After a lot of consultation and hard work by dedicated volunteers from the West End Making History group, this is the final text and artwork of the six history signs that will soon be installed along Boundary St, West End.
This project was funded over two years with $9481 from my local community grants budget, but all the hard work of research, drafting and consultation with stakeholders was undertaken by local residents who volunteered their time and skills.
It's impossible to squeeze all of the amazing stories of the Kurilpa Peninsula down into half a dozen signs, so I think of these panels as links that point towards deeper histories, rather than as comprehensive standalone summaries.
Finding space along the footpaths without blocking pedestrians was pretty tricky. Three panels will be installed on each side of Boundary St, between the intersections of Russell St and Vulture St, opposite relevant local landmarks.
Consultation for this project involved a long list of stakeholders and local community groups, as well as public sessions in 2018 where people were able to view the draft text and images and suggest changes or ask questions. With close to 20 000 people living in the Kurilpa Peninsula, it was impossible for the West End Making History volunteers to consult with absolutely everyone, but I think they've done a pretty good job of capturing a wide range of stories.
There was a great deal of back-and-forth and long debates about exactly how to word things and what stories to include or leave out. I wish I had more time to be personally involved in drafting the text, but I ultimately left it up to the volunteer local residents. They've crammed a huge amount of detail into fairly limited space. Some people might argue that it would have been better from a design perspective to have less text, but there were already so many important stories getting left out.
The panels will be officially unveiled at 3pm on Saturday, 24 August at the corner of Russell St and Boundary St, followed by a presentation about the project at Avid Reader. More details at this link.
Council has released the final concept design for the expanded park at the corner of Carl St and Tottenham St in Woolloongabba.
After council recently acquired neighbouring properties, we've expanded this park by almost 1000m2. The next step will be to finalise the detailed design and start construction.
I'm reasonably pleased with this design, as it's a pretty close match to the community concept design that we developed through our participatory design process last year.
The project includes an all-ages play area for which the details are still being fleshed out. This will be less like a conventional playground, and more reminiscent of spaces like the Fremantle Parkour Park, encouraging adults and children to play, climb and exercise together.
The park also includes a small community fruit orchard and space for a future community garden (we've included a small storage shed as part of the toilet block design to support the community garden when it eventually gets up and running).
There's a windy secondary path through the park which will eventually be concreted, which improves disability access and provides a circuit connecting to the main path for younger kids to learn to ride their bikes on.
A fair chunk of the park is being maintained as a 'natural' green space with native trees and a denser understorey to provide habitat for native wildlife.
There's also a picnic shelter and BBQ near the toilet block, plus enough open space to kick a ball around or throw a frisbee.
The two main differences between this park layout and the design that came out of our community workshop are:
1. We'd also suggested a covered stage area near the toilet block to support community events and festivals. The layout has retained enough open space so that we can add in the stage later if we want to.
2. We asked council to include a nature play area immediately to the west of the all-ages active play area. One of the main reasons this wasn't formally included on the design is that council's 'nature play' design standards are quite restrictive due to health and safety concerns.
However there's still plenty of space available, and I'm hopeful that as the local community takes more ownership of the park, we'll be able to create an informal nature play space between the community orchard and the all-ages play area. Kids need to be able to get their hands dirty and climb trees from time to time, and I think there will be plenty of opportunities for that in this park.
We still need to decide on a name for the park, so suggestions are welcome.
Council's park design team will be hanging out in the park tomorrow morning (27 July) from 9am to 11am to share the design and answer questions from locals. Stop by if you'd like to ask any questions...
In February and March 2019, we held a public meeting followed by a community design workshop to facilitate local residents to decide what improvements they wanted to the unnamed park at the southern end of Queen Bess St.
The meetings were widely advertised via printed letters to the local area, as well as via social media and email newsletters. The meetings were attended primarily by residents of Queen Bess St, Church Avenue, Arrow St and the surrounding neighbourhood. We also incorporated feedback from residents who couldn't attend the meetings in person.
We've produced a rough mud map of where additional features might be located in the park, which we will present to council's parks team to investigate, formalise and implement. Some features, such as improved lighting or installation of rubbish bins - will need further detailed discussion with the relevant teams in council. Down the track, further improvements such as flower gardens or a community garden maintained by residents can be explored once the physical equipment has been installed.
The features we will ask council to install include play/exercise equipment, new trees, a water tap and a large picnic shelter (6x3m), with 2 picnic tables that can comfortably seat 8 people each (see pink area on map) at the south-eastern end of the park - this is at the highest point of the slope. The position of the shelter should maintain a clear view towards the city.
On the eastern side between the path and the fence, the residents (including immediate neighbours) support the installation of play equipment for children, as well as monkey bars that can be used as exercise equipment for adults. This equipment is on the eastern side of the path to avoid impacting the open grassy space, but should still be set back from the property boundary.
On the northwest corner, residents supported planting a larger tree species that will eventually provide more shade, with extra seating underneath. We agreed that the positioning of additional trees should leave a large area in the middle of the park for ball games. We will also ask council to explore planting more trees or climbing vines along the motorway sound barrier, but council arborists have expressed concern that the drainage channel and the barrier foundations might make it difficult to find space for tree roots, and that the sun-exposed aspect of the wall makes it less likely that climbing plants or screening vegetation will survive the hot summers.
Residents have also requested for the metallic benches to be replaced with timber ones as the metal ones get too hot to sit on.
Below are examples of the type of play equipment that could be installed:
We had a good discussion about the merits of some kind of public art installation along the wall to the motorway. After a few years, part of this wall will hopefully be screened by trees, but some of the wall will still be visible, particularly next to the shelter where there won't be room for screening vegetation. Although there were a couple of vocal objections, the vast majority of attendees who participated in the workshop discussions were supportive of some kind of art along the wall.
There are many kinds of public murals, ranging from community projects where local residents get together to paint a single large artwork or a series of smaller pieces, to commissioned projects where one or more professional mural artists is paid to paint the wall. It's also possible to have rotating spaces where a local artist is invited to paint a new mural every six or twelves months. I'm keen to have further discussions among residents about what kind of artwork would best suit this particular park, and will obviously engage in further discussions before any decisions are made.
A few residents also asked about the feasibility of installing an electric BBQ. Unfortunately, public BBQs are very very expensive, not only because they are built to be virtually bomb-proof, but because of the need to dig long trenches to connect high-voltage mains power. After I explained the high costs involved, workshop participants agreed that it would be simpler to just bring their own BBQs or borrow a BBQ from my office when holding community events in the park.
The process going forward
We have provided all of the above information (with a bit more detail) to council's parks team, and will ask them to provide quotes for the installation of the equipment. When the quotes come back, I will then sign off on allocating funding towards this project from my local park upgrades budget. Council will then either complete the work in-house, or go out to tender for a private company to do the work. It will be a slow process, so I don't expect to see the work finished in a hurry, but I'll obviously keep you updated as the project progresses.
When we look at the dumpster-fire that is mainstream Australian politics, it’s obvious that the system itself is broken, regardless of who happens to be on top of the shit-heap at any given point in time.
As a politician who’s still fairly new to this strange world, I don’t intend to spend the next few decades of my life tweaking it around the edges. Even big, much-needed reforms, such as banning corporations from donating to political parties, are ultimately still just tweaks – new tyres for an old truck that still guzzles diesel and belches poisonous fumes.
Right now, many of us are putting a lot of time and energy into electoral politics. We’re not doing this simply to win power within the current system, but to transform it for the better.Read more
I originally wrote this article for the Courier Mail's 'Future Brisbane' series in September, 2017, but since they put it behind a paywall, I thought I'd repost it here so everyone can read it.
BRISBANE residents have lost control over how our neighbourhoods evolve and develop. Planning decisions about where to increase density are driven primarily by corporate profit and short-term vote-chasing, rather than long-term social needs and sustainable planning principles.
On current trajectories, future Brisbane may well be a divided city. The wealthy will enjoy medium-density, mixed-use neighbourhoods in close proximity to public transport, job opportunities and good schools, while the poor are banished to sprawling outer-suburban fringes.
Thousands of middle-class residents will be crowded into poorly-designed highrises with very low ratios of green space per person, working 60-hour weeks just to cover the mortgage.
Rising sea levels and heavier rains will flood low-lying neighbourhoods more often, and skyrocketing inner-city land values will mean governments never have enough money to acquire land for new parks, drainage infrastructure and community facilities.
The word “affordability” has been largely absent from Future Brisbane conversations. But neglecting to discuss the issue doesn’t change the fact that right now, tens of thousands of Brisbanites are homeless. Public housing waiting lists are so long that residents are advised not to bother applying unless they qualify as “very high needs”.
Suburbs like West End and New Farm, which once derived their special character in part from the fact that rich and poor residents lived in close proximity, are becoming glossy brochure parodies of their former selves.
Increasing the supply of apartments hasn’t substantially improved affordability for first-homebuyers, because wealthy investors consistently outbid them.
In suburbs like South Brisbane, we’re now seeing some investors choose to leave apartments empty rather than rent them out cheaply. Others are becoming hotel managers via websites like AirBnB, prioritising short-term visitors over longer-term local tenants.
In short, the private market is failing to deliver genuinely affordable housing.
But there are practical alternatives. Many European cities have strengthened renters’ rights and invested heavily in public housing to preserve the vibrant inner-city creative neighbourhoods that attract tourists and improve urban amenity.
Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government can and should work together to fund and construct high-quality medium-density public housing in close proximity to public transport and job opportunities. And I don’t just mean 140 dwellings per year like the State Government is currently proposing for Brisbane. I mean thousands of dwellings.
Vulnerable residents can be dispersed throughout the city rather than concentrated together, improving social mobility and strengthening relationships between different demographics and sub-cultures. Government-led housing projects can include sustainable design features like greywater recycling and onsite composting that would rarely be delivered by the private sector. Yes, it will be expensive. But it’s still cheaper than leaving people homeless.
Realistically, a drastic increase in the construction of public housing is the only way we’ll be able to address the housing affordability crisis without significantly lowering property values of existing owner-occupiers.
But the journey towards a fairer, more sustainable city need not stop there. With more investment into pollution control and revegetation, many of the creeks feeding into the Brisbane River can be restored so that once again they are clean enough to swim in (a few nets to keep out bullsharks wouldn’t go astray).
A new Aboriginal cultural centre in Musgrave Park would show genuine respect for the rightful owners of this city.
Inner-city golf courses can be repurposed as fruit orchards, sports fields, nature reserves, and even tiny house eco-villages.
Roads will be narrowed, with general traffic lanes reclaimed for bus lanes, separated bike lanes and broader tree-lined footpaths.
Repair cafes, tool libraries and community composting programs will help us shift towards a less wasteful, less consumerist culture.
Sewerage will become a resource – a source of both bioenergy and fertiliser.
Suburbia’s sprawling backyards will be filled with either granny flats or veggie patches, and community gardens will proliferate in under-used parklands and road verges.
Street artists will replace grey concrete with vivid murals that inspire and engage both locals and visitors.
And of course, we will abandon cringeworthy tags like ‘Brisvegas’ and ‘new world city’ in favour of a civic identity that respects and learns from its history, and embraces progress without becoming a soulless, gaudy, cookie-cutter copy of every other big new city around the world.
But perhaps most importantly, a future Brisbane can and should give ordinary residents more input and control over urban planning.
To meet tomorrow’s challenges, everyone will need to be given a say, not just at election time, but through ongoing participatory democratic processes which ensure that the big decisions that shape our city benefit all of us, and not just a privileged minority.
In response to residents' requests, we're considering establishing a community garden on the western side of the Kangaroo Point Peninsula.
The best available location is at the northern end of James Warner Park. We'd like to know what you think of this proposal, and also whether you're interested in getting involved in the garden.
While many of us would like to see council buy more land to use for a garden, that's not likely to happen anytime soon under the current LNP administration, so it would have to be established in an existing council park.
The garden will only go ahead if there is sufficient volunteer interest to ensure it is well-maintained on an ongoing basis. No trees will be removed to make room for the garden.
The northern end of James Warner Park (immediately to the south of the carpark) is considered the most suitable location, as it gets good sunlight, already has a water tap, and is close to an existing community facility (the jazz club).
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The State Government is just beginning its next round of ‘consultation’ regarding the Cross River Rail project, with a particular focus on future options for the new station in Woolloongabba, immediately to the west of the Gabba Stadium. If you haven’t heard much about the Cross River Rail project before, you can find more info at this link.
The new Gabba train station and the redevelopment of the government-owned GoPrint site is a massive opportunity to transform the central part of Woolloongabba for the better. As I’ve outlined in previous statements, there’s a strong local need for more public green space, more community facilities and more public housing. Unfortunately, there’s not much sign of that in the initial documentation and concept designs released by the government.
The government’s initial concept design:
Sadly, the State Government is even less consultative than Brisbane City Council when it comes to planning big new development projects. They tend to survey a small proportion of people to get a rough (often unbalanced) idea of what the public wants, but will generally only pay lip service to public opinion and instead defer to the priorities identified by the public service and the private sector. In the case of the Gabba station, the main question the government is interested in hearing from the public about is what should happen above ground. The more input people provide via the government’s various engagement channels (such as consultation stalls at community events, or by emailing in feedback to email@example.com) the better chance residents will have of influencing the final outcome.
Other stakeholders, such as the Gabba Stadium and major commercial interests, will be advancing their own agendas via detailed submissions and private meetings, so it’s important that residents and local businesses also speak up as loudly and as often as possible, not only by engaging with the proscribed consultation channels, but by directly contacting your State MP, Jackie Trad, at South.Brisbane@parliament.qld.gov.au.
We don’t know exactly how much money the government is planning to spend redeveloping the land above the Gabba Station and the surrounding public realm. We think it’ll be around 100 million dollars . This will largely depend on how much political pressure residents apply. We do know that generally speaking, the State Government is pretty cash-strapped, in large part because they waste so much of their money on supporting unethical industries (e.g. coal mining, horse racing) and flawed infrastructure projects (e.g. building expensive new prisons). This means the government will be considering options to sell development rights to private developers, and won’t be able to deliver everything the community needs and wants. So residents will basically have two things to push for:
- As much public funding as possible, to ensure the whole site isn’t just sold off to private developers
- Ensuring that the elements that residents consider priorities are at the top of the list to receive whatever funding IS available
Site Development Options and Constraints
There are some crucial traffic factors influencing how the GoPrint site can be redeveloped. The underground station will make it very difficult to provide much underground carparking. And the busway station along the southern edge of the site will make it almost impossible to have cars exiting directly onto Stanley Street. The land is bounded on all sides by very busy main roads which are heavily congested. This road network simply doesn’t have capacity to handle hundreds of additional car movements that might be associated with a new development. It would be impractical to include much carparking on this site, as this would encourage more people to drive to this location, clogging already-congested roads.
Happily, this location will have some of the public transport coverage in the entire country, with both a train station and busway station. Key destinations like South Bank, Kangaroo Point cliffs, the hospital precinct and even the local primary school are all within easy walking distance, and the Woolloongabba Bikeway project running along Stanley Street will provide great cycling connectivity to major universities and high schools. So this site is the perfect candidate to be redeveloped as a car-free development. With the exception of a small amount of disability accessible parking, carshare parking, loading zones and service vehicle parking, this should be a completely car-free development. People who live or work on the site should be expected to travel by active transport or public transport, rather than driving.
The complicated traffic environment will also tend to increase construction costs and logistical challenges. Even smaller highrise development sites can have dozens of truck movements a day, so to redevelop this whole site in one hit would likely cause huge local traffic disruption, suggesting that construction should instead occur in stages.
A car-free development would suggest that certain kinds of land use options (such as luxury highrise residential) are less likely to be commercially viable for private developers. Mega-rich residents tend to want space for their own cars even when there are good public transport and carshare alternatives available.
On the flipside, building lots of public housing for low-income residents right on top of a train station and busway makes a huge amount of sense. It’s much better to provide affordable housing for low-income residents in the inner-city, close to public transport, than forcing them to the outer suburbs where land is cheaper but they have to spend much more of their income on car ownership and petrol costs.
Structural engineers have also suggested that building extremely tall buildings will be more complicated than normal, as the deep footings needed for skyscrapers might be harder to construct due to the underground station. This doesn’t mean very tall highrises are impossible, but simply that there might be additional challenges and costs.
Public Green Space
Green space is one of the biggest needs in central Woolloongabba. The immediate surrounding neighbourhood is already very under-served by public parks, and is experiencing even more rapid densification with multiple residential and commercial developments under construction. Public green space is especially important for residents in high-density housing who don’t have access to private backyards or large internal entertaining areas. Brisbane City Council’s ‘Desired Standards of Service’ for parks identifies that within an immediate local area, there should ideally be 0.8 hectares of general recreation green space per 1000 residents and 0.6 hectares of more natural vegetated green space. Woolloongabba currently falls a long way short of these targets, so even if no new residential development was included on the Gabba station site, it would still be necessary for the State Government to include a large public park to cater for all the residents in nearby apartments. Adding more residential apartments to the site will necessitate also providing more green space to cater for them.
There’s already almost 8000m2 of green space to the west of the GoPrint site around the Motorway (between Allen St and Leopard St) which would be extremely expensive and difficult to construct buildings on. Spending a bit of money to improve pedestrian access to these green pockets, shield them acoustically from the noisy roads, and vegetate them more heavily as a dense bush reserve with a network of short walking tracks might be one way to provide additional useable natural green space for current and future residents of the precinct. But whether that happens or not, it seems crucial to me that at least one quarter of the GoPrint site (approximately 1 hectare) needs to be redesigned as public parkland for the benefit of residents and workers in the area. (For comparison, the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, which is quite close to the site of the Albert St Cross River Rail Station, is about 18 hectares) You can’t cram people into highrise apartments and office blocks without also giving them somewhere to stretch their legs or sit under a tree.
With many more residents living in highrise apartments, there’s a growing need in Woolloongabba for a range of community facilities and services – public libraries, tool libraries, bookable meeting spaces, halls and venues for parties and community concerts, crisis support services for vulnerable people, workshop spaces, and rehearsal rooms and studios for artists and musicians. So it will be important for the land above the Gabba station to include a large, general-purpose community centre which can fill many of these roles, acting as an anchor for the neighbourhood and helping the precinct flourish.
Right now, there are lots of empty shopfronts around Woolloongabba, so simply building more ground-level retail and commercial spaces in the hopes of ‘activating’ the precinct might not be the best strategy. Instead of cramming heaps of restaurants and shops onto the GoPrint site, it might make sense to have only a modest amount of ground-level commercial uses, and focus on improving connections through to the businesses on Stanley St and Logan Rd. This would free up more space for the kinds of community uses mentioned above, creating a more diverse precinct that doesn’t just feel like all the other restaurant and café destinations around Brisbane.
In recent media releases, the State Government has floated the concept of a big pedestrian overpass linking the new train station to the Gabba Stadium. I do see the logic of such a proposal. And if the government had a blank cheque for this project and was willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the above-ground embellishments, maybe it would be worthwhile. But before we get all excited about the benefits of a pedestrian overpass at this location, let’s take a step back and consider our priorities.
Councils and governments resort to pedestrian overpasses because they don’t want to slow down cars. It would be cheaper and easier to simply change pedestrian crossing signal times to give greater priority to pedestrians to cross at ground-level, but apparently cars are more important.
A pedestrian overpass of the kind shown in this artist’s impression would likely cost tens of millions of dollars, with added costs associated with the complexities of constructing it over a very busy road corridor. It has to be tall enough to allow large trucks to pass underneath, it has to be strong enough to carry high volumes of pedestrians and to resist extreme weather events, and it will probably require elevators and long ramps in order to meet accessibility standards. It’s also worth noting that the big beautiful trees currently growing next to the stadium in Woolloongabba Place Park would have to be removed to make way for the tiered seating showed in the image.
But apart from major event days, an overpass to the stadium might not get much use. Activating the proposed tiered seating and green space next to the stadium is going to be difficult with the noise and air pollution from Ipswich Rd/Main St. Very few people are going to want to hang out on those steps to watch trucks roar past.
Have a look at the large public space in front of Lang Park stadium at Milton. It too has a pedestrian overpass connecting to the train station, and is much better shielded from passing traffic, but most days of the year, it’s just a big empty lonely patch of concrete, because very few people want to visit the stadium precinct except on game days. The Gabba is a slightly different story to Milton as it has a larger local population and more local businesses, but it’s worth being a bit sceptical of these shiny-looking artist impressions.
The central part of Woolloongabba struggles due to the poor pedestrian connectivity across different sides of the Ipswich Rd-Stanley St intersection. Shops along the southern side of Stanley St struggle to attract customers, and the cul de sac of Logan Rd (the old antiques precinct) also feels a bit dead at times.
When we think about connectivity priorities to the new station on the GoPrint site, on most days of the year, there will be many more people seeking to travel in other directions for work and leisure, but comparatively few heading to/from the stadium.
From the future Gabba station, lots of people will be heading northwest to get to the Kangaroo Point cliffs and apartment blocks, north across Vulture St towards residential and commercial properties, northeast towards residences and businesses, southwest towards the Mater Hospital precinct, south across Stanley St to more high-density apartments and office blocks, and southeast to the Logan Road businesses and apartments. Comparatively few people will be heading east across Main St to and from the stadium on an average work day.
A pedestrian overpass directly to the stadium is not likely to give much of a boost to businesses along Stanley Street or help activate the wider Gabba precinct.
So it’s worth querying whether spending millions of dollars on an overpass to connect to a stadium is the best use of money. An alternative approach would be to create scramble crossings at the Ipswich Rd-Stanley St and Vulture St-Main St intersections to improve pedestrian connectivity to the train station, and on major event days, simply close Main St to through-traffic, diverting vehicles via Wellington Road.
Attendance at major sporting events is dropping consistently, and shows no sign of increasing again in the near future. Even if the Gabba Stadium is used more frequently for other big events like live music concerts, I’m not sure that the very high cost of building an overpass is the best use of money.
I’m open to being convinced otherwise on this, but I think I’d rather see the money spent on more public housing.
Selling off Development Rights to the Private Sector?
My general view is that in inner-city areas, where land values are likely to continue increasing long-term, it is short-sighted to hand government-owned land to the private sector, whether on a 99-year lease, as a permanent sale, or in exchange for a developer paying for other works (e.g. a pedestrian overpass). It’s rare for the State Government to have control over such a large inner-city site (particularly one that’s immediately above a train station), so we should not be too hasty in jumping to conclusions and bringing in private developers to build office towers and residential highrises.
Rather than selling off development rights, the government should retain ownership of all future residential and commercial properties built on the site. Well-located commercial properties on a major train station will likely generate significant rental revenue for the government over the long-term. While some residential homes will be rented out at low rents to the most vulnerable members of society, other apartments could remain under public ownership while being rented out at market rates to key workers. There’s a strong and growing need for more public housing in Brisbane’s inner south side, and it makes sense to co-locate public housing with a commercial hub where those low-income residents will have better access to job opportunities and transport services.
If the government feels it does not have enough money available to completely redevelop the whole site immediately, it would be better to stage the project, leaving some parts of the site undeveloped as open green space for a few years until money is available to build more public housing. Retaining ownership of the land and developing it gradually using public funds is preferable to selling it off to the private sector, particularly if the land can be put to other valuable short-term uses in the interim.
Broadway Hotel and Urban Realm Improvements
The Broadway Hotel site, at the intersection of Logan Rd and Wellington Rd, is the southeast gateway to central Woolloongabba. It’s also a key linkage between the massive South City Square mega-development and the Gabba stadium and future Gabba station.
The fire-damaged State Heritage-listed hotel takes up around 900m2 of the 2300m2 site. As discussed elsewhere on my website, due to the requirement to rebuild and restore the hotel, the local oversupply of commercial spaces and the shaky and uncertain inner-city apartment market, it is extremely unlikely that any profit-driven private developer would consider it commercially viable to redevelop the site anytime soon. The hotel has already been sitting vacant since 2010. If this building remains in private ownership, the most likely outcome is that it will sit empty and abandoned for several years to come. This is a poor outcome for the community and a bad look for the neighbourhood.
However, I believe there’s a strong case that as part of the redevelopment of the GoPrint site, the State Government could take a small proportion of the total budget and spend it on urban realm upgrades along key corridors that link to the station.
The Broadway Hotel site is worth somewhere between $3 to $5 million in its current state, which is a comparatively small figure in the context of the Cross River Rail project’s $5.4 billion total budget. As part of the station development, the State Government should be improving footpaths, planting street trees and making other targeted improvements to the public realm (such as better lighting, seating and public art).
The pedestrian routes that need the greatest attention are Ipswich Rd, Leopard St, Stanley and of course Logan Rd. By acquiring this site on Logan Rd, and combining it with the adjoining 800m2 triangle of council-owned land (currently used as a carpark), BCC and the State Government could create a new community centre next to a small public park, which would serve as a significant landmark and point of interest along this corridor. Developing the Broadway Hotel as a civic space halfway between Gabba Station and South City Square would help activate this whole corridor, supporting this stretch of Logan Rd to transform into a vibrant, cosmopolitan mixed neighbourhood, rather than a series of carparks and underutilised warehouses.
If you would like to see the government allocate resources towards acquiring and restoring the Broadway Hotel, please mention this in any opportunities you have to give feedback on the Cross River Rail project.
A possible short-term use of undeveloped land
If, as mentioned above, the State Government does not have the funds immediately available to develop higher-density residential or commercial buildings on some parts of the site, there are a range of options available to make use of this land in the short-term.
One common challenge of new mega-developments is the fostering of connected communities and organic local character. Too often, mega-developments in Brisbane lack soul, and feel just like all the other big shiny new development projects in cities around the world, without interesting or distinctive features. Ground-level retail tenancies often sit empty for several months, and new businesses struggle to attract tenants until there are enough new residents and workers nearby.
One strategy to create an instant community, bring life to an area, and make productive use of inner-city land until it’s redeveloped would be to temporarily designate a small proportion of the GoPrint site as a caravan park, with the intention of creating a neighbourhood of tiny houses and portable dwellings. Small sites could be leased out to long-term tenants for a fixed period of 5 years, or on a short-term basis to tourists in caravans and campervans who are travelling through the city.
Tiny homes can be designed on trailers as off-grid dwellings, with solar panels, greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting to reduce the need for expensive mains infrastructure. These homes can either have off-grid compost toilets, or share access to a common toilet and laundry block as is common with other caravan parks in Brisbane. This kind of short-term, temporary activation of a site can bring more people into an area, offering the necessary population base to bring life to local community facilities and customers to local small businesses.
Another obvious alternative use of the land would be to leave a significant proportion of the site available as publicly accessible open green space until the State Government has the funds to develop it. In the long-term, both the State Government and BCC are looking at acquiring large industrial sites to provide more green space for residents of the inner-south side, but until that happens, providing a significantly larger temporary public park on the GoPrint site would make a lot of sense.
There are many potential temporary uses for land on the GoPrint site and I think local residents should be given more input into what happens here over the next few years. What’s important though, is that the State Government doesn’t just go for the short-sighted option of selling off development rights to the private sector. It’s better to hold on to land and develop it later for the public benefit, rather than selling it off to the private sector and losing future flexibility.
There’s so much to think about with this project, but what’s crucial is that residents speak up loudly and clearly at every opportunity. The government’s instinct will be to ignore or pay lip service to residents and local businesses, but we mustn’t allow them to do this.
As mentioned above, if you’d like to provide feedback on the redevelopment of the Gabba station and the surrounding neighbourhood, please send an email to South.Brisbane@parliament.qld.gov.au and firstname.lastname@example.org (and CC in my office at email@example.com because I’d like to know what you think too).
Council has finally released proposed plans for the partial redesign of Davies Park…
Here’s what they’re spending money on:
- Roughly $200 000 on a large new toilet block (six cubicles including 2 wheelchair accessible)
- About $400 000 fixing up drainage issues and patching the internal roadway
- About $100 000 converting the beach volleyball courts into a flat gravel area, which will be fenced off from the public and will stay within the Souths Leagues Club lease boundaries
- About $1.3 million removing and reshaping some of the mounds around the edge of the rugby field, planting new trees and opening up new useable green space (particularly the new circular lawn at the Jane St/Montague Rd end)
- I’ve also allocated $150 000 from my local park upgrades budget to partly cover costs of a small skate facility on the Montague Rd side (this is marked as the ‘multiuse games area’ on their diagram) and I’m trying to convince the council to chip in the rest.
(Most of these figures are a bit rough because the council hasn’t publicly released its exact cost estimates and hasn’t yet gone out to tender to get detailed quotes)
The council conducted a small amount of ‘consultation’ into public priorities for upgrading the park earlier this year, you can read the comments I made about the proposed plans on my Facebook page earlier this year, the draft design concept plans that were released in July 2018 can be viewed here. They received strong feedback that residents wanted more open green space and not too much concrete, which is why they have prioritised reshaping the mounds along the Montague Rd side to free up more land. Relocating the mounds is so expensive because they are full of old contaminated material (various heavy metals, old rubbish, perhaps even rusted car bodies from when Davies Park was used as a speedcar track in the 1930s).
My impression is that the forms of outreach and consultation used by the council may have tended to more heavily favour the views of older residents. From what I’ve heard in the local area, there’s strong demand from a lot of people for both a multiuse court and a small skate facility in Davies Park, but council is saying that this did not come through very strongly in their ‘official’ consultation.
Jane Street Community Garden
Happily, it looks like the council has at least heard the community's strong feedback regarding the earlier proposal to relocate Jane St Community Garden. Neither I nor the majority of local residents wanted the garden moved, and it seems like the council has backed away from that plan. I'm very pleased with this small positive outcome and I will continue to support and be guided by the wishes of the Jane St Community Garden volunteers.
In general, I’m a bit disappointed with what the council is proposing. Fixing the drainage and relocating the mounds are important first steps, and it would be possible to then put a lot more money into the park to deliver more features. But unlike other major park projects (e.g. Hanlon Park), the LNP have not clearly committed to any more funding in future years beyond the $2 million announced so far. So my big concern is that this is all they’ll do.
Crucially, they have not committed to funding/installing:
- lighting through the park
- new pathways (e.g. a circular pathway around the proposed open lawn at the eastern corner)
- a full-sized multiuse court for basketball, netball, indoor soccer etc (as was floated in their initial consultation)
- Any kind of nature play/playground area
- BBQs or picnic seating
- New stairs/ramp leading up the slope from Riverside Drive to connect to the ring road
- Partial funding for the skate park
They have also ruled out including a shower facility in the toilet block, despite my repeated requests.
As a result of outsourcing to the private sector, the work council is proposing for Davies Park is costing way more than I consider reasonable. But if indeed those are the unavoidable costs, the council is simply going to have to commit more money to this park so we can get some serious improvements.
I’m particularly perplexed by the council’s proposal to convert the volleyball courts to a flat gravel surface on the vague promise that they will install new basketball courts/multiuse courts there in the future. Unless the LNP is willing to publicly commit to funding a multicourt here in the next financial year, we can have no faith or certainty that it will happen.
As a result, all that is going to happen for certain is that the BCC is spending up to $100 000 converting the beach volleyball courts to a flat gravel surface, which will most likely be used by Souths Leagues Club for parking. Rather than improving sport and recreation facilities in Davies Park, council’s current proposals are actually reducing them.
I’ve made an offer to BCC to put more funding from my local park upgrades budget into a small skate park on the Montague Rd side of the park if they’ll chip in some of the money, but I haven’t heard back yet. (In case you’re wondering, I can’t use my park upgrades budget for work on the beach volleyball court area, because that area falls within the boundary of the Souths Rugby League Club)
If you agree that council should not be spending $100 000 converting the beach volleyball courts to a fenced gravel carpark, and would prefer to see other kinds of park upgrades, can you please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and David.McLachlan@brisbane.qld.gov.au and CC my office at email@example.com. Tell them you support planting more trees and creating more green space, but that we also need a multicourt, a skate facility and perhaps some kind of play area for smaller kids.
If this is all the work they intend to do for the 2018/19 financial year, we need to demand a clear public commitment from the Lord Mayor that they will spend more money on this park in the following financial year so we actually get some new facilities.
Since becoming a councillor in March 2016, I have advocated consistently for greater transparency and accountability, including calling for video recordings of Brisbane City Council meetings to be published online.
Throughout the first two years of my time as councillor, the Liberals repeatedly rejected my calls, but finally, on 20 November this year, I brought a notified motion to the chamber on this issue, and after extended debate, it eventually passed. The one downside was that the Liberals (who have a strong majority on BCC) did not support filming of council committee meetings, so although meetings of full council will soon be streamed online, the meetings of the various committees (i.e. Public Transport, Infrastructure, Lifestyle and Community Services etc) will not.
I'm hopeful that video streaming of meetings will give residents a greater understanding of the inner workings of council, and will also highlight the fact that the full meetings of council are essentially rubber-stamping exercises, while the big decisions affecting the future of our city continue to be made behind closed doors by the Lord Mayor's inner circle.
Below you can read the text of my opening remarks in the debate about video recording. I will continue to push for video recording of council committee meetings, and for a range of other reforms to improve transparency and accountability within local government.
I move that:
1. A video and audio recording will be made of each full meeting of Brisbane City Council and made available to the general public, free of charge, via the Brisbane City Council website.
2. A video and audio recording will be made of each meeting of each of Brisbane City Council’s committees, and made available to the general public, free of charge, via the Brisbane City Council website.
Transparency is a crucial element of any properly functioning representative democracy. If voters don’t know what decisions their elected representatives are making, or how we conduct ourselves in policy debates and discussions, voters are unable to make an informed decision about who should represent them.
Without sufficient transparency, it’s almost impossible to hold elected representatives to account for their words and actions.
There’s a good reason that we publish a full transcript of each meeting of Brisbane City Council. We want the people of Brisbane to know what we are saying – what issues we are choosing to spend our time debating, and what issues we are ignoring. We want residents to know the factors and values that influence how we vote on the floor of council.
Another crucial element of our democracy is civic engagement – public participation. Residents need to be in active dialogue with their representatives – not just once every four years at election time, but on a regular basis, letting their councillors know their needs and views, and providing feedback to us regarding how we spend our time and energy.
It’s very difficult to engage with a long written transcript of a meeting. The official transcript of our last meeting on 13 November is 95 pages long. But the written transcript doesn’t paint a full picture of what’s happening in the chambers.
It doesn’t capture facial expressions or tone of voice. It doesn’t show whether other councillors are listening attentively, or falling asleep, or even reading a book for leisure, as a certain chair of city planning once did during a meeting. The transcript doesn’t show when councillors leave and enter the chamber.
Right now, one councillor can stand up and claim that another councillor isn’t present in the room, and there isn’t even an official record within the minutes to validate or crosscheck that statement. I think a lot of residents would be surprised to see how often and for how long the Lord Mayor is absent from these debates.
Residents would also be very surprised to see the way some councillors conduct themselves in this chamber, calling out, interrupting, making rude remarks, shouting abuse. I believe that if people saw the way some of their reps behaved during council debates, they’d probably think twice about voting for them. I would like to think that the added scrutiny of video recordings would discourage some councillors in this place from acting like arses towards one another. But maybe that’s a little naïve.
In an age of social media and the proliferation of video content, video recordings of speeches and debates are a much-needed tool in engaging residents and highlighting issues of public concern. The LNP councillors produce videos about all sorts of things. So why don’t they allow publication of videos of council debates?
Here in Brisbane in 2018, residents continually express to me their concerns that Brisbane City Council is not sufficiently transparent or accountable – that big decisions are being made behind closed doors without proper public engagement or scrutiny.
Residents are frustrated. Often they don’t hear about important decisions until long after they’re made, and they rarely understand the reasoning behind those decisions. Most Brisbanites don’t even know the name of their city councillor, let alone what they’re saying and doing here in council meetings.
The problem is even worse within the meetings of the various council committees. Although these committees are theoretically open to the public, a full transcript of the discussions in these meetings is not made available online, and the various remarks made by councillors during general business are not even recorded unless a local journalist happens to be in that particular committee meeting and decides to write a story about it.
Full council meetings and committee meetings currently take place during the day on Tuesdays. The vast majority of residents who work or study on weekdays simply don’t have an opportunity to watch their councillors in action in these meetings. Residents are unable to observe how effectively their representatives are advocating and how we engage with other councillors.
And as mentioned earlier, the written transcripts are a poor and incomplete record of what really goes on in these meetings. The written transcript doesn’t always tell the full story.
Publishing video recordings of council meetings online would cost very little. We already have microphones and audio recording systems set up in the main council chamber. Any objections to this proposal based on the potential cost are intellectually dishonest. To claim that council can’t afford to record meetings would be a blatant lie.
The only other argument the LNP have offered against publishing video recordings is that an individual councillor might say something defamatory in a council meeting, and publishing a video including that defamatory statement online might expose BCC to legal liability. This is a very weak excuse considering that council meetings themselves are already publicly accessible.
Under Australian law, one of the well-established defences to a defamation action is that the content being published is a fair report of proceedings of public concern. The content of a public council meeting is quite clearly a matter of public concern. As such, even if BCC did publish a video of a council meeting where a councillor said something defamatory, BCC would be protected from any legal responsibility. There are a number of other public interest defences which would also prevent legal liability attaching to council.
However, if there are indeed genuine legal concerns – which I doubt – a simple solution would be to remove any footage of defamatory statements from the video record before it’s made available online. I understand this is the response council already uses for the written transcripts of the full council meetings.
Ultimately, the public interest in knowing what goes in council meetings overrides any concern about the republication of defamatory statements.
It’s important to note that other councils around Queensland have already moved towards publishing video records of council meetings.
Gold Coast City Council livestreams video and audio of all full council meetings, and leaves these videos freely available online to the general public. Gold Coast has been livestreaming council meetings since at least January 2012, and you can go onto their council website and watch all of these old meetings. In this respect, Gold Coast City Council is far more transparent than Brisbane City Council.
Redland City Council also records and livestreams council meetings. It’s interesting to compare the two councils and see that the Redlands councillors start their meeting with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners, while Gold Coast seems to start with a prayer and a somewhat cringeworthy rendition of the national anthem. Each to their own I guess.
Ipswich City Council also livestreams its meetings, and you can find the videos of all past meetings on its Youtube channel. Even after the councillors were all sacked, the interim management committee has continued to livestream and publish videos of each of its council meetings.
Even smaller councils like Fraser Coast Regional Council, which covers a population of roughly 100 000 residents, livestreams and publishes videos of council meetings. If Fraser Coast can do it, why can’t Brisbane?
Across the border, it was announced just last week that webcasting of council meetings is becoming a mandatory requirement for all local councils in New South Wales. Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton told media on Friday, 16 November, that "If it's good enough for federal and state MPs to go live to the nation, then there is no reason why local councillors should be exempt.”
We’re now almost 20 years into the 21st century. This change is long overdue, and Brisbane City Council urgently needs to get with the times. For a city that claims to be embracing digital technology and innovation, it’s pretty embarrassing that they’re apparently still so afraid of video.
What’s become clear to me in my two and half years as a councillor is that this LNP administration has an authoritarian instinct to want to tightly control the narrative of council meetings and silence and marginalise dissenting voices. They might occasionally allow supportive journalists to film short clips, but they do not allow any filming that they don’t have control of. In the past, I have sought permission from the chair to film specific speeches and debates during council, and have had these requests denied.
The LNP doesn’t publish videos of meetings, because they know it would make them look bad. They know it would make it easier for residents to understand what goes on in this place, and that that would lose them votes.
Looking beyond the lame and self-serving excuses, the LNP are resisting transparency and public scrutiny because it would be politically damaging. They don’t want residents to know what happens in this chamber. They don’t want videos of the puerile debates and partisan attacks they engage in to circulate online.
And yet, in a grand act of hypocrisy, they are spending millions of dollars of ratepayer money installing security cameras throughout this city. They want every public square and building under surveillance, and yet they would not dare subject themselves to the same scrutiny. They are happy to film residents all over Brisbane, but they don’t want residents to see what they’re up to. This double-standard lays bare the LNP’s motivations. They want cameras all over the city, except in council meetings.
They want to collect six figure salaries, and make big decisions affecting the future of millions of Brisbane residents. Yet they don’t want the public to see and hear their meetings.
So ultimately, the question is: what have they got to hide?
Local residents will gather in Kurilpa Point Park on Saturday morning to protest the installation of hostile landscaping under the Kurilpa Bridge, calling for stronger renters rights and more investment in public housing.
The state government is spending $120 000 installing boulders under the Kurilpa Bridge near GOMA to deter homeless people from sleeping there, despite objections from the local councillor.
Last week, Gabba Ward Councillor Jonathan Sri organised a group of activists to illegally dismantle the temporary fencing.
"Moving homeless people on from one public space to another just causes more problems," Councillor Sri says. "The solution is to strengthen renters rights and build more public housing.
“They must have rocks in their head if they think putting boulders under the bridge is going to fix anything.”
“Nowhere is safe to sleep when you’re homeless,” Councillor Sri says. “But people were gathering under the bridge because it was sheltered from the rain and felt safer than other alternatives. It makes me so sad that the government is fencing people out instead of building more homes for them.”
“The Queensland Government is only investing an average of $120 million per year in public housing. That’s the same amount that they give in annual prize money to the racing industry.”
“The current proposal to build 500 dwellings per year across the entire state is woefully insufficient when around 30 000 people are languishing on the public housing waiting list right now,” Councillor Sri said.
The Australian Homelessness Monitor Report 2018 shows that homelessness in Brisbane has risen by 32% since 2011 (source: page 9 of the report)
“Since 2011, we saw big increases in rents at the bottom end of the market, forcing lots of people onto the street. The new privately owned highrise apartments are much more expensive to rent, so West End’s construction boom has had significant negative side-effects. Queensland really needs stronger rules against excessive rent increases.”
“Sometimes the government claims it has offered housing to rough sleepers, but this is often just in overpriced short-term boarding houses or motels, because there’s not enough public housing. It’s not a long-term solution.”
“If they had actually housed all the rough sleepers around Kurilpa Point, why do they need to spend so much money keeping homeless people away from this bridge?”
Max Chandler-Mather, Greens candidate for Griffith, said it was clear the only solution was a massive investment in social housing. “The Australian Greens want to invest in building 500,000 beautifully designed social homes over 15 years and guarantee everyone access to a good home. This would be the biggest social reform since Medicare.”
“The private housing market is destroying people’s lives and it’s madness that we are leaving millions of people to suffer while banks and property developers rake in billions in profits. Rather than build fences, Labor should commit to the sort of social housing construction boom that transformed Australian society in the 1950s and continue to benefit countries like Austria and the Netherlands.”
The rally will take place at 9am on Saturday, 17 November at the southern end of the Kurilpa Footbridge, next to GOMA.
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