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Call for feedback: Reimagining the Eagle Farm Racecourse

The Greens are calling for public feedback on a bold proposal to replace Eagle Farm Racecourse with parkland, native forest, public infrastructure (including new schools), and 4000 publicly-owned rent-capped apartments.

Our proposal would help end the special treatment of the Brisbane Racing Club (BRC) and cuts out profit-hungry developers. By standing up to big business, we can rectify decades of poor urban planning, start tackling the housing crisis and transform this city for the better. 

Inner-city racecourses are a ridiculous waste of land, and Eagle Farm Racecourse is a massive 49-hectare, flood-free site, just 5km from the city and located directly beside Ascot train station. It's the ideal place for new medium-density publicly-owned housing.

The LNP Council and Labor State government have already allowed BRC to start developing luxury apartments along the edge of the site. But we think that if housing is to be built on racecourse land that's currently zoned “Sport and Recreation,” it should remain publicly owned. 

We don’t like it when governments impose their vision from the top down, so we're sharing this idea to see what residents think of it. Once we receive some initial feedback, we can develop it further in collaboration with the community (or scrap it altogether if no-one likes the idea).

Summary of the Greens plan

We propose that Brisbane City Council should acquire 40 hectares of the Eagle Farm Racecourse site, bringing it under public control to develop a lush, green, medium-density, mixed-use walkable neighbourhood. The council should work with State and Federal governments and local First Nations groups to ultimately restore land ownership to a non-profit First Nations-controlled community organisation. 

This image is a re-imagining of the space that the Eagle Farm racecourse currently occupies. It includes the public housing, new green space, community facilities, and new public transport connections that this article describes in detail.

A new medium-density walkable neighbourhood could provide: 

  • 10 hectares of five-storey mixed-use buildings spread around the site, with ground-floor shops, offices and services. This would create 4000 publicly-owned rent-capped homes for 10 000 residents, plus 75,000m2 of publicly owned ground floor services and commercial tenancies, with space for supermarkets, shops and services
  • More than half the site opened up as public green space including native forest/bushland, parks, sports fields, urban farms and food forests (25 hectares)
  • Public services and facilities including a new primary school, high school, major library, community centre and publicly-run bulk-billing medical clinic (5 hectares)
  • Preservation of existing heritage buildings and features for live music, hospitality and the arts, with the racetrack itself repurposed as a 2km tree-fringed walking and cycling circuit
  • Upgraded public transport with trains every 15 minutes and disability upgrades for Ascot Station, plus free, frequent buses connecting through the site to neighbouring suburbs like the high-density precinct at Northshore Hamilton.This is just an initial proposal, not a plan set in stone. We really want to know what you think about it. Once we get some feedback from the community, we'll refine this vision further. So please help us by filling out this survey.

Four thousand publicly-owned rent-capped homes

The Greens propose that approximately 10 hectares of the 40-hectare site be used to build a beautiful, well-designed and walkable medium-density neighbourhood of publicly-owned, rent-capped housing. 

This image shows the possible layout of new public housing and community facilities buildings on the Eagle Farm racecourse block of land.

We propose five-storey buildings, with ground-floor shops, offices and services. These homes would be built alongside the newly-upgraded Ascot train station and along a new free, high-frequency bus route that runs through the middle of the site. 

Our plan would create 4000 publicly-owned rent-capped homes for 10 000 residents, with 

  • 2000 homes designated as public housing and rented to people on lower incomes who are at higher risk of homelessness, and
  • 2000 homes available to any Brisbane resident and assigned by lottery, rented out at below-market rent.

Building 4000 publicly-owned homes would be the single biggest affordable housing project in Queensland’s history.

By comparison, the Queensland Labor government managed to build just 380 public homes in all of Queensland in 2021-22. In the eight years since 2016, the Queensland Labor government has added fewer than 2000 social housing homes. Meanwhile, Brisbane City Council has given up on directly building any public or affordable homes. The Greens want to turn this around.

A vibrant mix of low-income and middle-income families would share the new neighbourhood, all enjoying the benefits of direct access to high-quality public services. 

The homes would be developed by Council or other public agencies using public or private building contractors, and would remain in public ownership thereafter. This would allow Council and the State government to keep costs down by cutting out profit-hungry private developers. It would also ensure that apartments aren’t snapped up by greedy property investors and financial speculators. 

Developing public homes on public land also means private developers can't artificially restrict supply to keep rents and prices high. 

New schools and public services for the inner-north

The Greens propose that 5 hectares should be reserved for public services and facilities including:

  • A new primary school, with space for 700 students, along with land reserved for a second primary school if required. 
  • A new public high school, with space for up to 1600 students.
  • A major new Brisbane City Council library and community centre.
  • A new public swimming pool, run by Brisbane City Council and free to access. 
  • A bulk-billing, publicly-run health clinic with GPs, specialists, child health and allied health professionals. 

The new schools would accommodate new residents within the precinct and take pressure off surrounding public schools like Hamilton State School, Ascot State School and Aviation High. Public school families moving into Northshore Hamilton would no longer need to drive all the way to Aviation High in Hendra, helping reduce traffic congestion on local roads.

Good for the soul: Green spaces close to home

The Greens propose that 25 hectares of the acquired racetrack land should be opened up as public green space including: 

  • Parks, sports fields, urban farms and community food forests (15 hectares)
  • Native forest/bushland and more ‘wild’ spaces designed to create heavily-vegetated habitat for native fauna (10 hectares)

This image shows a possible layout of green spaces, sporting facilities, and re-wilded native forest across the Eagle Farm racecourse site.

While the parkland itself would include plenty of trees for both shade and food production, the bushland areas would be planted more densely as a multilayered native forest to provide habitat for native fauna, from lorikeets to lace monitors to bandicoots.

Inner-city residents don’t just need access to parks, but also to quiet, natural spaces that are good for the soul. Residents won’t have to drive out of town to go bushwalking. They’ll be able to do so within a few hundred metres of their front door.

15 hectares of dedicated parkland opens up a lot of options for different green space facilities...

Depending on what the community wants, there’s enough room for an athletics track, basketball courts, netball courts, and full-sized soccer, hockey, and cricket fields. There’s room for multiple dog off-leash areas, playgrounds, a skate park, a BMX track, urban farms, flower gardens, meandering creeks and ponds.

The parkland would be spread around the site, with smaller pocket parks, community gardens and playgrounds closer to the train station between the apartment buildings, and most of the larger fields located towards the centre of the site, further away from noise-sensitive residences. The 2km race track itself can be preserved as a tree-fringed walking and cycling circuit.

This is the large-scale active recreation green space that’s so badly needed in the inner-north to cater for future residents of Ascot, as well as the thousands of new apartment residents in Northshore Hamilton and the wider city. Improving local access to green space also helps reduce traffic congestion, as it means residents don’t have to drive halfway across the city just to find somewhere to go for a bushwalk or participate in organised sport.

A walkable, public transport-focused neighbourhood

The new neighbourhood would prioritise and rely on high-quality public and active transport including:

  • More frequent train services on the Doomben Line, with trains every 15 minutes, 7 days per week
  • A new free and frequent shuttle bus route running through the precinct, connecting the new shops, homes and public facilities to the train station and to neighbouring suburbs like the high-density precinct at Northshore Hamilton (possible route shown via dotted white line in accompanying image). 
  • Accessibility upgrades for Ascot train station for stair-free access. 
  • A new pedestrian and cycling overpass across the train line on the western side of the site, landing near Oriel Rd/Kitchener Rd (complimenting the existing overpass to the northwest corner of the site that already connects Gordon St to Kitchener Rd)
  • Safe, physically-separated bike/scooter lanes on major roads and paths in and around the new neighbourhood.

This image displays the possible layout and improvements to public transport that could accompany the new neighbourhood being built on the Eagle Farm racecourse site.

Improving train services will require infrastructure investment from the State Government, possibly including duplicating the rail line. This upgrade would help residents all over the inner-north. Currently, the Doomben line only has hourly services for most of the day, with no services at all on Sundays. 

With good access to public and active transport options, residents of the new precinct would be free to enjoy a low-cost, car-free lifestyle. They will have access to communal car-sharing schemes with designated car-share and disability parking spaces, but no off-street parking for privately-owned vehicles. By ensuring that new residents will not own private cars, the proposal minimises possible traffic impacts associated with the new dwellings.

With schools, medical facilities, shops, services, parks, sports fields, a library and a community centre within just a few hundred metres of their apartment, most residents would rarely need to drive anywhere. By creating largely car-free developments without private basement or above-ground car parking, we can also drastically reduce build costs, design complexity and building bulk, and ensure that new buildings have well-activated ground levels.

Preserving existing heritage buildings and new apartments 

This image shows the existing buildings on the Eagle Farm that will be preserved in the rebuild of the area.

The entire Eagle Farm Racecourse is 49 hectares, but Brisbane Racing Club (BRC) has already developed and sold off some apartments and a new shopping centre along the southern and eastern edges. The Greens propose leaving these new developments and the site’s older heritage buildings under private ownership (unless BRC and other owners wish to sell), acquiring only the remaining 40 hectares.

BRC would be free to retain and continue operating the heritage-listed buildings concentrated in the south-west corner of the site as hospitality and function venues (this would significantly reduce site acquisition costs). Alternatively, if the buildings were transferred to public ownership, they could be used for musical or artistic performance spaces, community facilities, museums, and viewing stands for matches on the adjacent new sports fields.

Restore Eagle Farm Racecourse to non-profit First Nations ownership

The Queensland Turf Club (the predecessor of Brisbane Racing Club) got the racecourse land for free from the State government in 1863 and have never paid for it since. The land was given on the condition that it must be used “for a racecourse and for no other purpose whatsoever." It was stolen from First Nations owners by the Queensland Government without any compensation ever being paid.

BRC have never fully “owned” the Eagle Farm Racecourse. The club and its predecessors have always needed approval from the relevant State Minister to sell, lease or develop the land. This condition has been carried over through various legislative changes, and remains to this day. While BRC is the registered owner of the land, the State Racing Minister retains a veto power over any development or sale at the site under State legislation and under a Deed of Grant covering the whole site. 

The site is zoned for “Sport and Recreation” under Brisbane City Council’s zoning rules, which gives BRC cheaper rates. In theory, those rules should prevent any private development, but the LNP Council and Labor State Racing Minister have already approved several luxury residential buildings along the southern edge of the site. 

The State Valuer-General has valued the site at $35 million, which the Greens believe is a reasonable starting point for negotiations given the significant restrictions on private development in legislation and zoning rules. 

The Greens believe it’s time to end the special deals for mega-rich private entities like the BRC. During his time as a City Councillor, Greens Mayoral candidate Jonathan Sriranganathan frequently spoke out in the Council Chambers about BRC’s 'parasitic' business model.

While the site and new public housing and facilities on it would initially become government-owned, the Greens’ medium-term plan would be to transfer freehold land ownership to First Nations communal ownership, via a non-profit community organisation controlled by traditional landowners. We will be approaching local First Nations families to discuss this proposal in more detail.

This is the image of the Eagle Farm racecourse site with all of the public housing, green spaces, community facilities, public transport, and existing buildings included.

Let us know your thoughts!

This proposal is intended to spark a conversation and get more people thinking about the future of the Eagle Farm Racecourse site. It's inevitable that long-term, this racetrack will be repurposed for something other than horse-racing, but if we as a community don't share our views and start articulating our own visions for the site, the decisions about exactly what the land is used for will be made for us behind closed doors.

So please give us your feedback via the survey at this link.