During this unprecedented time of multiple overlapping crises, solidarity is more important than ever.
While we continue to push for the government to provide greater support to people at risk of homelessness, all levels of government have been too slow to act, and some people still aren't receiving any support.
Most government support services and payments will not take effect immediately. Unfortunately many residents of our city, including international students, migrant workers and many New Zealand citizens who've lived here long-term, are not eligible for government support payments from Centrelink, or any form of government housing.
We are asking residents who are lucky enough to have stable housing with spare bedrooms to consider making a room available to someone who can no longer afford their rent, and is in severe housing stress or at risk of homelessness. Some of these people will be Australian citizens who are waiting for government supports to kick in, others will be non-citizens who are waiting until they can return home or find a new source of income.
We're seeking offers from households who can accommodate someone for free (no rent, no other bills) for a period of eight weeks. In light of the pandemic, we want to minimise the need for people to move from one house to another, so we are not seeking accommodation offers of less than 8 weeks through our office. Once we find housing for someone, we want to encourage them to stay home and not move around unnecessarily during the shutdown.
As we are mindful of the importance of minimising contact between people during the pandemic, we are only seeking separate bedrooms, as opposed to offers of couches or offers to accommodate people in common areas.
Our office will coordinate the matching service, conducting private phone interviews with people seeking accommodation and people offering accommodation, and then introducing people to negotiate further details regarding the conditions of the short-term housing arrangement.
We will not be matching a person seeking accommodation through this particular system if we consider that the individual requires more intensive support and ought to be in a supported accommodation situation with wraparound care, access to social workers etc. If we deem someone to be in need of intensive support, our office will work with them to find supported accommodation through existing government departments, non-government organisations and homelessness support services.
We ask that if you do choose to offer one or more rooms through this service, you agree to the following conditions:
- The room must be provided rent-free
- The room must be furnished, and not shared with anyone else (we might be able to help link you in with free or cheap furniture to furnish your room)
- The room must be made available for a period of at least 8 weeks
We have included a series of checkboxes in this form. Please tick as many as are relevant to your situation, to help us identify who would be a good match for your household.
We are aware that the information collected by this form is limited, so we expect that most people offering rooms will wish to provide additional information about the suitability of your home. If you have any information that we need to know in trying to match you with someone seeking housing, please sign up and then send us an email at [email protected].
We will not contact you right away, and we might not contact you at all unless we find someone seeking accommodation who's a good match for you.
We're conscious that opening your home to someone in need is not a decision to be taken lightly, and we're available to chat through any questions or concerns you might have.
Thanks for doing what you can!Sign up
Here’s another innovative yet common-sense solution to create more public green space in the inner-city…
Let’s cover over the stretch of train line near Gloucester St and Frith St in Highgate Hill to create a new public park!
There are many inner-city neighbourhoods where a train line runs through a suburb at slightly below ground level. We now have the technology, the resources and the engineering skills to cover over these stretches of train line with precast tunnels to create more public space.
The presence of very shallow tunnels would make it difficult to use these sites for buildings that require deep foundations, but they’re a great opportunity to create public green spaces.
The broad area of exposed train line next to Gloucester St was once a train station. It was closed decades ago, mainly because its close proximity to the newer South Bank train station made it a little redundant. But as a result, there's a much wider stretch of public land in this area than along most other train lines.
Some of the major benefits of covering over this stretch of track and converting it to public parkland include:
- Reduced noise pollution for surrounding residents
- Reduced air pollution for surrounding residents
- Turns a major barrier to wildlife movement into a wildlife corridor
- Provides a more direct pedestrian and bikeway link that reduces the need to climb up and down hills
- Depending on where they’re travelling, gives some local pedestrians an alternative route to avoid the difficult crossing at the intersection of Gloucester St and Stephens Rd
- And most importantly: creates over 11 500m2 of new public green space in an area where local parkland is in short supply
The precinct around Stephens Rd and Gloucester St doesn’t have any local parks that you can easily walk to without crossing a main road. Covering over the train line would create a 1.1-hectare public park, with sections that are flat enough to kick a ball or play some cricket. 1.1 hectares is roughly the same size as the main football field at Davies Park, West End. The park could feature a massive all-ages playground with different elements targeted at different age groups.
Creating a green spine through this neighbourhood on the edge of Highgate Hill and South Brisbane could be the first step in a series of linked parks and pathways following the alignment of the train line through to South Brisbane, to dramatically improve pedestrian connectivity.
This idea has been suggested by local resident and environmental engineer, Associate Professor Peter Pollard, who has also proposed that some of the material used to fill up the space above the new tunnels could come from the nearby Cross River Rail excavation. This would potentially reduce the cost and environmental impact of trucking out and disposing of all that excavated fill material.
Of course, you would also want a few metres' depth of decent-quality soil over the top, so that some of the land could be used for fruit trees and a community garden.
This is an amazing opportunity to turn a noisy barrier within the urban landscape into a green community hub. This space would be twice the size of the park at the top of Highgate Hill, and would have room for a whole range of activities and facilities.
I imagine it primarily serving as a well-vegetated quieter park for local residents to walk the dog, hold a picnic, or hang out with friends to escape the hustle and bustle down along the main roads.
It could also serve as a quiet green retreat for patients, family members and staff from the nearby hospital precinct who want to avoid the higher-intensity vibe down at South Bank and the riverside parklands.
Everyone I’ve shared this idea with so far has said something along the lines of: “That’s brilliant! And it seems so logical. Why hasn’t this happened already?”
The main reason is that even if you use precast tunnel segments that you drop in and connect up, it would still probably cost at least $3 million dollars, and the train line is actually State Government land. So it would require a bit of collaboration between State Government and Brisbane City Council. But although $3 million sounds like a lot of money, it’s actually very good value considering that it would create roughly $20 million worth of public parkland.
If we can successfully implement this approach of cut-and-cover train tunnels with parkland above, there are many other neighbourhoods where we could roll out this model. There are other stretches of low-lying train line running through many inner-city suburbs where green space is in short supply.
Obviously we also need council and the State Government to buy back more land to create new public green spaces, but covering over train lines also offers the extra benefits mentioned above. Reducing noise pollution and air pollution from these busy train lines would dramatically improve the quality of life for thousands of residents living within several hundred metres of the train tracks, and direct pedestrian pathways avoids residents having to walk the long way around to get across the tracks.
If you support this idea, please share it around, and tell your friends to vote for the Greens!
I’ve spent the past four years listening to the community to better understand what kinds of improvements local residents and small businesses want to see happen around the suburbs of South Brisbane, Highgate Hill, West End, Woolloongabba, Dutton Park and Kangaroo Point.
My vision for the Gabba Ward is continually evolving in response to community feedback, so please let me know what you think of it by emailing [email protected].
It’s difficult to comprehensively list all the changes I’d like to see happen in our neighbourhood, particularly the community projects and social and cultural transformations that should happen alongside the delivery of physical infrastructure and government services. Alongside the so-called 'hard infrastructure,' I believe there should be far more council funding and support for community services, sporting groups, and the arts.
The priorities featured below tend to focus on the projects that I think Brisbane City Council and the State Government can realistically deliver in the next few years, but with an appreciation of the need to also plan ahead for long-term challenges.
Rather than vague statements, I've done my best to clearly outline my current position on a range of local issues so residents know exactly where I stand. It won’t be possible to deliver all of this in just a few years, but this is what we’re working towards... If there’s anything you’d like clarified, please get in touch.
Rethinking Development in the Inner-City
We support heavy restrictions on for-profit development within the low-lying flood-prone parts of the Gabba Ward. We support well-designed mixed-used, medium-density development that’s accompanied by adequate infrastructure and services. We support more trees and green space being delivered within new developments. Currently, developers are only required to allocate 10% of site area for deep planting. The LNP publicly committed over a year ago to increase the requirement to 15% but haven’t yet implemented this. We believe all new high-density developments should set aside a minimum 20% of the site area for deep-planted trees.
Streets for People – Reimagining Transport in Brisbane
Our citywide philosophy for reimagining transport in Brisbane can be found at this link. Broadly speaking, we want more pedestrian crossings, wider, shadier footpaths, lower speed limits on residential streets (with more traffic calming where necessary) and separated bike lanes on main transport corridors. Check out the link, and view more details about specific transport commitments below.
Free Off-Peak Public Transport for Everyone
To reduce congestion and improve accessibility and connectivity, we’re calling for free off-peak public transport. We can make buses and CityCats free during weekdays and weeknights in the off-peak period, as well as free all weekend. More details available at this link.
Free Cross-River Ferries and Kangaroo Point CityCat
In addition to calling for all bus, CityCat and ferry services to become free for everyone during off-peak periods, we support making all existing cross-river ferry services free, 24/7. We also support reviewing the CityCat timetable and network to introduce a CityCat service to the Holman Street ferry terminal at Kangaroo Point.
Two New CityGlider Routes
We are calling for two new CityGlider routes, one running east-west from West End to Bulimba, and the other running north-south from Annerley to Fortitude Valley (through Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba). More details at this link.
Full Bus Network Review
We are calling for a full network review of Brisbane bus routes, with a strong focus on increasing the frequency and reliability of services running through the inner-south side, particularly the 192, 196, 198 and 234 bus routes.
We’re calling for new footbridges from West End to Toowong and Kangaroo Point to the CBD. Other parties have expressed cautious support for these projects, but have not committed to allocating funding for them. We believe these bridges should carry pedestrians, cyclists and escooters, but not buses.
We are also open to supporting the proposal for a footbridge between West End and UQ St Lucia, but believe further detailed research, transport modelling and a cost benefit analysis should be conducted (in addition to more robust community consultation) before any project funding is allocated. A detailed write-up about my position on the footbridges is available at this link.
As part of the Kangaroo Point footbridge project, we believe council needs to deliver a wheelchair accessible Story Bridge underpass. The current underpass between Thornton St and Deakin St has multiple sets of steps and so is not wheelchair accessible. Depending on detailed design and engineering investigations, it may be more cost-effective and less disruptive to create a second, new underpass connecting from slightly further north along Deakin St directly to Scott St.
New ‘Kurilpa West’ Citycat Terminal
Recent and anticipated population growth for the western side of the Kurilpa Peninsula (particularly along Montague Rd) means that new high-capacity public transport services will be needed to move people in and out of West End.
We support a new CityCat terminal being delivered along Riverside Drive. The South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan identifies Victoria St as a possible location for a new terminal, however it may be more appropriate to locate the terminal slightly further north near Beesley St to facilitate better access to and from Davies Park.
I do not believe that proposals for a new footbridge and CityCat terminal are mutually exclusive. The two projects meet different transport needs and are complementary. Both will be necessary in order to help inner-city residents transition away from car-dependency.
Convert Flood-Prone Industrial Sites to Public Parkland in 4101
We support acquiring the large blocks of land along the northern end of Montague Rd which are currently used for industrial purposes, and converting these into public parkland and sporting facilities. Sites including Hanson Concrete, Parmalat and I-O Glass are all highly vulnerable to flooding, and are not appropriate for high-density residential or commercial development.
To cater for the green space needs of West End’s rapidly growing population, and to mitigate the negative impacts of flooding, these sites should be restored as public parkland.
This large new riverside park could include dog off-leash areas, a full-size skate park and BMX track, a sports field, a large children’s playground, vegetated nature reserves and outdoor event spaces.
Completing the Kangaroo Point Riverwalk
Completing the missing links of the riverside footpath between Dockside and Mowbray Park is essential to reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for the Kangaroo Point Peninsula. There are only a few missing links between existing pathways that have already been completed, and we believe council should allocate the funding to build these sections immediately, rather than waiting years for private developers to do it. The riverwalk should be designed with extra-wide footpaths and clearly delineated separation between pedestrians, slower-moving cyclists, and faster-moving bikes and escooter riders. You can read more about the riverwalk via this link at the section titled ‘Completing the Riverwalk’.
Restore Boggo Road Gaol as a Visual and Performing Arts Hub
Boggo Road Gaol is ideally located along the busway and train lines, and in close proximity to UQ St Lucia, Dutton Park State School and the future Dutton Park State High. This historic site should not be privatised and sold off to developers, but should be restored as a publicly funded music and arts hub, with workshop spaces, studios, rehearsal rooms, exhibition spaces and theatres. Boggo Road could become the south-side sister of the New Farm Powerhouse, celebrating history while providing affordable spaces for artists, innovators and hackers. A heritage museum component and a strong emphasis on history tours and storytelling would allow this precinct to serve as a hub for local history groups and knowledge-keeping.
Separated Bike Lanes along Vulture Street
Vulture St is a key east-west connector across the Gabba Ward, but riding between West End and Woolloongabba is currently quite dangerous. Existing narrow footpaths can no longer safely accommodate rising numbers of cyclists and escooter riders, so it is imperative that council creates safe, separated bike lanes running along Vulture St from Montague Rd, West End to Christie St, South Brisbane. This would provide a direct connection to the Goodwill Bridge and to the new Woolloongabba Bikeway along Stanley Street.
Safer separated bike lanes are also needed along other main roads such as Montague Rd and Gladstone Rd, however we currently consider Vulture St to be the highest priority.
Convert roadway into parkland at southern end of Boundary St
Regardless of whether a new footbridge is delivered between St Lucia and West End, we have an amazing opportunity to create more useable public green space at the southern end of Boundary St by combining under-utilised roadway with the neighbouring block of State-owned land at the corner of Dudley Street. Boundary St could end at the intersection with Glenfield St, and the roadway could be ripped up to create a riverside public park with an area of over 3300m2.
Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Musgrave Park
Local Aboriginal community groups have been advocating for decades to establish a purpose-built cultural centre in Musgrave Park. This project should be designed, led and controlled by First Nations peoples, with funding from all levels of government. Council should play a supporting role in delivering this project, facilitating conversations and providing access to resources and support staff to empower Aboriginal community leaders to deliver this project.
Redevelop Kurilpa Hall and Library as a Multipurpose Community Facility
We support converting the carpark of Kurilpa Library and the adjoining Kurilpa Hall site into a multistorey multipurpose community hub that caters for the community’s changing needs. We believe a redevelopment of this site should respect the heritage and integrity of the historic Kurilpa Library building. A redeveloped community facility would include space for the Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League organisation that currently manages the existing Kurilpa Hall, as well as a wide range of other community groups and projects.
An expanded library would include dedicated meeting rooms, fully accessible toilets and a wider range of resources. Depending on further community consultation, it could be possible to design a dedicated theatre space or concert hall within the facility, but such elements would require careful design and extensive sound-proofing to avoid negative impacts on neighbours. We are calling for multiple rounds of detailed community consultation and an inclusive participatory design process before any changes are made to the existing facility.
Composting and Sustainable Waste Management
The Greens are calling for free green bins for every household, in order to divert organic waste from general landfill. We are also calling for the green bin service to be adapted so it can accept food waste too. Organic waste can be composted and reused for gardens. The gases from composting organic matter can be captured as a source of energy.
We also support establishing more community composting hubs particularly within the inner-city, and are calling for more council funding and support to train apartment block residents how to manage community composting hubs on their own apartment block sites, while also establishing more hubs in public parks alongside community gardens.
We are calling for a vacancy levy on all homes, shops and vacant lots that are left empty for more than six months without a valid reason. A vacancy levy would reduce homelessness, place downward pressure on residential and commercial rents, and help bring life back to struggling shopping precincts. More details about this policy can be found at this link.
Default 40km/h Speed Limit
We support a default speed limit of 40km/h on all streets in the Gabba Ward, with the exception of some sections of Ipswich Rd, Main St, and Shaftson Avenue. I believe that even busy roads like Dornoch Terrace, Montague Rd, Gladstone Rd, River Terrace, Cordelia St, Merivale St, Vulture St and Stanley St should all eventually be reduced to a limit of 40km/h, but that this transition should happen gradually alongside other changes to road design and transport services.
New Pedestrian Crossings
The Greens have called for council to create 250 new pedestrian crossings around the city each year. We have recently secured funding for new traffic lights at the intersection of Victoria St and Montague Rd (near the West End Aldi) and work will be starting soon.
Traffic lights will also be installed along Gladstone Rd near TJ Doyle Memorial Drive to connect the new Dutton Park State High School to the Dutton Park green space.
Looking ahead, we believe that within the Gabba Ward, the highest priority locations for new crossings are:
- Boundary St near Brighton Rd
- Dornoch Terrace-Hampstead Rd intersection – possibly lights, depending on detailed investigation)
- Gloucester St-Stephens Rd intersection
- Leopard St, Kangaroo Point – zebra crossing near Lockerbie St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights near Donkin St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights at/near Ferry Rd
- Multiple locations along Dornoch Terrace - unsignalised zebra crossings
- River Terrace, Kangaroo Point – traffic lights near Bell St, and a new zebra crossing north of Paton St
- Vulture St near Exeter St, West End
- Vulture St near Thomas St and Bunyapa Park
- Wellington Rd – traffic lights near Mowbray Terrace and Toohey St
Safety Upgrades for Existing Pedestrian Crossings
Many pedestrian crossings throughout our city need major safety improvements. We believe the highest priorities for safety upgrades to existing crossing points are:
- Converting the intersection of Hardgrave Rd and Vulture St into a four-way scramble crossing (like the Boundary St-Vulture St intersection)
- Redesigning the zebra crossing on Gladstone Rd near Park Rd West as traffic lights
- Zebra crossing on Park Rd near Merton Rd
- Intersection of Dornoch Terrace, Hardgrave Rd and Ganges St
- Zebra crossing on Hawthorne St near Gibbon St
- Orleigh St near the West End ferry terminal
- Zebra crossing on Montague near Brereton St
If the community is opposed to installing traffic signals, often the best way to improve pedestrian safety at a zebra crossing is to lower speed limits and narrow the road width on the approaches to the crossing by building out the footpaths and/or installing separated bike lanes.
New Public Parks at Gabba Station and Boggo Road
Woolloongabba is under-served by public parkland, but inner-city land is extremely expensive. In the short-term, the most cost-effective and practical pathway to creating new public green space catering for rapid population growth in the 4102 postcode is to ensure that large public parks are included on the publicly owned sites which are being redeveloped for train stations as part of the Cross River Rail project.
Rather than selling off the land above the train station for private highrise development, the State Government should retain ownership and control over these sites and deliver large new green spaces and community facilities. You can read a more detailed vision for the redevelopment of the Gabba Cross River Rail station site at this link.
New Public Park for Highgate Hill/South Brisbane
We support covering over the exposed train line immediately to the north of Gloucester St to create a new public park with an area of 1.1 hectares. This would provide much-needed additional recreational green space for residents living between Annerley Road and Gladstone Rd while also providing additional wildlife habitat and reducing noise pollution and air pollution from the train line. More details at this link.
New Park for Kangaroo Point Peninsula
A new park should be created for the northern end of Kangaroo Point in the vicinity of Lambert St to cater for the rapid population growth in this vicinity. A new riverside park could include a dog off-leash area and other recreational facilities, and could connect to the completed riverwalk leading north to Dockside.
Finding land for this park would involve acquiring privately owned land that would otherwise be redeveloped as highrise, while also narrowing the bitumen roadway and reclaiming road reserve as green space.
Hampstead Common and Implementing the West End Green Space Strategy
The West End Green Space Strategy identifies a long list of opportunities to create additional green spaces throughout the Kurilpa Peninsula, predominantly by converting existing road reserve back into shaded boulevards and pocket parks. We support this strategy, including narrowing Hampstead Road and extending the existing community orchard along the footpaths leading down from the top of Highgate Hill.
Although some of these projects sound costly, they are essential if we are to preserve a high quality of life for current and future Gabba Ward residents. We can afford to deliver all of this if we make property developers pay their share, generate additional revenue from a vacancy levy, stop outsourcing core council services to private contractors who add in fat profit margins, and reduce spending on ineffective and sustainable road-widening projects.
Repurpose Space Under the Story Bridge for Community Purposes
There's a lot of under-utilised space beneath the Story Bridge at Kangaroo Point that can be converted for other uses. Some of this space which is currently used for council carparking could double-up as space for weekend farmers' markets and artisan markets. Some space could also be used for community concerts and movie nights, exercise equipment and perhaps even sporting facilities like cricket nets or basketball hoops. Obviously any redesign of this space should be subject to detailed community consultation, and should remain mindful of the need for off-street parking in the area. I believe council should put funding into a detailed community planning process to give residents and local small businesses control and decision-making power over the long-term future of this space.
Close Grey St to Through-Traffic and Create a New Public Park in South Brisbane
As part of the Brisbane Metro project, BCC and the State Government will be working together to redevelop the Cultural Centre Station and the adjoining Melbourne St-Grey St intersection. I'm calling for serious consideration of the possibility of closing off Grey St to through-traffic, so we can create 5000m2 of additional public green space between QPAC and the South Brisbane train station. This would have a range of positive flow-on impacts, including:
- improved traffic flow at the Peel St-Grey St and Grey St-Vulture St intersections
- giving higher-speed commuter cyclists a safer alternative to riding along the South Bank riverfront
- helping Grey St flourish as a low-speed active transport-focussed environment
You can find out a lot more detail about this proposal at this link.
As mentioned above, our vision for the Gabba Ward is based upon the feedback we receive from residents. If you disagree with some of it, let us know! If there are other projects or ideas that you think should be included in this vision, please write to us! This is an ever-evolving list that will change in response to the needs and priorities of local residents.
At the end of the day, it's not just up to me to articulate what I think should be the future of our community. All of us should get a say and all of us should meaningful control over how our city changes and evolves.
Here’s an important local issue that potentially impacts a lot of apartments in Brisbane in terms of safety, sense of community, insurance premiums and body corporate fees. It’s a bit technical, but hopefully I can keep the explanation straightforward...
1. There are different rules for how apartments should be designed if they are being used as short-term accommodation as opposed to long-term residential. For example, you need more emergency signage and clearer fire exit routes for short-term accom. uses, because short-term tenants won’t know the building as well.
A building that has been designed as standard residential accommodation shouldn’t really be used for short-term rentals. Maintaining this distinction is important in terms of issues like fire safety, security, property wear-and-tear etc.
2. Increasingly in Queensland, we’re seeing more and more apartments (and free standing houses) that have been assessed and approved by council as normal residential homes, and were not designed as hotels/short-term accommodation, which are now being rented out by investors through platforms like Airbnb.
This leads to a wide range of issues for neighbouring apartment residents because, for example, higher-intensity hotel-style usage tends to create more wear and tear on common property like elevators, pools etc, and those maintenance costs are borne by the body corporate (and ultimately the residents).
We’re also seeing situations where apartments in places like South Bank and Kangaroo Point are rented out for disruptive parties every single night of the week, and neighbours can’t do anything about it.
3. It also creates a broader economic problem, because apartments which were approved to house local residents are instead rented out to visitors and tourists, which means local families find it harder to afford a home in the inner-city. So even though the supply of apartments increases, that doesn’t improve affordability for locals because those apartments are all Airbnb-style short-term accommodation.
(A flow-on social impact is that we can’t create the well-connected high-density local communities and break down social isolation, because such a large proportion of homes are just short-term visitors.)
The underlying problem here is that in our economic system, homes are being treated as a commodity to make a profit from, rather than protecting housing as a basic human right.
Investors who rent out entire homes as hotel rooms don’t always care about the impact on neighbours – they just want to make money.
4. But when residents complain to council, and say “Hey, this building was approved as residential but now it’s being rented out as short-term accommodation” it seems Brisbane City Council isn’t taking appropriate action.
In some cases, council takes no action at all. In other cases, BCC investigates and then says “Well even though this building wasn’t designed as short-term accommodation, it was built on land where you are technically allowed to build short-term accommodation, so we’re going to look the other way.” Basically, council knows that some unit owners, developers and property managers are breaking council regulations, but isn’t doing anything about it.
5. What makes this even messier is that most building insurance cover can be voided if a body corporate hasn’t been complying with council rules.
So for example, if a body corporate hasn’t been keeping an area free of flammable debris, and that leads to fire damage, the insurance company might refuse to pay out. Similarly, if a residential building is being illegally rented out as short-term accommodation, and the guests accidentally leave a tap on that leads to other apartments being flooded, the insurance company could have strong legal grounds for refusing to pay out.
So all this adds up to a pretty big issue, where building insurance cover for hundreds of buildings around the state is under question.The action that council needs to take is two-pronged:
- BCC needs to stop issuing development approvals that allow a building to be used for short-term accommodation unless the building has been properly designed to safely accommodate high numbers of short-term visitors.
- BCC needs to fully investigate complaints of unapproved short-term uses, and take enforcement action where investors are running hotel operations in buildings that don’t have any approval as short-term accommodation.
We also need to have a broader community conversation about how much of our neighbourhoods we are happy to see turn into short-term hotel-style accommodation...
Do we want entire suburbs like South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point to be majority short-term visitors where no-one knows one another? Or do we want to strike a better balance where we have enough options for tourists and visitors, but there are still enough longer-term residents to maintain a stronger sense of local community?
I don’t have any concerns about residents who rent out a spare room via Airbnb to subsidise their rent, or about people who temporarily sublease their home while they go on holiday for a few weeks or months.
But that’s very different to a situation where no-one on a low income can afford to live in inner-city suburbs, because all the new investor-owned apartments have been rented out on Airbnb on an ongoing basis.
I kicked off 2020 by giving a morning talk at Woodford Folk Festival called ‘A Rough Work-in-Progress Blueprint for Revolution.’ Despite half the festival still being asleep or hungover from NYE celebrations, it was exciting to see how much energy and interest there was in the discussion. People stuck around for a solid hour after my talk to keep unpacking the ideas and sharing their own perspectives (I’ll try to post a recording of the presentation sometime soon). A lot of people are hungry for change, and searching for a way forward.
As we enter this new decade, our news headlines are dominated by environmental disasters. Mega-fires are raging across multiple Australian states and half the continent is drought-stricken. Meanwhile just a couple hours’ flight to the north of us, Indonesia is experiencing catastrophic rainfall, with widespread flooding leading to around 50 confirmed deaths, and an estimated 500 000 people made homeless so far (the death toll from flow-on impacts like disease and malnutrition will be much higher, but won’t be covered by western media).
The Jakarta Metropolitan Area has a population of over 30 million people, living in an area half the size of Brisbane. Much of Jakarta has been inundated, and the city may never fully recover. The Indonesian government is already planning to abandon Jakarta as the nation’s administrative capital and establish a new capital city in Borneo.
Australia is one of Indonesia’s closest neighbours. Jakarta is closer to Darwin than Brisbane is. If not for our racism and selfishness, Australia would probably be the most logical destination to resettle southeast Asian climate refugees. We’re certainly in a better economic position to do so than other nearby countries, but I doubt anyone’s going to be talking about that idea in a hurry.
Perpetual Crisis and Denial
I find it hard to get my head around the details in the news reports - millions of hectares of forest incinerated, millions of people suddenly deprived of access to power or clean water. Numbers and statistics don’t really tell the full story, but it’s bleak.
Many of us have started talking about how the long-predicted ‘climate apocalypse’ is finally here.
But in fact, many parts of the world, and many people in our own city, have been experiencing crisis for a long time now. A lot of First Nations communities would argue that the apocalypse actually began over two hundred years ago. The changing climate is definitely a crisis, but it’s also compounding existing ongoing crises that we’ve ignored for too long.
The lens through which we view these events is important. Are the Australian droughts and bushfires a ‘disaster’ that we have to recover and rebuild from? Or are they simply the latest and most significant reminder that almost every aspect of our way of life must change in ways that most of us rarely contemplate?
Australians are vacillating between two different universes this week. People are still swimming at the beach and cheering at the cricket, while elsewhere people are running out of water or fleeing 10-storey flames. My work inbox is still receiving complaints about inadequate street parking and the lack of grass at the local dog off-leash area. In contrast, I don’t get many emails about the fact that Brisbane’s homeless population is hovering around 10 000 and still rising (and unfortunately the politicians who run our government don’t get enough emails about this either).
We’re in the midst of multiple overlapping crises, yet half the continent seems hell-bent on looking the other way and acting as though we can carry on with business as usual. Perhaps denial is an understandable response to feeling disempowered and overwhelmed, but it’s pretty bizarre…
Hypothetical weekend BBQ conversation:
“The Aussie batsmen are doing pretty well aren’t they?”
“Yeah that Marnus bloke just keeps scoring centuries hey?”
“By the way, did you hear the bushfire death toll is up to 16 now?”
Paths to action?
I’ve heard several people over the last few weeks lament the fact that there isn’t another federal election due for three years, and that PM Smoko is so unpopular right now that the Liberals would struggle to hold on to power. While that might be true, I don’t think Albanese would be much better at responding to any of the crises we’re currently facing. He spent part of December touring regional Queensland promising continued support for coal exports, when what he should have done instead was outline a transition plan to retrain workers and support communities to shift away from dependence on an economically unviable and environmentally destructive industry.
The Queensland Labor government seems to have completely ignored the Greens’ constructive suggestion to make mining companies contribute funding towards rural firefighting services, while supporting new coal mines and strengthening police powers to criminalise peaceful protest about issues like climate change. Simply replacing Scomo with another corporate sector puppet won't fix our broken system.
But even though the next federal election is still at least two summers away, there are several important elections coming up this year that will shape the national political landscape. In just 12 weeks, residents across Queensland will vote in local government elections. Here in Brisbane, the Greens have a strong chance of winning three or even four council seats off the LNP. As I’ve written about here, a swing towards the Greens at the Brisbane City Council election would dramatically shift Queensland politics.
The Australian Capital Territory elections, the Northern Territory elections and the NSW local government elections are also all coming up in 2020, as is the crucial Queensland State Election. If the Greens win state seats off Labor or the Liberals in Queensland, this will have a far bigger direct impact on government policy than a hundred protest marches.
So those of you who are feeling a sense of urgency and a desire to take action might want to start by volunteering for the election campaign.
A divided nation?
Lately I’ve been hearing more people complaining about how divided our society and our political system has become. They say things like “If only we could stop attacking each other and focus on solutions!” which certainly resonates with me to a point. I think it’s fair to say that the tone of debate, particularly in some online spaces, is unnecessarily hostile.
But a lot of this so-called ‘division’ isn’t new. What’s actually going on is that marginalised voices and downtrodden groups finally have platforms (particularly on social media) where they can challenge establishment power holders and argue against the status quo. (Some of us are even getting organised enough to win seats in elections)
Australians have been saying and doing racist things for decades. The difference is that now anti-racist activists actually have paths to get their own messages out there without being censored by the conservative mainstream media. The same is true for debates about sexism, extractivism and a whole bunch of other issues.
In some cases, the people complaining that “Everyone is so disrespectful these days! I wish people could stop attacking each other!” are actually just yearning for a past era when more privileged members of society could say and do incredibly unjust and disrespectful things without being criticised publicly, because the rest of us were too scared to speak out.
For those of us who understand the need for major systemic change, I think one of the big challenges for 2020 and the coming decade will be to understand and define the lines between those who are complacent/misinformed/apathetic/disengaged, and those who are actively hostile to change and have strong vested interests in defending the status quo.
The biggest division in our society will be between those who'll fight to keep things more-or-less as they are, and those who are realistic about the need for a rapid transition towards a more equitable and sustainable way of life.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the coming year. I’m apprehensive about the council election campaign, because I anticipate a lot of negative attacks from the mainstream media and conservative commentators, but also excited about the opportunities for change. I’m channelling the grief and anger I’ve been feeling into activism and community capacity-building, because it feels nourishing and valuable and empowering.
We mustn’t be naïve about the opponents we’re up against or the nefariously effective tactics they’ll employ.
But we need to hold on to hope, and seize joy wherever we can find it. Sinking into despair won’t stop the world burning.
Happy(?) new year fellow change-makers!
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.