jennifer-macquarie-ex-animo-1-dairy-to-developments-feature
Image: Supplied.
  • Family moved into real estate after dairy became less profitable
  • Ms Macquarie is the director and co-owner of Fountaindale Group
  • Was one of the first to subdivide and develop on the edge of urban Wollongong

“I grew up in a little village called Jamberoo, about two hours south of Sydney. When I was a child, there were about 400 people in the village, and 30 kids in the school.”

Director and co-owner of Fountaindale Group, Jennifer Macquarie hails from regional New South Wales, and came from a traditional, little farming village where people had lived for generations.

Change afoot

Ms Macquarie was the sixth generation of the family on the farm in Jamberoo. At the time, the small community was “on the edge of change”, Ms Macquarie said.

“Dairy farming was becoming marginal in profitability. All the farmers were getting older, the kids didn’t want to stay on the farms, and gradually they were being sold off. Those who wanted to stay in farming went to big farms in rural Victoria.”

An opportunity seemed to present itself “… because Jamberoo was a pretty, green valley not far from Sydney.”

Ms Macquarie also recalled her family started to see what they called “Pitt Street farmers” coming to the regions: “the corporates from Sydney who wanted a weekender, swapping dairy cows for lower maintenance beef cattle.

The family gradually moved out of dairy farming because it was no longer viable.

Intergenerational learning

Ms Macquarie’s father was buying rural properties, cutting off a block, and selling, gradually doing more as real estate bore more fruit and farming less.

Business was conducted in the home office, and Ms Macquarie would often be sat beside him.

“He was quite happy to have my company and very generous with teaching me from probably age 8 to 10, looking at invoices, writing cheques and all the things you have to do in admin. I loved it, I soaked it all up, I guess by osmosis you absorb those things when you’re embedded in a family business.”

Jennifer Macquarie and family sitting in backyard black and white
Jennifer Macquarie and family. Image: Supplied.

It was also an environment of entrepreneurship; Ms Macquarie described her father as very entrepreneurial.

“Taking on the latest technologies, and taking risks, and thinking outside the box. Perhaps I learnt by observation it. Is it nature or nurture? probably a bit of both.”

Early risers

While travelling through regional centres like Wollongong today, medium to higher density apartments seem to be the norm.

That wasn’t the case many years ago, Ms Macquarie said Fountaindale was one of the first to subdivide and develop on the edge of the urban area in Wollongong.

“I watched over time as Stockland, Lendlease, and others started to come into Wollongong and moved further south. Chinese developers then discovered the region and began to buy up land.”

“The competitive environment has changed a lot and it’s more difficult for a small family owned company like ours to compete with the chequebooks of those larger developers.  We’ve been focusing a bit further regional, and that’s really our natural habitat.”

In parts two and three, we explore regional New South Wales, and change making with Ms Macquarie.

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This article is written with thanks to the Property Council of Australia, who introduced The Property Tribune to Jennifer Macquarie.

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