Property council head excited by growth

DYNAMIC: Property developer and Waikato Property Council president Rob Dol is keen for the council to contribute to Hamilton City Council’s 10-year draft district plan.
DYNAMIC: Property developer and Waikato Property Council president Rob Dol is keen for the council to contribute to Hamilton City Council’s 10-year draft district plan.

Waikato Property Council president Rob Dol slows down long enough to talk to Kashka Tunstall about a second round in the role.

Rob Dol looks at his watch, furrows his brow, then looks up smiling.

He's a busy guy but he's happy to have a yarn when he can and he'll share an opinion if he's got one.

Dol, 40, is a project director and partner at project and development company Greenstone Group and has just been re-elected for a second term as president of Waikato's Property Council branch.

It's a big job.

The commercial property investor lobby group has a strong presence nationally and the local branch has made major headway in becoming influential in the region.

The recent elections for the Waikato board garnered 19 nominations for 15 spots.

It's the best candidate turnout the Waikato has ever seen and the second best in the history of the national Property Council.

Dol reckons it was due to the executive board pushing the brand of the Property Council in the Waikato and issuing documents and policy papers over the last five years.

People have wanted to get involved at the coalface, he says.

Dol was first elected as a board member in 2008. As vice-president, he was nominated as president for 2011.

A second term will allow him to cement some of the initiatives he put into play throughout this year, he says.

They include supporting local council amalgamation, holding events around the 2013 mayoral and council elections and setting up a subcommittee on residential property issues.

Hamilton City Council's 10-year draft district plan is a major focus and Dol wants the Property Council's views considered in the drafting.

"It's going to set the path forward for the next decade - how we build, where we build, why we build - so it's very important because we don't believe that councils always get it right."

Vice-president and former president Graham Dwyer says Dol has a strong understanding of the industry.

"He's stepped up to the bar and he's continuing to put in the time that's required to push the organisation forward," Dwyer says.

"It's always tricky when you're representing a whole disparate bunch of people to not let your own views get in the way but he certainly knows how to park his personal views and represent the best views for the industry."

With three kids under five, a fulltime partner role at the office and his voluntary job at the Property Council, you might think Dol lives a fairly stressful life.

You'd be right.

"Since last October, our business, like everyone else's, was suffering pretty badly and then last year the work really picked up, particularly in the Waikato so taking up the presidency role with work busy and a young family, it's hard to balance it," he says.

But Dol says he's never minded a bit of hard work.

Raised in west Auckland, he started as an apprentice carpenter on leaving school at 16.

"I always wanted to be an engineer but I just didn't have the aptitude to go to university and listen to people telling me what to do," he says.

Dutch builders across the road took him on as an apprentice.

Back then, you needed 6000 hours experience before you could be called a trade professional. Dol wasn't even allowed to pick up a power tool in the first year of training.

He had to be able to precisely cut a 45 degree mitre with a handsaw before he was found worthy, he says.

"That was probably the most enjoyable job I've ever had.

"But I just felt that something was missing and I wanted to use my brain a little more."

Five years later he was back at school studying for a quantity surveying degree at Unitec in Auckland.

He got the diploma and was nearly through the degree before he chucked it in and headed for commercial construction.

Then Greenstone Group shoulder-tapped him. The group asked him to set up a Waikato office six years ago.

Hamilton has grown on him.

"Waikato is a great place to live and you can't get any better ambassadors for the Waikato than people from another city," he says.

Political aspirations are simmering, though they'll have to wait a couple of years until his children are older.

"Local and central government, I'd love to be in either. I'd love to be a mayor of a city and I'd love to be an MP," he says.

"But I'd be more the Bob the Builder, a spade is a spade-type politician so I don't know if I'd be any good at it."

He's not currently affiliated with any political party, but we have our suspicions.

"There's probably one colour I won't be going with and they've got gay red shirts," he says.

Dol isn't as anti-urban spread as some Waikato property commentators.

"Personally, I don't believe growth is bad," he says.

"There's worry about the urban sprawl and a number of organisations are worried about it, the impacts it has on the ecology and also on the dairy sector as we grow the city towards farms but unfortunately, that is just life."

The key thing, he says, is why would people spend $250,000-$300,000 on an apartment when they can get a house with a section for the same price.

"It's going to take generations to change that mindset . . . I tell people in council that till I'm blue in the face but no-one really wants to listen to that."

"People views will change and mine will change . . . it could happen but not as quick as council thinks it's going to happen."