Email newsletter Monday 27 June 2022

Current as of 27 June, 2022 - please note that some of the info in these newsletters (especially event listings) can go out of date quite quickly

Dear residents,

It’s been a jam-packed couple of weeks in my role as a city councillor. BCC released its annual budget, and much of my time has been spent in budget information sessions and debates in City Hall (more commentary on the budget below).

We’ve also been advocating on a range of issues, from sustainable development to renters rights to active transport safety improvements.

One of the crucial policy questions I’m grappling with at the moment is how far real estate prices can fall (in order to address the housing affordability crisis) without triggering wider economic collapse. In the short community survey we’re running, one of the ten questions I’m asking is whether residents would be happy to see property prices drop by 30% over the next two years. If you haven’t yet responded to that survey, please do so via this link.

 

Resisting evictions into homelessness

We had a big win last week in preventing a disability pensioner from being evicted into homelessness from public housing. The State Government had secured a warrant of possession to evict a Taringa resident named David on the basis that his yard was too messy and cluttered with possessions. I felt it was important to support action to resist this eviction, because the State Government should not be evicting people from public housing on the basis of mess anywhere in this city.

The police were due to attend at 10am on Friday, 17 June, but we organised a large group of residents to gather and resist the eviction, and the government backed down. They tried again on Monday at 3pm, but again, we mobilised dozens of people to protest the eviction, and the government changed its mind and allowed the warrant to lapse. Now David has been permitted to remain in his home, and is getting the support he needs to help clean up his property (which is what should have happened from the start).

I think this successful action is a powerful reminder that we can all take practical steps to push back against rising homelessness and housing insecurity simply by collectively resisting unjust evictions. If you’re interested in taking part in similar future actions, please sign up via the Brisbane Renters Alliance.

 

Direct action to ramp up the pressure on developers

On Saturday, 18 June, Amy MacMahon and I organised a protest in West End against a couple of unsustainable development projects that are obviously motivated by a desire to maximise private profits rather than by a desire to improve housing affordability.

A group of residents gathered in Davies Park and marched a short distance down Montague Road to the Hanson cement factory. We (lawfully) blocked access to the cement factory for about 15 minutes, which is enough to cause significant disruption to operations. If Hanson refuses to side with the community and boycott the developments at 281 Montague Rd, West End and 5 Dudley St, Highgate Hill, we will consider further protests targeting the cement factory, which is obviously a major beneficiary of Brisbane City Council’s continuing support for unsustainable development projects throughout our area.

 

Cracking down on Airbnbs

For several years, I’ve been advocating for a tighter crackdown and higher fees for investment properties that are rented out as short-term accommodation on digital platforms like Airbnb, Stayz and Booking.com (this is one small piece of the puzzle in terms of the many different housing policy changes we're advocating for). I don’t have concerns about residents who temporarily rent out their home while travelling, or who just rent out a spare room in their own home. But the conversion of entire houses and apartments into permanent short-term tourist accommodation is reducing access to affordable housing for local residents, and negatively impacting neighbours.

I believe ongoing Airbnb investment properties should be completely banned in areas which are not zoned for short-term accommodation, with high fines for non-compliance. In areas where short-term accommodation is permitted, owners of Airbnb properties should be required to pay thousands of dollars per year in rates above and beyond standard council rates liabilities.

This year, I’ve been pleased to see that the LNP-dominated city council has responded to Greens pressure by taking a first small step towards stronger regulation of Airbnbs, introducing a new ratings category called ‘Transitory Accommodation’ where the annual rates bill will be 50% higher than the rates bill for a standard house or apartment. Higher rates will be charged on homes that are advertised on Airbnb (or similar platforms) for more than 60 days in any given year.

But there are two significant problems with the LNP’s approach.

  1. The rates increase is not high enough to shift investor behaviour
  2. Proposed enforcement measures may not be strong enough.

Depending on a property’s value, a rates increase of 50% likely represents an extra $500 to $1000 per year. While that’s a lot of money for some people, it’s not much to the property investors who rent their extra homes out on Airbnb for hundreds of dollars in a single weekend. So if the goal is to discourage Airbnb, and encourage investors to instead rent long-term to local residents, the rates increase for ‘Transitory Accommodation’ properties needs to be much higher than 50% per year. I told journalists the increase should be 500% per year.

The mayor also disclosed that his staff would not be proactively seeking out properties that are being used as Transitory Accommodation. He said the council will primarily rely on investors to ‘self-report,’ which seems very naive to me, and will also be investigating complaints from neighbours.

If you know of a home that is rented out to tourists as Transitory Accommodation when it should be rented out to local residents instead, you can report it by calling the council on 3403 8888. It’ll be interesting to see how seriously the council takes its enforcement responsibilities.

 

Further details on the council budget

With a few notable exceptions, the council’s annual budget for the coming financial year doesn’t include much investment in new infrastructure due to the high repair bill from the February floods.

A lot of money is still being poured into Brisbane Metro, which I think is overall a very positive project, but now seems to be running way over budget. Funding has also been retained for the Kangaroo Point footbridge (construction is just beginning on this project, and we’re now told it won’t finish until well into 2024). However the proposed West End-Toowong and West End-St Lucia bridges have been ‘paused’ while the council focuses on repairing and replacing damaged infrastructure across the city.

Frustratingly, most of the higher-cost projects which the LNP have delayed or cancelled are public and active transport projects - especially bikeways and ferry terminals. Meanwhile, the council is still spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year widening roads and expanding intersections to carry more cars. A classic example of this is the redesign of the Moggill Road roundabout, which is now costing a whopping $180 million. The huge sums wasted on major road-widening projects like this mean there is less money available for pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, park upgrades, drainage improvements, library facilities etc.

The funding for the reconstruction of the Dockside and Mowbray Park ferry terminals is still in the budget, but it seems like these projects have been pushed back by several months while the council prioritises repairing and reopening other existing terminals like the Maritime Museum and Holman Street stops. As I’ve said previously, the major disruptions to ferry services result from a combination of poor forward-planning, a hollowing out of public sector capacity due to continuous outsourcing and privatisation, and a generalised failure on the part of the LNP administration to fully appreciate the risks of flooding.

I’m pleased to at least report that the budget does include $240 000 in funding for a badly-needed drainage upgrade at Audenshaw St, Highgate Hill (which I sent quite a few emails to the mayor’s office about, and which we weren’t 100% sure would get funded) as well as $468 000 for drainage upgrades around Colchester St and Vulture St, South Brisbane (locals might have noticed how often stormwater tends to back up on Vulture St near the intersection with Stephens Rd - this project is supposed to help address that).

There’s also a bit of money in the budget to improve footpaths along Hawthorne St, Woolloongabba ($132 000) and part of Vulture St, South Brisbane ($180 000). If there are other busy footpaths around the Gabba Ward that you think need widening or major repairs, please email us details (photos of damage are helpful if possible, but not essential).

As usual, a huge chunk of the council’s annual budget is being spent on resurfacing roads. The total figure this year is $105 million, with $17 million of that allocated specifically towards repairing roads that were damaged by flooding. The ever-increasing cost of road resurfacing and maintenance highlights that the council can’t sustainably continue to increase the size and capacity of our road network indefinitely.

The more cars - and heavy trucks - there are using our roads, the more it costs ratepayers to maintain them. Investing in infrastructure and services that will help encourage a modal shift towards more sustainable transport options (like better bus routes and new bike lanes) will save the city a lot of money in the long-term. So it’s disappointing our leaders are just spending more and more public money on widening roads to carry more cars.

 

Petition to save East Brisbane State School

The State Government has confirmed that the expansion of the Gabba Stadium to cater for the Olympics will cause major impacts to East Brisbane State School, but hasn’t yet clarified whether the school will be relocated (either temporarily or permanently) or simply closed down.

Residents have started a petition at this link, which I encourage you to sign and share.

It would be absolutely outrageous if the government decided to shut down a public school to make way for a sports stadium expansion, and the lack of clear information from the government about this possibility is deeply concerning.

 

Woolloongabba Fete Day

Our State MP Amy MacMahon has asked me to remind residents of the Family Fete she is organising in Woolloongabba Rotary Park on Saturday, 9 July. The fete will feature a range of activities including circus and dance workshops, and should be a good excuse to get together in the park and connect with your neighbours.

As part of this event, I’m proposing to organise a community Q&A session with our newly-elected federal MP Max Chandler-Mather, where we can find out more about how Max is settling into the role and what he hopes to focus on. This is likely to happen in the park at 3pm on the Saturday arvo. We’ll confirm the details via our next email newsletter. For now, you can RSVP to the fete via this link and invite friends via the Facebook event

 

Tree removals

Every now and then, Energex tries to remove a street tree without properly notifying me (or local residents). On Tuesday morning, I got word that contractors were cutting down the only remaining street tree on Elliott St, Kangaroo Point on the basis that the branches were conflicting with the path of overhead power lines.

Given how time-sensitive the matter was, I rode over to Elliott St and stood under the tree (preventing further chainsawing) until I could get senior officials from Energex on the phone. After some discussion, they agreed that proper notification processes hadn’t been followed, and would re-evaluate whether the tree definitely had to be removed. We don’t know for sure yet, but it seems it will be possible to reconnect the power cables from a different pole to go around the tree, rather than removing it.

If you see Energex contractors removing a healthy tree in your street that you haven’t been notified about, remember it’s ok to stop them to ask what’s going on, and to call the council on 3403 8888 to ask the Rapid Response Group to attend and investigate. You can also call my office on 3403 2165 during office hours to see if we know about it.

In other news, please also note that three medium-sized dead trees will be removed from Dutton Park in the next few weeks, as will a small tree outside 4 Laura Street, Highgate Hill. As mentioned in previous emails, we do always ask whether tree stumps can be retained for their habitat value, and for replacement trees to be planted in the surrounding area.

 

Please donate to support the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service

With the end of the financial year almost upon us, I encourage those of you who can afford it to consider donating to the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, which provides free legal advice to refugees and other vulnerable migrants. RAILS is based in West End and does great work supporting displaced people to reunite with family members and to navigate the complex web of bureaucracy that the federal government has created to make it harder for refugees to gain permanent asylum here in Australia.

Please consider donating via this link.

 

Work for a Greens federal MP

The recently elected federal Greens members of parliament are currently advertising for a range of paid positions in their new electorate offices. Expressions of interest close this Wednesday (29 June) at 9am. Details at this link.

 

Want to be a city councillor?

Finally, I just wanted to remind residents that I’m holding an info session this Friday evening, 1 July, from 4:30pm to 6:30pm at my ward office, for anyone who thinks they might like to become a Brisbane City Councillor in the future. Email us at [email protected] if you’d like to come along.

 

Ok that’s it for this email. Remember to fill out our local survey at this link and check out other upcoming community events in the list below.

Warm regards,

Jonno

Upcoming Events

JUL
01

Thinking you'd like to run for Brisbane City Council as a candidate? Casual chat and Q&A

Fri, 01 Jul, 04:30pm–06:30pm
2/63 Annerley Rd, Woolloongabba (driveway access via Crown St)

I'm an organising a Q&A session for potential future city council candidates... Big swings to the Greens at the recent federal election mean quite a few council wards around Brisbane will also be up for grabs in the 2024 local government elections. If you’re thinking you might like to run for the Greens and become a city councillor, but still want to learn more about what’s involved, this is a chance to have a cuppa with Brisbane’s first Greens councillor and ask whatever questions you’ve been wondering about. Facebook event ▸

JUL
01

Abortion is healthcare! Solidarity rally

Fri, 01 Jul, 05:30pm
King George Square, Brisbane

Friday night to rally against the bigots and to demand abortion rights everywhere, safe, free and on demand! Facebook event ▸

JUL
02

Mosaic Workshop: Romero Centre Garden Regeneration Project

Sat, 02 Jul, 10:00am–02:00pm
Romero Centre, 8 Dutton St, Dutton Park

You are invited to join the Romero Centre in a series of workships to build a mosaic stairway up to their new meditiative garden. Each participant will be given a concrete paver to mosaic. Please bring an idea or sketch to guide you. Themes of tolerance, peace, acceptance, community, friendship. No mosaic experience required. Further workshops on 9 & 16 July. Booking via email ▸

JUL
02

Performance Activation: The House of Alexander

Sat, 02 Jul, 06:30pm–08:30pm
Institute of Modern Art, 420 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley

House of Alexander’s members will respond individually to Jenn Nkiru’s exhibition REBIRTH IS NECESSARY in a performance medley not to be missed. Though a series of acts using poetry, movement, dance and culture, members will showcase their individual practices and explore how they intersect with each other to create their community. Free tickets ▸ | Facebook event ▸

JUL
03

Julian Assange: Bring him home!

Sun, 03 Jul, 02:00pm–04:00pm
Bunyapa Park, cnr Vulture St and Thomas St, West End

Come along to celebrate Julian Assange's 51st birthday and call for his repatriation to Australia. Music and other activities.

JUL
03

EXQUISITE FREQUENCY: Earth Freq Surrealist Reunion & Exhibition

Sun, 03 Jul, 03:00pm–07:00pm
House Conspiracy, 42 Mollison St, West End

All are invited to Exquisite Frequency; an afternoon of games and workshops, with an exhibition of art and poetry created in collaboration with Surrealist Games participants at Earth Frequency Festival 2022. Dress code: outlandish! Facebook event ▸

JUL
06-16

Art and Activism in the Nuclear Age Exhibition

Wed, 06 Jul, 10:00am–04:00pm
POP Gallery, cnr Brunswick St and Ivory St, Fortitude Valley

An exhibition showcasing selected key artistic responses to the era of nuclear weapons including the acclaimed 7.2 metre by 1.8 metre Hiroshima Panel, ‘Fire,’ on loan from Japan and a selection of works from the collection ‘Life Lifted into the Sky’ by Yalata painters in response to the British Maralinga nuclear tests. Opening night is Friday 8 July from 6-8pm. Email ▸

JUL
09

Woolloongabba Family Fete Day

Sat, 09 Jul, 10:00am–04:00pm
Woolloongabba Rotary Park

Come down to Rotary Park, Woolloongabba on the final weekend of the mid-year school holidays to enjoy the glorious Brisbane winter sun. An inclusive, family day, designed to bring the Woolloongabba community together. We’ll have face painting, craft and dance workshops, food and drink! Facebook event ▸

JUL
10

Mangrove Citizen Science

Sun, 10 Jul, 03:00pm–05:00pm
Online (Zoom)

Brisbane Northside Australian Conservation Foundation is hosting a free zoom event, which will be presented by mangrove expert, Jock Mackenzie, from earthwatch. Jock will expand your knowledge about why Moreton Bay is an internationally listed Ramsar Wetland area of global significance. RSVP ▸

JUL
16

Celebrating a Year of Tenant Unionism!

Sat, 16 Jul, 01:00pm
Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane

Join the South East Queensland Union of Renters (SEQUR) for a casual get together of unionists, comrades and community to eat and drink to one successful year and for many more to come. Vegan and meat options will be provided on the day. Any snacks brought to share are greatly appreciated. Facebook event ▸

JUL
16

Free yoga in the park

Sat, 16 Jul, 09:00am–10:00am
Davies Park, Jane Street, West End

Bring your own yoga mat. Bookings not required. Every Saturday from 16 July to 10 September. Email ▸

JUL
17

International Non-Binary Day 2022

Sun, 17 Jul, 02:00pm
BackDock Arts, 103 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley

Calling non-binary folk of all ages to experience a non-binary-centered space. Let us bask in each other’s presence, celebrate, and uplift fellow non-binary pals in a pressure free environment for all folk whose gender(s) (or lack thereof) fall outside of the socially entrenched concepts of the binary. Supportive binary folk are welcome to join us. Facebook event ▸