Brisbane City Council Budget Update - 2020/21

Brisbane City Council’s annual budget looks a little different for the 2020/21 financial year, but in many respects, it embodies the same trends and values as previous council budgets.

The budget includes a disproportionate amount of money spent on intersection-widening and road-widening projects which will discourage active transport and encourage more people to drive. On the other hand, the budget includes very little funding for the arts, community services and public facilities like libraries. They’ve also cut funding to the very popular kerbside rubbish collection service for two years.

Council revenue has reduced noticeably as a result of offering rates discounts, free parking and a range of fee waivers related to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Looking ahead, BCC is continuing to offer property developers significant discounts on infrastructure charges, with the supposed goal of encouraging private development. However this represents a false economy, as it means council won’t have enough money to pay for the public infrastructure needed to cater for further private development and growth (further info on infrastructure shortfalls at this link).

Council continues to under-invest in local active transport infrastructure such as pedestrian crossings, traffic calming and separated bike lanes. Across the entire city, council is only installing traffic calming (i.e. speed bumps or build-outs) on SIX streets this financial year (details on page 148 of the budget under ‘Local Area Traffic Management’). There are dozens of locations in each one of council’s 26 wards which currently require traffic calming, so the fact that BCC is installing traffic calming on just six streets this year is deeply concerning.

Happily, the budget does include a significant allocation towards construction of the Kangaroo Point footbridge, which council is aiming to complete by the end of 2023. Five years ago, the LNP backed away from funding this project, so I’m very pleased we’ve been able to turn that around and secure funding for this important active transport project. Funding has also been allocated for early-stage design and options analysis work for the West End-Toowong footbridge.

I’m also grateful that the council has adopted Greens proposals to introduce a compost bin rebate scheme, where residents can get a refund of up to $70 on the cost of purchasing a new or second-hand compost bin or worm farm. Unfortunately the current process for actually applying for the rebate is much more complicated than it needs to be, and I’ve already asked BCC if they can streamline this.

A huge chunk of council’s budget continues to be spent on general waste collection and management. The costs of waste collection and management are split across a few different budget items, but on average, council spends roughly $200 million every year collecting and managing household waste.

While I was opposed to the decision to cut funding to the kerbside collection program without warning, I think that overall, waste management represents one of the low-hanging fruits in terms of opportunities to reduce council spending. If BCC supported more waste reduction schemes (such as encouraging composting and discouraging single-use packaging) we could drastically reduce the costs of waste management in this city, which would free up a lot more money for pedestrian crossings, community projects and new public parks.

Overall, BCC’s budget continues to follow an unsustainable neoliberal paradigm. Instead of making big corporate property investors and land speculators pay their fair share (such as by introducing a vacancy levy on empty homes and shops), council continues to cut corners and under-invest in essential public services and facilities. Service and infrastructure delivery costs are inflated drastically as a result of outsourcing to private for-profit contractors, while more and more council public servants are casualised or placed on short-term contracts.

 

Below you can find a breakdown of some of the specific projects that have been funded within the Gabba Ward for the coming financial year. Other local projects will be funded out of generic budget items that haven’t yet been specifically allocated. For example, a lot of money has been allocated towards bikeway improvements, but council hasn’t yet decided which specific projects to prioritise (I am pushing for bike lanes along Vulture St).

Council has also listed several proposals, such as a signalised pedestrian crossing over River Terrace, Kangaroo Point in the vicinity of Bell St, which will be dependent on federal government funding. Normally, council funds some road safety projects using state or federal government grants, but with this year’s federal budget delayed, BCC is still waiting to hear whether funding for such projects will come through.

If you have further questions about any of the below projects, feel free to get in touch with my office. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll try to track down someone who does.

 

Footpath reconstruction

Shafston Avenue, Kangaroo Point - $72 000

Melbourne St, South Brisbane - $398 000

 

Road resurfacing

Park Rd, Dutton Park - $244 000

Princess St, Kangaroo Point - $172 000

Boundary St, South Brisbane - $245 000 (partial – not the whole corridor)

Cordelia St, South Brisbane - $491 000

Gloucester St, South Brisbane - $164 000 (partial – not the whole corridor)

Beesley St, West End - $125 000

Buchanan St, West End - $122 000

Hardgrave Rd, West End - $583 000

Montague Rd, West End - $372 000 (partial – not the whole corridor)

Raven St, West End - $61 000 (timing will probably depend on progress of the QLD Ballet development project)

Scott St, West End - $60 000

Ipswich Rd, Woolloongabba - $453 000

 

Stormwater Drainage Construction and Rehabilitation

Dudley St, Highgate Hill - $168 000

Mollison St, South Brisbane - $1 649 000 (drainage work for West Village)

Ipswich Rd, Woolloongabba - $179 000

(There’s also $431 000 allocated for major drainage work around Logan Rd and Toohey St, Woolloongabba. This area is now outside the Gabba Ward, but I’ve been advocating for this investment for several years so I’m glad it’s finally happening)

 

Intersection Upgrades

Traffic lights for Victoria St and Montague Rd, West End - $7 869 000 (they’ve already spent a couple of million on this in the 2019/20 financial year – commentary regarding the high cost at this link)

River Terrace and Main St, Kangaroo Point - $6 535 000 (I do not support this project in its current form, and consider it a poor use of ratepayer money)

 

Boardwalks, Bridges and Culverts

Major restoration works for Story Bridge, Kangaroo Point - $13 831 000

Stage 2 of Restoration/slab work for Eleanor Schonell Green Bridge, Dutton Park - $166 000

Cultural Centre Boardwalk Restoration - $1 338 000

 

Other Public Space Works

Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park – Repairing old wooden bridge (on the path along the bottom of the cliffs), new/restored safety anchor points for rock-climbing - $237 000

‘Main St Park’, Kangaroo Point (this is council’s name for the park beside St Mary’s Church that used to be a TAFE) – installation of irrigation system - $81 000

Sealing and upgrade of carpark in Dutton Park along TJ Doyle Memorial Drive - $180 000

River wall reconstruction near Dock St, South Brisbane - $222 000.

 

Local infrastructure ‘Suburban Enhancement Fund’ budget - $565 000

As well as all of the above projects, we have a local public space improvements budget that we can allocate towards minor park and footpath upgrades around the Gabba Ward. Council only allows us to use this budget for permanent, physical infrastructure, and not for events, community projects or temporary facilities.

This is the budget that I’ve used to deliver facilities like the Musgrave Park basketball half-court, and the very small skate plaza in Davies Park (yes, I would have liked to make the skate plaza bigger too, but council wouldn’t let us install a larger skate facility so close to land that’s zoned for future residential development).

We are always open to suggestions for minor projects that could be funded out of this budget, and will be running a community voting process later in the year to allocate this funding after further conversations with council about what projects are feasible and likely to be supported by the LNP. Some of the projects we’re currently considering include:

  • a wheelchair-accessible pathway link from Riverside Drive up to the Davies Park ring road
  • a larger skate park somewhere along the riverfront (finding sites that are far enough away from residential properties is proving challenging)
  • paying artists to paint more public murals on existing toilet blocks and council walls
  • new native garden beds and bushland reserve plantings in existing council parks

We are also still waiting for council to install a new public toilet block along Riverside Drive, just north of the Merivale St rail bridge (this project was allocated funding out of last year’s Suburban Enhancement Fund budget), and to confirm a proposal for a second toilet block at the north-west end of Musgrave Park (keep an eye on email newsletters if you’d like updates about these projects).

 

West End Riverside Land Remediation

Previously, council allocated upwards of $15 million towards remediating heavily contaminated parkland adjoining a former industrial site along Riverside Drive near Hockings St, West End. This project has now been postponed for a couple more years, as BCC is negotiating with the State Government and a private developer to remediate adjoining blocks of government-owned and privately-owned land at the same time.

Money for this remediation project is now earmarked in the forward estimates for the 2022/23 and 2023/4 financial years, but as this project depends on negotiation with other stakeholders, it’s hard to say for sure exactly when it will happen.