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Gary Dillon “Mr Sunshine Coast” Retires

Monday, June 25, 2018, by Project Urban

After 45 years in the development industry, Gary Dillon will retire at the end of June. His work has taken him around Australia and the world at a time when urban areas were experiencing unprecedented growth in population, development and legislation.

In 1973, a fresh-faced Gary Dillon strode confidently into Sutherland Shire Council (Sydney), not as a town planner, but as a (gulp) engineer. However, he quickly found his true calling, and just six years later was appointed Shire Planner for the former Maroochy Shire Council.Gary settle in, and stayed on the Sunshine Coast for the next 39 years, save for a brief one-year stint in as a Senior Environmental Planner in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Many of Gary’s planning applications have become much-loved local landmarks. Among them Fisherman’s Wharf and Underwater World (now SeaLife), Twin Waters Resort (Novotel Twin Waters), Hyatt Regency Coolum (Palmer Resort Coolum) and numerous master planned communities including Vardon Point at Pelican Waters.

There’s no denying Gary has played an enormous role in developing the character and liveability of the Sunshine Coast community.

When Gary began his career, town planning was in its infancy, planning schemes were only a dozen pages long and Council decisions (the important ones) arrived by fax.

Today much has changed and Gary can reflect on a productive and successful career that has guided and helped shape the character of the Sunshine Coast.

For the last 20 years, Gary has been a partner, business owner or director of some of the Sunshine Coast’s most successful consulting firms - Gary Dillion & Associates, Dillon Folker Stephens (which became DFS Group), and most recently Project Urban (following the merger of DFS Group and KHA Development Managers).

Andrew Stevens, Managing Director of Project Urban, describes Gary Dillon as Mr Sunshine Coast’.

“There are probably only a handful of development sites on the Sunshine Coast that haven’t been touched by Gary’s influence either as a Council planner or consultant. He’s had a stellar career and left a legacy that will benefit many generations to come.We’re very proud of him.”

Peter Folker, who has been Gary’s friend and business partner since 2001, says Gary loved town planning and sharing his knowledge.

“He spent hours talking about the history of planning approvals or driving a new graduate around in his car, pointing out all manner of interesting town planning titbits. The ‘young ones’ as he called them (anyone under 45!), really appreciated his insights and Gary enjoyed having a chat, so it worked out well for everyone,” Peter said.

Peter describes Gary Dillon as a true gentleman with an infectious laugh and a unique fashion sense.

“He’s quite the snappy dresser.Gary has a staggering collection of brightly coloured socks, outrageous ties, and if the occasion calls for it - suspenders,” Peter said.

Kari Stephens, Gary’s business partner at DFS Group and colleague since 2001, recalls how Gary never really got the hang of those ‘new-fangled computers’.

“Gary preferred to write dozens of pages of notes, all in an illegible scrawl that reduced many a typist to tears. He would cut extracts from legislation or from planning schemes, even newspaper articles and stick them to his handwritten notes, resulting in something akin to origami,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, Gary loved an employee who could take shorthand.

“We had a receptionist once who could take shorthand, and Gary would closet her away in his office, dictating excitedly, eyes gleaming, arms gesticulating, until the poor girl was released hours later, exhausted and with writer’s cramp. But sadly, shorthand skills went the way of the dinosaur, and Gary returned to his origami-style note writing,” she said.

Kari concedes that over the last few years, (because no-one was left who could read his writing or take shorthand) Gary established a tentative truce with the computer.He menaced the keyboard with no more than two fingers, seemingly getting a perverse sense of achievement from whacking each key stroke aggressively.

“Gary Dillon is a stalwart of the industry and a proponent of development that improves the lives of people and communities.His influence on the Sunshine Coast will be his lasting legacy, and one that he can be proud of,” Kari said.

Gary intends to enjoy a retirement full of golf, travel, good wine and delightful food.

From all of us…Best wishes for your retirement, Gary.