Property developer Nigel McKenna isn't at his physical best, recovering from covid-19 at one of his two Auckland homes.

It's slowed him down but hasn’t stopped him from getting on the phone, as he manages a suite of residential developments under his growing Templeton Group empire.

The firm currently has about 11 projects under construction, mostly in and around Auckland.

The Irish born property veteran, a former quantity surveyor and property manager, now 60 years old, said the company is tracking at about $1 billion a year in sales, on the back of large-scale land projects at Auckland’s Long Bay, Flat Bush and Stonefields as well as Pegasus, the golf course township north of Christchurch.

The success of its upmarket College & Mason and more recent Magma residences at Stonefields helped lead the way for a whopping $1.2b in sales for the 18 months to last June. 

Based only on the owned property assets in its portfolio, McKenna realistically estimates his ‘pipeline’ of work at between $8b and $10b, over the next eight to 10 years.

Nor does he have a desire to grow that annual output. "I think $1b a year is enough.”

Things didn’t look quite so rosy in 2010, with McKenna facing up to the fallout from the collapse of NZ's non-bank finance sector.

That eventually saw him face legal action on his $100m Holiday Inn on Featherston St, Wellington and the ambitious first stage of the Kawarau Falls hotel project in Queenstown in 2009. The latter led to investor losses estimated at about $180m.

Bouncing back

McKenna formed Templeton in 2014, describing it as “building in capabilities for everything except actual construction”.

His preference there is to work with a handful of “appropriately scaled” construction partners.

That has seen Templeton team up with Jennian Commercial for the 93-unit College & Mason development at Stonefields and with Dominion Constructors on its completed NXN apartments in Kingsland. 

It has recently selected Watts & Hughes to build its $150m Elementum project, a 107 apartment and 15 terrace home development across nine buildings in Long Bay. McKenna expects all relevant approvals to be through by May.

The relationship with Watts & Hughes dates back to Mt Eden’s Chambers & Station development in 2016, a $12.5m conversion of the 109-year-old former mayoral chambers and Mt Eden fire station into six modern apartments.

But Templeton does continue to bulk up its in-house team, now boasting more than 60 people across funding, marketing, resource consent, legal and master planning. Its most recent addition is a supply chain logistics manager.

Supply chain challenges

McKenna said while the company specified local products where possible, there was a requirement to bring in everything from glass to elevators. 

“The reality is there have been supply issues in one form or other across my entire career here. So I'm a property man who's had to learn a heck of a lot about shipping and supply chains."

The firm's focus is on trying to understand where the global pressure points are and then designing buildings that won't face supply chain problems. 

He said the firm recently had to redesign one of its builds with a large amount of cedar, and “it would have been easier and cheaper to use gold”.

But because the firm had long lead times and buildings that were being marketed now only scheduled for construction in 2024 or 2025, it was able to look for materials that “wouldn’t cause supply chain problems downstream.”

McKenna said he had “no intention” of slowing down once his health improved. 

“For me, the success of a project is measured by the liveability of the design outcome.”