Email to Brisbane's New Mayor

For anyone who's interested, here's the text of an email I've sent on 1 April, 2019 to Cr Adrian Schrinner, who the LNP have chosen to be the new mayor of Brisbane after Graham Quirk announced his retirement.

 

Dear Councillor Schrinner,

Sincere congratulations on your new role! I write to request a meeting with you so we can identify common ground and shared strategic priorities, and discuss how best we can work together. I’m looking forward to a productive and positive working relationship, and will endeavour to support you on projects where our goals and interests align. I also wish to raise with you some of my top priorities and key areas of concern (both within my ward and across the city), particularly in the lead-up to the drafting of the annual council budget, and to provide feedback on some of your recent announcements.

 

Putting pedestrians first

As you know, pedestrian safety and convenience is a particularly big issue in my ward. My highest priority for a signalised pedestrian crossing remains the intersection of Victoria St and Montague Rd, West End. I am grateful that the long-awaited pedestrian crossing on Vulture St East in East Brisbane is about to be installed, but there are several other dangerous locations which need urgent attention. Council officers already have a list of all the most dangerous pedestrian crossing points in the Gabba Ward, many of which can be improved for relatively little cost. I again remind you that improving pedestrian crossing points is a far better use of money than spending $3 million to widen a short stretch of Vulture St to 3 lanes near the Mater Hospital.

As you know, excessive pedestrian wait-times at signalised crossings is a major barrier to the uptake of active travel, and also encourages jaywalking, so reducing wait-times for pedestrians is a cheap but important step.

I also remain supportive of lowering speed limits across my ward, and am eager to see more trials of lower speed limits along residential streets, key cycling corridors and in commercial precincts. Improving pedestrian safety is not just about saving money and getting people home faster. It is also essential if we are to reduce our city’s fossil fuel emissions and play our part in preventing runaway climate change.

 

Improving public transport

You are well aware of my concerns about the state of public transport in this city. I would like to remind you that the low-hanging fruit in terms of route reform and improving service reliability is to introduce peak-hour bus lanes along key road corridors, particularly from the northern suburbs, but also along Vulture St, Stanley St, Ipswich Rd, Main St, Logan Rd etc. There is no acceptable justification for buses to be held up by general traffic on multi-lane roads. Please consider supporting my previous requests for peak-hour bus lanes as a matter of priority.

I also again reiterate my request for a new high-frequency CityGlider service between the PA hospital and Fortitude Valley (along Main St/Ipswich Rd), and recommend that this be allocated funding to get up and running before the inevitable busway disruptions arising from work on Brisbane Metro. You’ll also remember my previous requests for a high-frequency east-west bus route between East Brisbane and West End.

In terms of public transport infrastructure, the highest priority for my ward is a new Kurilpa West CityCat terminal to cater for high-density neighbourhoods along the western side of Montague Rd. This terminal was promised to West End by your administration way back in 2010, and there are now ten thousand residents living within walking distance of the proposed location. It is essential that we provide more public transport options for the western half of West End in order to reduce dependency on private motor vehicles.

 

Increasing public green space and limiting unsustainable over-development

My concerns about excessive over-development of the inner-city are well-known, and to be honest I have pretty low expectations from you on this front, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised. BCC’s own planning documents identify that a neighbourhood should have at least 1.4 hectares of local green space per 1000 residents. Currently, much of inner-city Brisbane falls far short of this target, and the continued failure to provide new public parks in high-density neighbourhoods is going to create significant problems down the line. You have the power to rapidly make major changes to Brisbane’s planning and development assessment system, and I urge you to put the brakes on rampant over-development and start providing more green space and community facilities, rather than allowing the property industry to get away with doing whatever it wants.

As this report by Kurilpa Futures shows, inner-city areas like the Kurilpa Peninsula have been rezoned to accommodate population growth which is five times higher than the city is predicted to need over the next three decades. https://kurilpafutures.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/kf-planning-document_final_complete.pdf We are already well ahead of State Government targets in terms of rezoning and densification. I would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you in detail about the way your administration zones for redevelopment, and how we can find a more sustainable path forward.

 

Ending Homelessness

Over the past 8 years, homelessness in Brisbane has increased by 32% (citation: Australian Homelessness Monitor, 2018). We now have approximately 10 000 homeless residents, and that number is still growing even though the rate of new dwelling construction in Brissie has exceeded general population growth. The LNP has categorically failed to address this homelessness crisis, and I think it’s imperative that council reorders its strategic and budgetary priorities to increase the supply of public housing and get people off the street.

There are many council-owned blocks of land around Brisbane which could easily be redeveloped as medium-density public housing or community housing, with community centres and other public facilities at ground-level. BCC used to play a more active role in the provision of genuinely affordable housing through partnerships with orgs like Brisbane Housing Company, and the abdication of this responsibility, along with your administration’s support for rapid gentrification, has been a major contributor to rising homelessness.

As mayor, you now have the power to get people off the street and positively transform the lives of Brisbane’s most vulnerable residents. I urge you to make this a priority.

 

Green Bridges

I warmly welcome your administration’s renewed support for bridges which cater for pedestrians, bikes and in some cases buses. Obviously the Greens have been pushing this for some time, and it’s nice to see this long-awaited shift in priorities.

I do, however, wish to clarify a few key issues:

  1. The advice I have received from council’s own transport planners suggests it won’t be feasible for a West End-Toowong bridge to accommodate buses, as Montague Rd, Hardgrave Rd and Vulture St do not have the capacity to carry bus services through to the western suburbs. I am very supportive of a West End-Toowong bridge for pedestrians and bikes (and the initial results from our community vote appear to reinforce this – jonathansri.com/toowongfootbridgevote) however I am sceptical that a bus bridge is necessary or feasible, and would like to see more detailed modelling on this question. Obviously I remain firmly opposed to the RACQ’s ludicrous suggestion that new bridges into the inner-city should carry general motor vehicle traffic, and I urge you to ignore this imbecilic demand.
  2. I remain very eager to see the completion of the footbridge between Kangaroo Point and the CBD, and I respectfully suggest that council should introduce a levy on surrounding property developers to fully fund this bridge, rather than waiting for other levels of government to commit funding. As a precursor to building this footbridge, it is essential to complete the riverwalk between Mowbray Park, East Brisbane and Dockside in Kangaroo Point, as well as making the Thornton St pedestrian underpass wheelchair accessible. These two active transport projects should begin immediately, even as you wait to finalise funding arrangements for the bridge itself.
  3. I would like to see more detailed information regarding the proposed bridge between West End and UQ, noting that the southern end of Boundary St is quite steep and hostile for both bikes and pedestrians. In the case of all the inner-city bridge proposals, it is essential that the landing points of these bridges do no result in a net loss of green space, and so budgeting for these bridges should include identifying and acquiring land for the creation of new public parks around the river, such as buying the former ABC site at Toowong.
  4. The Greens welcome the proposal for a green bridge between Bellbowrie and Wacol, but would caution that new or widened roads for bus routes should ideally use land which has already been cleared, rather than running new infrastructure through remnant forests.
  5. It was disappointing to see no mention of a green bridge between Bulimba-Newstead or Hawthorne-Teneriffe, which the Greens see as a preferable (and cheaper) alternative to widening the entire Wynnum Road corridor. I would like to understand why this long-planned-for bridge appears to have been put on the back-burner.
  6. While the announcement of $550 million for these bridges sounds genuinely impressive, I would like more information about exact timelines and when this money will be allocated for construction. The timeline of ‘within 5 to 10 years’ which you announced to the media is extremely vague, and far too slow in my opinion. The LNP have been promising a bridge from Kangaroo Point to the CBD since the early 2000s, so it would be nice to have a clear target date for each of these projects, rather than vague commitments.

 

Again, I am looking forward to working constructively with you in your new role, and I urge you to seriously consider the above priorities. Please ask your assistant to contact my office to arrange a time to meet at your earliest convenience, and let me know if you require further information regarding any of the above issues. Please also let me know which email address is your preferred method of communication going forward.


Warm regards,

Jonno