articulate and clear thinking professionals who can cut through all the data and noise and get to the heart of the matter. Our future leaders will need to be able to do this and do it well!


Natalie is just one of the exciting panel of speakers for the 2017 City Leaders Forum

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2 November 2016

City Leaders: Building the industries of the future

Griffith University and Young Professionals Gold Coast have a lot in common – the most significant being that both organisations are dedicated to growing the city’s corporate culture.

Professor Ian O’Connor, Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University, is particularly passionate about ensuring the next generation of city leaders is well equipped to take the Gold Coast to the next level.

“Part of the way a city grows is by having a talented and educated labour force,” he says.

“What we are involved in is the process of actually building or developing the next generation of workers; the next generation of professionals, and the next generation, if you like, of key members of this community who actually believe in this city and want to be part of the city.”

Professor O’Connor was appointed Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University in January 2005.

The university has grown to be home to more than 44,000 students from more than 130 countries, and under O’Connor’s leadership, the university has become one of the Asia-Pacific region’s most influential universities with research strengths in areas that address the key issues of our time.

When asked why Griffith University chose the Gold Coast as its stomping ground, O’Connor said it was a ‘no-brainer’.

“This (the Gold Coast) is one of the most exciting and dynamic places in the country,” he says. 

“This was a city which had been historically underprovided with higher education and research. 

“We have spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars ensuring that the young people of this city don’t need to leave this city to be educated.”

In addition, he highlights the importance of international students to the city.

“For our international students that return home, they go back to their home country to be great advocates of the Gold Coast as a great place to live, a great place to do business and a great place work,” he says.

O’Connor will speak at the annual City Leaders Forum on November 11, where he will address key issues and opportunities facing the city.

The diversification of the Gold Coast economy will be on the agenda, with O’Connor passionate about growing the education sector in the city.

“This is a city which has a fantastic tourism industry; it is known around the world for it, and it also has this great history in property and development and that will continue,” he says.  “But we have actually got to broaden the economic base of the city.”

He says the Health and Knowledge Precinct will play a key part in this.

“The Health and Knowledge Precinct is one of the great opportunities for this city for the next couple of decades,” he says.

“It is an opportunity in the middle of the city on a green-fill site to actually think through the industries that will shape the future, to build upon a collaboration between the university, the hospital and a whole range of other providers and innovators that will come to the site.”

O’Connor will join Bob East (CEO of Mantra Group), Marion Charlton (Chief Operating Officer of Gold Coast Airport), Mark Peters (CEO of Commonwealth Games Corporation) and Peta Fielding (CEO of Burleigh Brewing) on the panel for the second annual City Leaders Forum, hosted by Young Professionals Gold Coast.

O’Connor says the event provides an important opportunity for business leaders to unite with young professionals who are passionate about the future of the city. 

“The Young Professionals group is a really important group – it actually brings together a group of people who are deeply committed to the city, who are in fact the city’s future,” he says.

“It provides an opportunity for a different group of people to get together, to have dialogue and to discuss and think and plan for the future of the city – a nonpartisan organisation that is underpinned by a common interest in actually bettering the Coast.

“We came on as a major sponsor because we think it is actually doing something that is incredibly important for this city.

“I think it is a great forum, a great opportunity and I would encourage as many organisations as possible to be involved.”

The event will be held on November 11 at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.  CLICK HERE to book.


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28 October 2016

City Leaders: Bob East taking the city to the next level

Bob East is arguably one of the most influential business leaders on the Gold Coast, standing at the helm of one of the city’s largest companies and leading a team of more than 6000.

The CEO joined ASX-listed Mantra Group in 2006, and under his leadership, the business has grown from 41 properties to more than 120 properties in 2015. East also led the company to a successful ASX listing in June 2014 which culminated in its inclusion into the ASX200 list in 2015 – its first year as a public company.

Most recently, Mantra Group reported an annual profit of $37.1 million while the company's underlying EBITDAI (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and impairments) was pushed 23 per cent higher in the past financial year to $89.8 million.

While the business has seen success in recent years, East says the next five years present wonderful opportunities for both the business and the city.

East, who is also Chair of Tourism and Events Queensland, says the Gold Coast is expected to have a ‘tremendous boom’ in the next five years, driven by a couple of factors. 

“We have the Commonwealth Games and the legacy contribution of that with the infrastructure build and the works that are going on around that is obvious for everyone in this community,” he says.

“Secondly, we have a good deal of foreign investment entering the marketplace and that is also driving some domestic investment as well because we have that international demand coming in.

“I think we have this wonderful opportunity to take the city to the next level.  It does somewhat rely on sustainable economic GDP growth nationwide but we can, to a point, perform better and outperform the overall market given these opportunities that are on our doorstep.

“That is what makes the next five years so exciting.”

East is set to impart his wisdom at the second annual City Leaders Forum event on November 11.  A big part of the debate will focus on the diversification of the Gold Coast economy; a topic East is passionate about.

“The Gold Coast will always be popular with tourists and that is something we should be immensely proud of; that delivers a lot of benefit to the broader Gold Coast community, be it through jobs growth or economic contribution,” he says.  “That is absolutely fundamentally important for this destination.”

“But singularly that is probably not enough.  We need to become a diversified city; we need to have those other industries and particularly those emerging industries to get a foothold into this community and to succeed.”

Mantra Group currently has more than 20,000 rooms under management for owners in properties across Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

Mantra Group has a team of around 6000 who work in operations, sales marketing and distribution, portfolio and asset management, information technology and corporate activities.

East says the Gold Coast is an ideal location to run a thriving business.

“The key feature for the Gold Coast is it is very liveable; that is what attracts people to our destination as visitors and holidaymakers but it also works incredibly well when looking to build a business here,” he says.

“It does have those lifestyle elements and if you overlay that with a burgeoning and emerging corporate sector, it really does make it an ideal place to locate your business.”

East will join a panel of speakers at the City Leaders Forum event including Peta Fielding (CEO of Burleigh Brewing), Ian O’Connor (Vice Chancellor of Griffith University), Mark Peters (CEO of the Commonwealth Games Corporation) and Marion Charlton (Chief Operating Officer of the Gold Coast Airport).

Hosted by Young Professionals Gold Coast, the event aims to unite the Gold Coast’s established business community with up and coming city leaders. 

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25 October 2016

City Leaders: Airport high-flyer has firm roots on the Coast

MarionCharlton 2Marion Charlton understands the importance of first impressions better than most.

She is, after all, in charge of the gateway to the city in her role as Chief Operating Officer at Gold Coast Airport.

But her passion for the city is more than skin deep.

Charlton, who has worked around the world and Australia’s southern capitals, has settled with her family on the Gold Coast and hopes her children will make the choice to live and work here when they grow up.

“I think when you’re making a decision about where you will live and work, you often do it through the prism of what’s best for your family,” says Charlton.

“Here we have some of the best schools, three of the best universities and with all the development and opportunity that’s coming, I’ve got a hope my kids will stay here on the Gold Coast when they choose to have their own careers and families.”

Charlton says the energy and drive in the Gold Coast’s business community makes it an exciting place to run an organisation. 

“There’s a real can-do spirit here. Everyone wants the city to be great, and as Gold Coasters, we take it very personally and I think that’s amazing,” she says.

“Business leaders are really accessible, it’s not hard to talk to people like the Mayor, decision makers or local and federal members.

“It makes it easier to get things done – it’s not hard to pick up the phone here like it can be in a bigger city.”

And getting things done she is.

Gold Coast Airport is in the throes of a $300 million redevelopment, Project LIFT (Let’s Invest for Tomorrow), which will be delivered between now and 2019.

A range of crucial upgrades, including expansion of the apron capacity and introduction of self check-in services, will be delivered in time for the influx of visitors heading our way during the 2018 Commonwealth Games 

Charlton knows the impact of such an event, having worked at the Atlanta and Sydney airports during the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, and in Glasgow during the last Commonwealth Games.

“But it’s important we see the Commonwealth Games as the wedding, not the marriage,” she says.

“A lot of infrastructure and energy is going into the Games, so the challenge for the Gold Coast is to capture that and use it to drive the city forward.

“Our development does just that - it goes way beyond the Games. We’re looking forward to and planning for the event, but it’s certainly not the end piece for us.”

Charlton is one of five panelists at this year’s City Leaders Forum, hosted by Young Professionals Gold Coast.

She will be joined by Mark Peters (CEO of Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation), Bob East (CEO of ASX-listed Mantra Group), Peta Fielding (CEO of Burleigh Brewing) and Professor Ian O’Connor (Vice Chancellor of Griffith University).

Charlton says it is an excellent platform for business leaders to share experiences and impart knowledge to the people who will lead the city in the future.   

“But more importantly it’s an opportunity for young professionals to play a role in shaping the city,” she says.

“Working together is so important – as generations we need to combine our efforts, and this is a fantastic platform for that.”

To hear more from Charlton, register now for the City Leaders Forum 2016.

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20 October 2016


A group of business leaders who will play an instrumental role in the city’s economic progress has been assembled for the second annual City Leaders Forum, hosted by Young Professionals Gold Coast.

Panelists will debate the projects necessary to keep the economic momentum initiated by the 2018 Commonwealth Games continuing after the event.

Mark Peters, CEO of Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation will share insights to how the Games presents “a decade worth of opportunity for the city”. 

Bob East, CEO of Mantra Group and Marion Charlton, COO of Gold Coast Airport have also joined the speaking panel, representing two ‘front line’ companies that will play a major role in the visitor experience during the Games.

Professor Ian O’Connor, Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University and Peta Fielding, Director of Burleigh Brewing Company will round out the panel of industry experts.

YP Gold Coast President Sean Braybrook said the City Leaders Forum sought to promote healthy and positive debate around key economic opportunities for the city.

“We’ve assembled what we consider to be a group of experts in their respective fields,” he said.

“These are people who will play an instrumental role in the success of the Games and who can share valuable insights to maximise opportunities presented by the event and how we leverage the city’s international exposure in this time.

“But this is about outcomes as much as it is about discussion.

“We are looking to establish policy outline from the forum which will guide our advocacy going forward.”

Mr Braybrook said the core aim of the City Leaders Forum was to unite the Gold Coast’s established business community with up and coming city leaders.

“We want to create a multi-generational voice for positive change,” he said.

Gold Coast Airport Chief Operating Officer Marion Charlton said the forum was an excellent platform for business leaders to share experiences and impart knowledge to the people who will lead the city in the future.  

“But more importantly it’s an opportunity for young professionals to play a role in shaping the city,” she said.

“Working together is so important – as generations we need to combine our efforts, and this is a fantastic platform for that.”

The City Leaders Forum will be held on Friday, November 11 at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Tickets are $135 per person or $1,300 for a table of 10.

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19 October 2016

City Leaders: Peta Fielding brewing success

Frustrated by the lack of soul in Queensland’s beer landscape, Gold Coaster Peta Fielding and her Hawaiian brew-master husband found the inspiration to establish Burleigh Brewing.

The business, which arguably pioneered the craft beer movement on the Gold Coast, has grown significantly over the past 10 years, converting its original site into a warehouse while the brewing and packaging operation, along with a taphouse, set up shop just down the road.

Fielding, who is set to speak at the City Leaders Forum on November 11, says the Gold Coast is a great destination for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The Gold Coast is a great place to have our business because we have all of the infrastructure that big cities have and we have the largest city in the state just up the road, but we get to enjoy much more of that village atmosphere and village lifestyle,” she says.

Fielding adds that there is so much to love about living and working on the Gold Coast.

“I think the Gold Coast’s greatest asset is its energy and that is a function of the place and the people,” she says.  

“It just feels like a place where anything is possible.  People are supported and encouraged to give things a go and if they work, great, and if they don’t, try again. 

“It (the Gold Coast) really has an amazing feel about it and I think that is its unique selling point.”

Since its inception, Burleigh Brewing has been honoured with a number of business and brewing awards including Gold Coast Business of the Year in 2014.

Along with leading the Burleigh Brewing team to success, Fielding sits on the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Board. 

Fielding is one of five panelists at this year’s City Leaders Forum, hosted by Young Professionals Gold Coast.

She will be joined by Mark Peters (CEO of Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation), Bob East (CEO of ASX-listed Mantra Group), Marion Charlton (COO Gold Coast Airport) and Professor Ian O’Connor (Vice Chancellor of Griffith University).

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14 October 2016

City Leaders: Mark Peters creating a legacy beyond 2018

THE CEO of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation Mark Peters says while the much anticipated event lasts 11 days in theory, it actually presents a decade worth of opportunity for the city. 

In the week leading into  4 April 2018, more than 6,600 athletes and team officials from 71 nations and territories will converge on the Gold Coast for the sporting and cultural event.

Ensuring the event delivers a lasting legacy for the city is a priority for many Gold Coasters, with the event providing the opportunity to shape and define the region’s future.

Mark peters rsPeters says everything the Games Corporation is working on is developed with legacy in mind and highlights the promotional exposure for business, trade, investment, tourism and events will herald a new era in the region’s growth and maturity.

He says one of the key legacies of the Games is the diversification of the Gold Coast economy. 

While the city has traditionally been reliant on tourism and construction, the Gold Coast is embracing new industries.

Peters says education is evolving as a key economic driver, while the Games village and health and knowledge precinct presents new opportunities for growth in medical and research.

“Another legacy is the development of Carrara which now allows the city to look seriously at attracting professional teams that exist in the Asian region that get snowed out in our summer and go to places like Hawaii and Guam,” he says.  “They now have the opportunity to come and train here in our great facilities on the Gold Coast.”

“Physically, when we planned venues, they had a legacy outcome. Everything we do, for every venue, for all transport systems, we ask ourselves how we contribute positively to the economy, so that local, state and federal government regard their investment as positive and so the decision to host the games here was positive.”

Peters, who headed the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Bid Company before being appointed CEO of the corporation, has long championed Australia’s profile on the international sporting stage, as a competitive nation and host destination for major sporting events.

Prior to his role with the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the businessman served in senior sporting administration roles including as CEO of the Australian Sports Commission, President of the Australian Baseball Federation and Executive member of International Baseball Federation.

While the 2018 event presents countless opportunities for the city, Peters says it comes with its challenges.

“The challenge for the organisation is that an awful lot has to happen in a very short amount of time,” he says. 

“We started off very small staff wise, and here we are with 18 months to go with 370 staff and we will need 1600 at Games time.

“When we get to 1600 at Games time, about a week later we will drop to 200-300, and then by mid-year we disappear. 

“Keeping staff excited and retaining them to be involved in a once-in-a-lifetime event is a challenge.”

Looking at the Gold Coast as a whole, Peters says transport is a key issue for the Gold Coast, along with the retention of young professionals.

“We want to stop making our kids leave the city and we want to prevent people from having to get on the M1 to head to Brisbane for work,” he says.

“The more long term jobs we can create locally, the more we are able to keep our  kids employed here and similarly, support the whole family structure.

“We hear lots of stories about tradies having to go off to other parts of Queensland and the break-up of the families and that is not what a city is about.

“We need to create more jobs to make this a great city for families.”

Peters will be speaking at the Young Professionals Gold Coast City Leaders Forum on November 11. 

He will be joined by Bob East (CEO of ASX-listed Mantra Group), Peta Fielding (CEO of Burleigh Brewing), Marion Charlton (COO of Gold Coast Airport) and Professor Ian O’Connor (Vice Chancellor of Griffith Univeristy).

The event aims to unite the Gold Coast’s established business community with up and coming city leaders to create a multi-generational voice for positive change. 

Peters says the event is important to establish the future direction of the Gold Coast.

“We need to be continually challenged and we need to have fresh ideas,” he says.  “It is a good environment to have that open discussion that is not guarded by political appropriateness.”  

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14 February 2016


Derek Cronin, lawyer, owns prominent law firm Cronin Litigation and has achieved outstanding success through application of exceptional professional skills, savvy market analysis and working hard to take advantage of opportunities presented in his much - loved City of Gold Coast.

While thriving in the cut and thrust commercial litigation space, Derek is also strongly driven to do all he can to make the Gold Coast a better city by focusing on issues not associated with “bricks and mortar.”

He balances the robust nature of litigation by caring for others and crusading on behalf of worthwhile causes.

He is a “people person” with a passion for progress in human terms.

Derek wants to see the emergence of a more caring Gold Coast with greater cultural diversity - a city with more tolerance with more effective plans in place that address social issues alongside plans for City development.

The City must maintain strong growth but not to the detriment of a lifestyle Derek cherishes and rates as the world’s best.

Derek is much more than a leading commercial litigator, he is a committed citizen who ‘wears several hats’ including working with Gold Coast project for Homeless Youth and campaigning for marriage equality.

A third generation member of the local and highly respected Cronin family of professionals, Derek looks into the city’s heart and takes action to help those who need it most, or whose voices are not heard.

Aged 43, Derek says he can no longer be classified as a ‘young professional’ – but he was certainly youthful when he started his practice on the Coast in 2006.

He brought with him a professional package that included years of experience as an associate and then partner in a Brisbane law firm – achieved while still in his twenties.

“While I was with the Brisbane firm my partner, ABC Television reporter Tom Forbes and I, found that every weekend we were either travelling to the Gold Coast, or to his parents’ place on the Sunshine Coast,” said Derek.

“It dawned on us that we were living where we didn’t really want to be and the Gold Coast was calling out for us to come home.

“I am a third generation Gold Coaster – my grandmother is aged 100, my grandfather was the chief civil engineer at the Gold Coast City Council for many years, my father David, is a medical specialist, and uncles Brian and Barry are prominent lawyers.”

“I was raised on the Gold Coast, went to TSS, was in the original student intake at Bond University and then worked initially as a solicitor at Primrose Cooper Cronin and later at McLaughlins, before moving to Brisbane.

“I got to know as lot of locals in the legal profession and in business, so in 2006, I thought it was a good time to back myself and give it a go.

“We sold our house in Brisbane and used some of the money to start the practice - and the phone simply has not stopped ringing since day one.

“The practice grew quickly and today employs ten lawyers and 5 support staff - we have been consistently busy for what will be ten years in January.

“Unlike many lawyers, we don’t do criminal law, family law, personal injury law (or other more common areas of practice).

“We have a very strict business model that focuses solely on commercial litigation – business disputes, partnership disputes, debt recovery, insolvency, bankruptcy and franchising disputes.”

Derek is among the new generation of smart professionals that have emerged during or soon after the global financial crisis.

“When we started the global financial crisis was driving up demand for work in insolvency and I had good relationships with some local insolvency practitioners, producing a lot of referral work.

 “Then as things got better and insolvency declined, business people with discretionary spending moved to pursue litigation regarding issues that they have had in a “back drawer” for a while; issues from the property sector also started to rise.

“The business model has worked and the practice has grown along with communications technology and engaging young and highly capable graduates who at the leading edge of today’s digitally serviced legal world.”


Qs and As

While we see so much about ‘bricks and mortar” – news about the new development and infrastructure happening on the Gold Coast, what else is needed if the City is to continue to be a great place to live and do business in years to come?

“I wear several hats - I am on the board of Gold Coast Project for Homeless Youth; I am on the board of the Queensland Aids Council and I am also involved with major current issues such as marriage equality.

“I am a strong advocate for better promotion of the Gold Coast as a city that should more strongly welcome our diversity of races, cultures and religions and that supports more forward thinking on issues such as same sex marriages.

“I think Southport’s China Town is great, so is the new Glitter festival for the lesbian and gay and transsexual community – I think this is making a good start.

(The week long festival is a celebration of arts and culture with a program including cabaret, theatre, art gallery displays, films and community events).

“I think changing attitudes starts at the top – we’ve got to have a mayor that says ‘come here and get married’ on the Gold Coast to same sex couples – because this says to the community and Australia at large is that we are a community of tolerance and acceptance. 

“We need to look at the barriers to be overcome in achieving a large, culturally diverse city.

“Usually the attributes of the Gold Coast are communicated in terms of bricks and mortar; what we don’t see is how our identity is to be influenced by what happens culturally in the city.

“The new cultural centre will help (go a  long way towards ) achieving this goal.

“But still there is a lot of focus on new buildings, shopping centres and other forms of development.

“It was interesting to note the proposal for a mosque at Currumbin that many people were up in arms against.

“But what is the solution?  Where can we build a mosque? I think these are the kind of questions that must be asked.

“While I am like a broken record with regular meetings with local government, and state and federal members pushing the same barrow, but I will continue to knock on their doors and to gain support from others in the community.”


As the president of Gold Coast Project For The Homeless Youth, you must see a lot of the other side of life in this city, how serious are the problems for this disadvantaged group and are you getting enough support?

“Gold Coast Project for Homeless Youth has three houses and mobile team devoted to helping young people who have nowhere to call home.

“There is a very large number of homeless youth on the Gold Coast ( aged between 17 and 25) and last year we had to turn away 150 of them because we simply could not accommodate them.

“But more help is on the way - with the assistance of Villaworld, the Arthur Earle Foundation, some subbies and other generous people are now building a fourth house in Olsen Avenue, Southport.

“But we have one major hurdle, a large component of the build cost, approximately $70,000, will be payable to the Gold Coast City Council in infrastructure charges.

“So here we are raising money to build a home for the homeless and a portion of the donations will go directly to meeting our obligation to the council.

“ I struggle with this issue.

“The physical reality is that we will have to do a lot of fund raising between now and next year, so that this critically needed facility can simply exist – providing eight beds plus staff accommodation.


So where are all of these young people living now?

“They are doing a number of things – they are couch surfing, on the streets or in the care of various government departments. 

“They are facing various levels of risk - many have been subjected to abuse, but the day they go into one of our houses, they can have locked bedroom – their own space – something many have never had before – it gives them that feeling of safety.

“But we have to push them through, as there is a constant stream of people needing this help – we do things like helping them with with their resumes and to find jobs.

What do you see in the small business sector on the Coast in terms of their needs and future?

“When people take the risks that go with starting a business they need certainty - if governments and policies change with the wind it is ultimately problematic for small business.

“Some businesses I see need to go back to the old school ethical principles about always doing the right thing by staff, clients and others; generally there needs to be a better sense of community in terms of businesses looking after each other.

“There’s a market out there that is big enough for everyone to have a go - there is no point in attacking each other - take the legal industry for example, it is a big space.

“In litigation I see some firms attacking others when there is just no point to it.

“I am very positive about the future on the Gold Coast during the next 15 to 20 years -  particularly with the young people coming through. 

“I think the city is going to continue to develop at a great pace – continuing to pioneer advances in areas such as health and education.

“It is also great to see the new generations of families involved with successful businesses here coming to come through – families like the Lyntons (motor trades), the Goldstein’s (bakery), the Bradnams (windows and doors), and the Ramsays (formerly of Pindara Private hospital) and many others.


And what about infrastructure needs?

“It is a no-brainer that we need the light rail to be connected to the heavy rail;

The light rail as it is adds a lot to the holiday experience.

“I would like to see the rail go to (at least) Burleigh Heads and preferably right through to Coolangatta.

“As traffic gets worse, people need to be able to move freely through the city.

“From my house at Mermaid Beach, I just get on a skateboard and cruise down to a coffee shop, or to pick up the paper.

“More of us should be strong ambassadors for the Coast and be telling people about all the good things about the City.”     - it (the light rail) is both efficient and cost effective and it should be extended sooner than later.

“There should also be greater emphasis on bikeways and pathways.

“Gold Coast drivers don’t respect cyclists enough; I just came back from Milan – they had trams everywhere and a lot of bikeways and the traffic was flowing freely.

“People who a frustrated by having to sit in their cars should think of cycling, or walking if they are close enough – but they need to be able to do so in safety.”


What frustrates you as a resident and businessman on the Coast?

“We need to be more positive about the city – the negative headlines like those about bikies, crime and corruption don’t paint a true picture of the Coast – really we are just a growing city and more of us should appreciate that this is “warts and all” the best place the world to live.

“Some of the negative elements we hear about are the product of any large population – we don’t see enough promotion of the city’s outstanding attributes.

“For example I have taken friends from Sydney and Melbourne and to The Fishhouse at Burleigh they say that it is the most amazing restaurant they have been to.

“I recently had a function at Circle on Cavill – we were on the 57th floor and the skyline was amazing.

“People criticise Surfers Paradise and say how grotty it is but this is absolute nonsense.

“If you actually go into Surfers there are some really great things to see and do – I take people to “Seaduction” on the Esplanade and they say they can’t believe they can sit, have a beautiful lunch and take in such a spectacular view.

“You’ve just need to know where to go and when – if you don’t go into Surfers at 3 am (when the club goers hit the street), you are probably at no risk at all.

“We really like having an office in Surfers Paradise – you get to taste the lifestyle – can see people enjoying holidays here as well as being in a great strategic location for business.

“I would like more positive attitudes emerge from the community.

“It really frustrates me that so many Gold Coasters are really down on the city, when they should stop complaining and not forget how lucky most of us are.

“From my house at Mermaid Beach, you don’t have to drive to shop or get most of what you need – I just get on a skateboard and cruise down to a coffee shop, or to pick up the paper.

“More of us should be strong ambassadors for the Coast and be telling people about all the good things about the City.”

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