Originally published on social media on 8 March, 2022
Recent floods have shown very clearly that Brisbane’s key public infrastructure, services and systems are far less resilient to flooding and other climate change-related disasters than they need to be.
The Brisbane River flood peak in the CBD on 28/02/2022 was 3.85 metres. In contrast, the 2011 flood peak was around 4.5 metres, the 1974 flood peak was 5.45 metres, and back in February 1893, floodwaters peaked in Brisbane at a whopping 8.35 metres. (There are several other major floods in the historical record for anyone who cares to look)
Placed in this historical context, this latest flood was nowhere near as severe as it could’ve been (although I should note that the added combination of significant creek flooding meant that many areas were affected more seriously than in 2011).
While technically classed as a ‘major’ flood event, this was a relatively moderate flood compared to what the river is capable of (particularly considering the added uncertainty of global warming and the increased likelihood of severe weather). Despite this, a lot of significant public and private infrastructure was detrimentally affected.
We’ve seen a lot of commentary about the electricity infrastructure, and it’s now quite obvious that all levels of government have failed to ensure that key pieces of both public and private power infrastructure were raised above the flood level after 2011. More than a week since the floods, hundreds of Brisbane residents are still without power in a context where better planning and design of electricity infrastructure could have allowed power to be restored much faster in several areas.
But there are lots of other kinds of infrastructure and services that also proved to be very flood-vulnerable...
For example, Brisbane City Council contracts out its general household waste collection services to the private company SUEZ. While I haven’t personally visited the site, I'm told one of SUEZ’s main service centres, where garbage trucks are serviced, refuelled and stored overnight, is located in flood-prone Rocklea along a low-lying stretch of the Ipswich Motorway.
Last week, floodwaters cut off access to the site, meaning SUEZ workers couldn’t get into the site to get the garbage trucks. If the waters had risen much higher, all the trucks themselves could have been flooded too, which really would have stuffed up the recovery and clean-up.
For residents across the city who are wondering why your garbage collection was missed last Monday or Tuesday even though your own neighbourhood wasn’t affected by flooding, the answer seems to be that the garbage truck depot itself nearly went underwater.
In fact, lots of other important stuff tends to be located in our city’s lower-lying floodplains. Large parts of Rocklea, and other flood-prone areas like Albion and the low side of Woolloongabba, were historically developed as warehouse and industrial land uses rather than residential, in large part because of their flood vulnerability. This means a lot of the trades, services and heavy equipment that a city needs for recovery in the weeks immediately after a flood are themselves very heavily affected by flooding.
Even the Brisbane Markets (aka Rocklea Markets), the city’s largest distribution hub for fresh produce, is on low-lying land near Oxley Creek. This time around, the market site lost power around 10am on the Saturday (well before the city’s flood peak the following Monday morning) and was flooded and out of action for several days.
Thousands of pallets of fresh produce were lost either due to water damage or because the industrial refrigerators lost power. We’re talking tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of wasted food at this one site. The stock losses suffered by individual supermarkets due to power-cuts elsewhere in the city were tiny compared to this.
Brisbane’s stormwater system is supposed to be completely separate from the sewerage system (which, in theory, is fully enclosed), but as often as a couple of times per year, during heavy rain, heaps of stormwater gets into the sewerage network via a range of channels, flooding the whole system...
Sewer lid covers in low-lying areas pop open, spewing shit and toilet paper into the street. Residential sewer pipes back up and overflow, spilling watery poop across backyards and under houses. And of course the sewage treatment plants are completely overwhelmed by the volume of poo-contaminated water flowing through the pipes, and have to release hundreds of thousands of litres of poo water directly into local creeks, the river and Moreton Bay.
Even though it’s heavily diluted, the fact that floodwaters and mud deposits are partially contaminated with faecal matter then becomes a major potential health issue even after the rain stops.
I could go on with a much longer list…
There’s the really obvious stuff like the flooded bridges and bikeways, the damaged ferry terminals, and dozens of sets of traffic lights failing due to flooded power boxes (which was a contributing factor behind many of the 30 serious car crashes Brisbane saw during the flood).
And there’s the stuff that’s less obvious to most residents, like the fact that flood damage to bus drivers’ toilets and rest areas caused avoidable delays in restoring bus services, even well after the roads were cleared of water and mud (right now the drivers who take their breaks at Orleigh Park are using portaloos).
It’s worth mentioning that one of Brisbane City Council’s main bus depots, the Sherwood depot, was also cut off by flooding (residents previously objected to the depot being established at the Sherwood location in part due to concerns about flood vulnerability).
And let’s not forget one of the most frustratingly stupid and obvious issues: the council only has four sandbag depots for the entire city. One of these depots – Newmarket – is itself partially vulnerable to stormwater flooding, and was taken out of action by the storm on Sunday, 27 February.
Every time there’s a risk of severe storms and flooding, thousands of residents from both the eastern suburbs and the inner-south side drive for several kilometres and queue up in both directions along Wynnum Rd to pick up sandbags from the Redfern Street depot on Morningside.
Myself and a few other councillors have been raising concerns about this for years, but still haven’t seen a shift from the LNP. You’d think locating sandbag depots closer to areas that are known to be highly vulnerable to flooding (such as the Deshon Street side of Woolloongabba) would be a no-brainer, but apparently not.
The broad point to all this is that despite the relatively recent experience of the 2011 floods, our city still has a long, long way to go in ensuring that key infrastructure and services can continue functioning (or at least bounce back quickly) during floods.
We are certainly going to experience more floods in future, potentially including events where the water rises higher or flows faster, and where heavy rain is accompanied by high-speed destructive winds.
Our city is nowhere near ready for this.
We’ve just had a wake-up call that we urgently need to listen to. If a single, comparatively modest flood like this one can cause so much disruption, a bigger flood will really mess us up.
We need to build resilience, and we need to take further action to address catastrophic climate change (e.g. stop approving new coal mines) before things get even worse.
Hopefully we take away the right lessons this time around...
Latest update - 29 November 2021
Work is just beginning on the pedestrian and cycling bridge between Kangaroo Point and the CBD. I'm very proud that we managed to secure funding and cross-party support for this bridge, but I remain concerned that the LNP is being a little too reckless about removing trees near the landing sites rather than working around them. The mayor has announced that a restaurant or bar will be built on the bridge (on a second level above the main thoroughfare) but we haven't yet seen any details about how delivery and service vehicles will access the site to drop off goods etc.
The council has also just released new draft concept designs and a little more information about the Toowong and St Lucia bridges. During this round of consultation, I encourage residents to highlight that as part of delivering the bridges, BCC also needs to allocate funding towards safe, convenient pedestrian and cycling connections to get to the bridges. There are separate online surveys for the St Lucia bridge and the Toowong bridge. If you do give feedback via the surveys or the face-to-face consultations (see above links for session details) I hope you will also reiterate the importance of preserving existing trees and offsetting any losses of useable green space through the creation of new green space nearby.
Back in 2015, when I first started advocating for a bridge between West End and Toowong, a lot of people told me "That's a good idea, but it'll never happen." We had the usual questions along the lines of "But Jonno, even if you're elected, the Greens won't have a majority, so will you have any power to achieve any of this stuff?" These bridges are a great example of how even having just a single Greens councillor in the chamber can help shift the parameters of debate and win broader support for our ideas. In a city where the majority of elected representatives still act like cars are the only way for people to move around, bold proposals like this can help catalyse a wider shift in transport planning culture and government priorities.
One of the most important but under-acknowledged benefits of the West End-Toowong bridge is that it will connect the high-density precinct in the south-west corner of West End to the Toowong train station and the Springfield and Ipswich train lines. Someone living or working on that side of the Kurilpa peninsula will have a short walk or ride over the bridge, and then it's just a 10 to 15-minute train ride to get to places like Sherwood and Corinda. A visitor travelling from Darra train station will be able to get to Orleigh Park, West End in under 25 minutes without using a car.
These are the kinds of inter-suburb connectivity improvements that have been overlooked in Brisbane for a long time, but they're super important. This is the next step in a quiet revolution of reducing reliance on cars and embracing active transport for our city.
12 May 2021
A simple summary of the results of our online vote regarding the proposed bridges from West End to Toowong and St Lucia is available at this link.
31 March 2021
Amy MacMahon and I have just sent off our joint submission to BCC regarding proposed locations for the West End bridges. You can read our submission via this link. Our submission focussed heavily on the potential impacts to public space and immediately surrounding communities, as this was the main issue of concern that residents were raising with us.
Since 2016, the Greens have been advocating for new footbridges between Kangaroo Point and the CBD, and West End and Toowong. We’ve also expressed interest in a footbridge between West End and St Lucia, but have said that we consider the Toowong bridge and a new CityCat stop for the western side of West End are both higher priorities than a St Lucia bridge.
Brisbane City Council has now confirmed funding and gone out to tender for the Kangaroo Point bridge, and is seeking feedback from residents about possible locations for the Toowong and St Lucia bridges.
BCC Consultation Process
BCC has announced three possible locations for the Toowong-West End bridge, and three possible locations for the St Lucia-West End bridge, with their ‘official’ public consultation period closing at the end of March 2021. Crucially, BCC is only asking residents which of the three nominated locations they prefer, as opposed to whether both bridges have general public support.
Council info about the proposed bridge options is available via these links:
Elected Greens Representatives' Consultation Process
We believe the BCC consultation process has some significant gaps and deficiencies. These include insufficient protections against someone filling out the anonymous online survey multiple times on different devices, and concerns that the questions council has posed don’t distinguish between opposition to particular locations, versus general opposition to all bridge proposals, thus diminishing the quality of the feedback.
So as well as a public forum on Saturday, 27 February, and other forms of on-the-ground community outreach, we’re running an online poll to guide what position we take as elected representatives. The more responses the poll receives, the more weight the outcome will carry and the more influential it will be on our decision-making.
Please click on this link to vote in our poll. We ask participants to provide contact details and create a voting account to help guard against fraudulent duplicate votes.
Our polls show the results in real-time, and include optional preferential voting, which means participants can rank multiple bridge landing locations and clarify whether they’d prefer ‘no bridge’ over one of the particular options BCC has proposed.
My rough ‘options analysis’ as of February 2021
All of the bridge landing options BCC has proposed arguably have some negative impacts. I haven’t yet formed a final view on which options I officially support, and will wait to see the results of our poll, but I’ve been hearing a lot of feedback from residents which is inevitably shaping my views.
The council has published some estimates on its website for how many people are likely to use each bridge location, but I don’t think these trip estimates are reliable or worth paying much attention to, because the numbers for the St Lucia bridge assume the Toowong bridge doesn’t exist, and vice versa. The council’s trip estimate modelling is heavily skewed by proximity to existing public transport stops. The transport modelling algorithms estimate higher trip volumes for bridge landings that are close to existing bus and ferry stops.
But I think that rather than basing the bridge location decision on proximity to existing public transport services, it would be preferable to pick the best bridge location in terms of active transport routes, and then add nearby public transport stops if necessary.
As such, I'm more interested in how many local residents think they are likely to use a particular bridge, as opposed to how many people Brisbane City Council modelling says are likely to use a bridge.
For the Toowong bridge, at this stage I’m leaning towards supporting Option A, because:
- It will have a smoother incline, without the need for a big curling ramp at the end
- There’s an opportunity to link it to a larger new green space on the former ABC site at Toowong
- It will likely have less impact on river navigation and recreational river uses than a bridge that’s closer to the bend in the river
- It will offer a more direct connection between Riverside Drive, West End and the bicentennial bikeway in Toowong
For the St Lucia bridge, it’s a harder call to make and I’m genuinely still undecided.
Option A seems likely to have the biggest impact on existing public parkland, landing in the middle of both Orleigh Park and Guyatt Park, and arguably duplicating an existing cross-river link already provided by the Citycat terminals.
Option B is much less likely to directly impact existing residential homes or established trees, but lands partway along Ryan St, and does not directly connect to key public and active transport corridors.
Option C (the Boundary St-Keith St alignment) is the most direct route between UQ St Lucia and the commercial centre of West End. It also offers the added benefit of a more direct connection for residents riding to and from Fairfield, Annerley and the PA Hospital to the heart of West End (via the existing Eleanor Schonell bridge). However the current design proposed by BCC for Option C also involves acquiring three residential homes, could remove quite a few large trees, and would result in quite a long component of the bridge stretching overland almost as far as Paradise Street, arguably reducing neighbourhood amenity.
I’ve sought more information from council about whether it’s possible to land a lower-impact bridge at the southern end of Boundary St without removing established trees or residential homes, and will publish answers on this page if/when I receive them.
A few residents have asked me whether it’s possible to get the funding for one or both West End footbridges diverted to other more urgently needed local infrastructure or services. My analysis of the current political landscape is that this would be quite difficult. The LNP administration are emotionally invested in fulfilling their public commitment for ‘five new green bridges,’ and the Lord Mayor has already shown his reluctance to divert funding elsewhere.
Last year, BCC undertook public consultation on the proposal for one of the five green bridges to be built between Bellbowrie and Wacol. Apparently the majority of residents in those suburbs who provided feedback said they didn’t want the green bridge, and preferred the money to be spent on other local infrastructure. But even though both Bellbowrie and Wacol are represented by LNP Councillors, the LNP Lord Mayor still declined to support this approach. The Bellbowrie green bridge proposal was scrapped, and the council is now looking for another location along the river for its fifth green bridge. Meanwhile the suburbs of Bellbowrie and Wacol missed out on any investment.
So if local residents of Brisbane’s inner-south and inner-west oppose bridges from St Lucia and Toowong to West End, there’s certainly no guarantee that the money which would’ve been spent on those bridges will be reinvested in other local projects.
Addendum: As of early March 2021, we have just managed to get hold of some of the formal reports that were produced internally for council, including the 2020 Draft Alignment Study produced by GHD Consultants. You can find these documents at this link.
Here, again, is the link to the online poll. Please click through and cast your vote on your preferred bridge locations.
I've been advocating for better active transport connections for the inner-south side since before I became a city councillor. Providing direct connections for pedestrians and cyclists helps reduce traffic congestion and car-dependency, and ends up saving council money in the long-term by reducing the costs of building and maintaining roads.
I'm very supportive of a Kangaroo Point-CBD footbridge, and I'm pleased the council has agreed to my requests to fund the construction of this bridge as a high priority.
I've also been advocating for a West End-Toowong footbridge, but before starting any work, I’d like to see council develop a business case for it (which they’ve said they will do), and I think the entire business case and feasibility study should be released to the public.
I would still need a bit more convincing before supporting a West End-St Lucia bridge, as I’m not yet sure that the benefits justify the costs.
As explained below, I don’t support any of the inner-city bridges carrying conventional buses. I will of course keep an open mind about emerging technologies and changing transport needs, such as the rise of self-driving demand-responsive minibuses, but until I’m presented with strong evidence to the contrary, I don’t think bus bridges are a good idea.
I think it’s extremely important that any green space losses associated with the bridges are offset by the creation of new public parks in West End and Kangaroo Point, above and beyond the parkland already identified as necessary in council’s existing planning documents.
Importantly, if trees need to be removed, the project team should have to take responsibility for finding appropriate locations and planting replacement trees nearby. It’s not enough to just pay an offset levy into the general tree planting budget without actually finding space for where the replacement trees can go.
Naturally, I think it’s very important that the bridges have roofs to protect pedestrians and cyclists from sun and rain, as well as other sustainable design features such as rainwater capture and solar panels if appropriate. More generally, I think we should explore opportunities to design these bridges as useable public spaces as opposed to just transport thoroughfares.
22 November, 2019:
Last week we received a briefing from council officers about the three new green bridges proposed for the Gabba Ward. They were able to give us a lot more detail about the Kangaroo Point-to-CBD footbridge, which is much further advanced than the other two in terms of planning.
From the information we were provided, it seems like the proposed footbridges from West End to Toowoong and West End to St Lucia have barely gotten any further than the drawing board.
Here’s what we know so far. I’ll add more detail to this page as more information becomes available and in response to other questions we receive from residents.
The LNP have estimated a total projected budget of $825 million for all five bridges (keeping in mind that the bike bridge over Breakfast Creek will be very cheap, and the Bellbowrie bus bridge will cost a lot more than the other bridges). The LNP have allocated $550 million in council’s own budget forward estimates, which they say will cover approximately 2/3 of the cost of delivering these bridges. They’re hoping to get funding from State and Federal Governments to cover the other 1/3 of the cost.
I’ve listed some of the main details about the Kangaroo Point bridge first, followed by the other two inner-city bridges. There’s a lot more info about the KP bridge (including a report on the key findings from the business case) at this link. I’ve included my own commentary and advice to residents in italics.
Kangaroo Point to CBD Green Bridge
How much will it cost and how long will it take?
Estimated total budget is $190 million. Once detailed designs, consultation, government approvals and contract tenders are all finalised, the actual construction process would be expected to take 18 to 24 months.
Where will it land (and why)?
BCC is proposing to connect the bridge from near the Alice St-Edward St roundabout, to the end of Scott St at Kangaroo Point
The riverbank near the intersection of Alice St and Edward St is quite low, which makes this bridge more challenging because you have to make it high enough for boats to pass underneath safely (they are aiming for a similar height to other bridges like Goodwill and Captain Chook). One of the main reasons Scott St is preferred over Thornton St is that the slope of the bridge would be more gradual, whereas if you go from Alice to Thornton, it will end up a lot steeper. The key findings report has a bit more detail about alignment options.
Apparently a lot of different options and factors have been considered in terms of CBD-side landing points. The Alice-Edward location probably works out a lot cheaper than negotiating with private landowners further to the north along the CBD riverfront. It also delivers a better connection to the Botanic Gardens.
It seems like council is now leaning pretty heavily towards landing the bridge at Scott St, and will only reconsider this location if there’s really really strong opposition for some reason during the consultation and the public calls for it to land at Thornton St instead. I see no reason not to trust the council planners and independent consultants who’ve concluded that on balance, Scott St makes the better landing point.
What about the Story Bridge Underpass and Connections to the Bridge?
The current Story Bridge pedestrian underpass between Thornton St and Deakin St is not wheelchair accessible and needs a significant (and expensive) upgrade to remove the steps and make it more useable for wheelchairs, prams and bikes. If the bridge lands at Scott St, BCC will be weighing up the pros and cons of upgrading the Thornton St underpass, or creating a new wheelchair accessible underpass from Main St to Deakin St (north of Darragh St).
An underpass connection is being treated as an essential element of the bridge project itself, but feedback from residents about how best to do it will probably have some influence over council decision-making.
I think it is particularly important for residents to give really strong feedback that at the same time as the footbridge is built and the underpass is improved, council also completes the missing sections of Riverwalk on the eastern side of Kangaroo Point.
A key benefit of this footbridge is connecting active transport commuters from the eastern suburbs through Kangaroo Point and directly into the CBD. Completing the riverwalk so that high volumes of bikes don’t have to mix with cars along Thorn St and Lambert St is a crucial part of this.
What’s happening to the Thornton St Ferry Terminal?
Council officers have told me that changes to the ferry network or the Thornton St ferry terminal are out of scope for the bridge project. However it’s possible that the Thornton St terminal might have to close down temporarily during part of the construction period.
When designing the bridge and evaluating design options, the project team has been proceeding on the assumption that a ferry terminal will be retained at Thornton St. It is of course possible that down the track, after the bridge is completed, council’s transport planners might look at ferry usage data and conclude that the stop is no longer needed or should be relocated
Will the bridge carry buses too, or just pedestrians and bikes?
It’s a definite no to buses on the Kangaroo Point to CBD green bridge. If you look at a map of where the bridge is proposed and how that might link to existing major road corridors, you’ll probably see why.
Will we lose trees and public green space?
Yes, quite possibly. Council will want to minimise the landing footprints of the bridge, and footbridges don’t have to take up anywhere near as much space on land as bus or car bridges. But there will still be some impacts on public parkland.
I think it’s really important for residents to provide strong feedback to council that you don’t want to lose green space as a result of this project. It’s possible for council to allocate a small proportion of the project budget towards buying more land elsewhere in Kangaroo Point to create a new public park that offsets the loss of trees and green space caused by the bridge.
This bridge project represents an amazing opportunity to get a new public park within the Kangaroo Point peninsula, which will help cater for our rapidly growing population, but it’s important for residents to raise this need really strongly as often as possible
West End to Toowong and St Lucia Footbridges
How much will they cost and how long will they take?
Council says they haven’t yet conducted detailed costings for these two bridges. They are at such an early stage in planning these bridges, that unless there’s a big shift in political priorities and they allocate more resources to delivering these bridges faster, they probably won’t start construction for at least 5 years, and won’t be finished until 2027 at the earliest.
If you extrapolate from the fact that out of a total $825 million estimate, they’re anticipating:
- $190 million for the Kangaroo Point bridge, which is a longer and more technically complex project
- maybe $20-$40 million for the Breakfast Creek bike link
- and upwards of $280 million for the Bellbowrie to Moggill green bridge
that probably means around $280-$300 million for the two West End bridges (so roughly $150 million each). St Lucia to West End will probably be slightly cheaper than other footbridges as it’s a shorter stretch of river to cross.
Where will they land?
Council’s consultation documents show notional landings for the bridges from Archer St, Toowong to near Forbes St, West End, and from Boundary St, West End to Keith St, St Lucia. The officers have said repeatedly that these are just general indicative landing points rather than precise locations. It sounds like BCC hasn’t settled on exact landing points for these bridges yet, so there’s definitely time to advocate for different locations.
A couple of residents have asked whether the Toowong Bridge would be better off landing on the former ABC site rather than going through or over residential properties on Archer St. I’ll be asking more information about this, but from what I’ve learned so far, it sounds like the benefit of landing it slightly to the south of the ABC site is that it can connect more directly to the Toowong train station and shopping centre via the pedestrian link next to 29 Archer St. I will of course continue to advocate for the former ABC site to be brought back into public ownership for use as parkland and community facilities.
There are a lot of issues that have to be worked through in evaluating the exact locations of both proposed footbridges, in terms of avoiding local heritage sites like the Cranbrook Place Aboriginal Sorry Site at Orleigh Park, minimising the loss of established trees, and ensuring optimal active transport connections to existing bikeways and pedestrian corridors.
As with the Kangaroo Point footbridge, it’s crucial that residents provide strong feedback to council that you don’t want to lose green space as a result of these projects. We should be insisting that council deliver new public parks in West End to offset any green space that’s lost as a result of these bridge landings. I’m asking all residents to email [email protected] and demand that if the bridges do go ahead, you want a new public park in West End to compensate for the lost riverside green space.
Will the bridges carry buses?
The LNP have not yet firmly and explicitly ruled out the possibility of the bridges carrying buses, but I think this is extremely unlikely, and at this stage I don’t support either bridge carrying buses (although I’m keeping an open mind).
This next map helps show why I don’t think there’s a strong case for a bus bridge from Boundary St to UQ.
Footbridges will likely be around 6 metres wide, whereas a bus bridge that also carries bikes and pedestrians would have to be at least 12 metres wide. Designing the Toowong and St Lucia bridges to carry buses (as well as the necessary road connections) would probably add $50 million to $100 million to the cost of each bridge, so to justify that much additional cost, as well as the ongoing costs of running additional bus services, council needs to be really sure that bus services would be well-utilised.
If a bridge were built that also carries buses, most residents who live in the blue shaded area would probably still find it more convenient (and cheaper) to walk over the bridge to get to UQ, even if there are frequent buses.
Residents who live within the red circle will probably find that existing CityCat services are just as convenient to get to uni as walking a longer distance to get to a connecting bus stop.
And residents who live within the purple circles already have access to high-frequency bus services to uni that are reasonably reliable, via the busway and existing Eleanor Schonell Green Bridge, so while buses running down Boundary St might be slightly more direct, the fact that those services would be running through the low-speed cultural and commercial heart of Boundary St probably makes them a less attractive proposition.
So bus services running between West End and St Lucia are really only going to be useful for residents in the central part of West End, or for students and staff heading from UQ into West End. Anyone living further away in other parts of the city is going to find it quicker to catch a bus that runs along the existing dedicated busway, and most people living closer to the bridge will prefer to walk over for free, rather than catching a bus.
Personally I’m very sceptical that there will be enough demand to justify the high cost of running services and building a bus bridge.
Thinking about the broader public transport network as a whole, the case for buses on both the Toowong and St Lucia bridges is pretty weak, because all of West End’s main road corridors are so heavily congested. Montague Rd, Boundary St, Hardgrave Rd and Vulture St are all quite busy roads, which means bus services running along Coronation Drive and the dedicated busways are always likely to be quicker and more reliable than buses coming through West End.
I know there are quite a few residents living up on Highgate Hill who say they would use an east-west bus route running over the river to Toowong and Auchenflower, but compared to other routes and possible uses of public money, I don’t think this is likely to be a high priority. The feedback I’ve been hearing so far from residents living closer to Forbes St and Riverside Drive is that they definitely don’t want a West End-Toowong bridge to carry buses.
Is this consultation genuine?
One of the frustrating things about council consultation processes like this one is that you’re never sure how much weight they are giving to the resident feedback they receive. It sometimes feels like your comments just go into a void and no-one ever reads them.
Apart from the short timeframes, I think there are two fundamental problems with this kind of council consultation:
- Residents can’t easily see or hear what other residents and stakeholders are saying. Already, I’ve had a resident tell me that “Everyone they’ve spoken to” is opposed to one of the bridges, while another resident said “All of us down here love this bridge.” It would foster greater understanding within the community if council facilitated open discussions where everyone had an opportunity to easily engage with one another’s feedback if they wished, as opposed to all of us just giving closed feedback. That way, residents who might not personally see value in a particular project proposal might understand how it benefits a different demographic of residents.
- Not enough information has been provided to allow us to form an informed view. People can give more meaningful feedback on a project when they have access to more information about current and future commuter demand, traffic volumes, population trends, secondary impacts etc. In the case of the Toowong and St Lucia bridges, council hasn’t done a huge amount of detailed research into design options, but they would still have plenty of traffic data, as well as info about how many students UQ is aiming to accommodate in the future, how many people are expected to move into Toowong and West End etc.
By failing to provide this basic information in an easily accessible format, council fosters distrust (because residents feel like council is hiding something), polarises the electorate, and diminishes the quality of feedback it’s receiving from residents.
Having said that, I think council is genuinely interested in what residents have to say about how important these projects are, and what elements and features should be prioritised. Institutional stakeholders like the University of Queensland are pushing strongly for a bridge directly to the campus, so if residents are expressing alternative views, that can help balance out the conversation.
Unlike private development projects, where the LNP-dominated council doesn’t really care very much at all what residents think, the council is more receptive to input on public projects. The mayor doesn’t want to spend lots of money on projects that are unpopular and will lose votes. So if an element of a project receives a lot of negative feedback at the early stages (before they lock in designs and go out to tender), it’s definitely possible to get council to make changes.
If council receives really strong support for a particular bridge, but can’t secure funding for the project from the state or federal government, BCC is likely to push ahead with the project and fund the whole thing itself. Whereas if public support for a bridge is not quite as strong, and the council can’t get funding from a higher level of government, they might just delay the project and deprioritise it. So providing positive feedback about the elements you do like is just as important as providing criticisms about what needs to change.
I encourage residents to provide as much feedback as you can during the council’s consultation process. If there are other questions you’d like answered, let me know and I’ll add them to this document.
Brisbane City Council is currently planning its location for new charging infrastructure to support Brisbane Metro vehicles travelling to the UQ Lakes bus stop. (Some very basic 'official' info about this is included on the council website at this link.)
UQ Lakes will be the end of one of the new Metro lines, so fast-charging infrastructure needs to be installed in the vicinity of this stop to service the new electric vehicles. Council has told us this will involve three large containers with dimensions of 12m x 3m x 3m (and additional space around the sides for access) to house converters that will take high-voltage mains power and convert it to the right voltage for Metro charging.
Ideally, these voltage converters should be as close to the UQ Lakes bus stop as possible. But they also have to be somewhere that’s reasonably easy for maintenance vehicles to access, and need to be on higher ground that’s less vulnerable to flooding (which rules out a lot of low-lying spaces around the UQ end of the green bridge) or else installed on elevated platforms.
It seems that UQ was very resistant to having this charging infrastructure installed on the UQ site, presumably because space is always at a premium on the uni campus.
As a result, Brisbane City Council is now planning to install the charging infrastructure on a raised platform in Dutton Park, on the slope beside TJ Doyle Memorial Drive. Long, expensive cables will then supply electricity across the bridge to UQ. This Dutton Park location will involve removing established native trees and garden beds, fencing off around 200m2 of parkland, and introducing a large, bulky and obtrusive permanent structure into this natural-feeling green space.
It seems that rather than negotiating with UQ to get charging infrastructure installed close to the bus stop, council has instead gone for the easy option of cutting down trees and taking away parkland, even though the Dutton Park location is quite a long way from where the charging actually occurs.
Proposed location for charging containers on elevated platform
Local residents and elected representatives are concerned about the specific impacts of this proposal, but also the broader trend in council decision-making, which sees public parkland as expendable ‘vacant’ real estate which can be repurposed whenever land is needed for new infrastructure.
Whether it’s bridges, charging infrastructure or new roads and buildings, the continuing tendency to cannibalise parkland to avoid the costs of acquiring additional land for new public infrastructure is having a negative cumulative impact of depleting access to public green space. Council should at the very least be acquiring sites nearby to create new parkland to offset the public green space which is being lost, but is failing even to do this.
So far, we have very little information from the council about exactly why BCC failed to get UQ to agree to host the charging infrastructure on the university’s side of the river. We also don’t know exactly which trees would be removed, but we have a rough idea based on the indicative location council has nominated.
Access for the charging containers will be from the top of the slope, with a large cantilevered platform structure jutting out from the hillside where these trees grow
If you’re concerned about this proposal, please write to [email protected] to:
- ask that the charging infrastructure for the Metro be located on the UQ side of the river
- insist that no trees be removed for this project
- demand that any infrastructure projects which remove or fence off parkland at least include the creation of new parkland nearby to offset the loss
Residents are starting a community campaign to pressure Brisbane City Council and the University of Queensland to rethink this environmentally destructive solution. If you've like to get involved, send us an email at [email protected] and we'll connect you with the other residents. Whether or not BCC ultimately listens to us on this issue, it's important to put up a strong fight to defend the principle that public green space should not be treated as expendable, so that other infrastructure projects in the future do not lead to similar losses of green space.
We’ll update this page with more information as it becomes available.
I’m one of six members of Brisbane City Council’s ‘Public and Active Transport Committee’ (which although it sounds like it might have a bit of influence, is actually a relatively powerless rubber-stamping committee that only meets for half an hour per week). A few people have asked me about what’s happening with proposals for a green bridge between Bulimba-Teneriffe or Hawthorne-New Farm. Mayor Schrinner still hasn’t decided/announced where his fifth new green bridge will be, but it seems like the LNP are backing away from the idea of a Bulimba bridge, even though a lot of residents seem to think it’s a good idea.
Here’s my read of the landscape as it stands…
A bridge would be very very expensive.
We don’t know accurate cost estimates of either a bus bridge or a walking/cycling bridge over this stretch of the river. We know a feasibility study was undertaken by the State Government, but the cost estimates haven’t been released. There are heaps of variables influencing bridge costs, but based on recent cost estimates we’ve seen for other bridges in Brisbane, even a simple pedestrian/cycling bridge is likely to be $150 million minimum. A bus bridge is almost certainly going to cost more than $200 million and perhaps upwards of $300 million once you include land acquisition costs.
This stretch of the river presents particular challenges
The river is reasonably wide between Bulimba and Teneriffe. A bridge has to be tall enough to allow vessels to pass under it, but the taller you make it, the steeper the climbs become and the more ramping you need at either end to get up to the required height. All levels of government seem keen for a bridge that won’t obstruct taller vessels coming up this part of the river. The Story Bridge has a clearance of 30 metres. While it’s not especially common these days for such tall vessels to come that far up the river, I can see why governments are reluctant to permanently close off navigable river access.
The alternative is to build some kind of drawbridge or opening bridge that could be quite a bit lower than the 30m Story Bridge, but which can be opened occasionally when taller vessels need to pass through. Still expensive and tricky though.
Some people might argue that it doesn’t matter if you have a lower bridge, but cutting off inner-city access altogether for tall-masted vessels is potentially going to attract much more opposition from other groups who for various reasons feel it's important for these vessels to keep accessing the inner-city.
It would probably have to be a bus bridge to be worthwhile
There’s obviously a bit of demand for a walking and cycling link between the eastern suburbs and the 4005 postcode, and likely to be even more demand in future as more people take up emobility. But there isn’t as much high-density development on either side of the river there, or major local attractors/destinations like universities and train stations that supported the case for the West End pedestrian/cycling bridges.
I think reasonable people can and will disagree on this point, but my sense is that it would be pretty hard to justify spending $150 million purely on an active transport link when there are other more urgent active transport spending priorities around Brisbane. For a bridge here to be worth the money, I reckon it would really need to carry buses too.
Bus bridges take up a lot more room
Modern road design standards suggest safe bus lanes need to be 3.3m wide minimum, and ideally 3.5m or 3.6m. Even if in future you were to use a smaller style of electric minibus or a more slender light rail vehicle, a bridge needs at least 6.7m of width to accommodate a single vehicle lane in each direction. Add on some very narrow bike lanes and pedestrian paths, and we’re looking at a bridge structure that’s AT LEAST 12 or 13 metres wide, and probably a lot wider. (For comparison, the UQ Green Bridge to Dutton Park is around 20 metres wide.)
Whether you have a taller bridge with a 30-metre clearance, or a shorter bridge that opens and closes, it’s still going to be a reasonably bulky structure. You also need room at both ends for buses to access the bridge (ideally without getting caught up in general traffic). Finding enough room for a bus bridge and the landings is almost certainly going to require some property resumptions on one or both sides of the bridge. As we’ve seen with the West End bridge proposals, riverside residents are also likely to object quite vocally to impacts on their river views.
To attract funding, a bridge would need a lot of political support
The LNP council administration announced that they would build 5 new green bridges for Brisbane (one of these is only over Breakfast Creek so it’s really more like 4 ½). But they’ve only allocated $550 million towards these projects, which means they’ll need a couple hundred million in additional funding from either state or federal government if they’re going to build all of them. In general, it’s unusual for local councils to build major infrastructure like this, and there’s a reasonable argument to be made that such projects should be state government or federal government-led, rather that State MPs ‘calling on’ a local government like Brisbane City Council to fund such projects. But Mayor Schrinner has already publicly committed to the bridge, so he’s kinda backed himself into a corner a little bit. He’ll probably be seeking federal funding if the state government remains reluctant to chip in.
If a bridge is seen as controversial because of the impacts on local residents immediately around the landing areas, politicians and senior public servants are much less likely to see it as worthwhile to allocate a lot of funding towards such a project. It’s not enough to have citywide majority support for a bridge along this stretch of the river. To get funding prioritised towards a Bulimba bridge ahead of any number of other infrastructure projects that governments might be tempted to fund, it’s not enough to have 51% support for something. You need really widespread and enthusiastic support, particularly from local residents.
At both the local and state level, some Labor Councillors and MPs have been suggesting they support a bridge across this stretch of the river, but without explicitly acknowledging the costs and challenges I’ve mentioned above. There’s no serious interest at all from Queensland Labor to put even partial funding towards such a bridge.
Meanwhile, the LNP council administration seems to have decided that there would be too much local opposition to a green bridge in Bulimba/Hawthorne from people who live nearest the landings, and that it would be too politically damaging to push for a bridge in this area.
The federal MPs who cover the two relevant electorates – Griffith (on the inner-southside) and Brisbane (on the inner-northside) – haven’t yet said anything much about whether they support a bridge or which level of government they think should fund it. I know a couple of cycling advocacy groups have written to them to ask, but I’m not aware of any public statements yet.
Basically what all this boils down to, is that from what I can see, unless there is a really strong and enthusiastic bottom-up push for a green bridge from residents living in Bulimba, Hawthorne, New Farm and Teneriffe, the political establishment will probably decide it’s not a high enough priority for funding compared to all the other stuff that money could be spent on. ‘Enthusiastic support’ would look like a petition with thousands and thousands of signatures (not just a couple thousand, but several thousand), a wave of emails from local residents to the mayor and the relevant State MPs calling for the bridge, and public meetings/rallies demanding a better public transport link between the inner-north and inner-eastern suburbs.
In the absence of that kind of well-organised advocacy from locals themselves (as opposed to just from local politicians) I don’t see a bridge over this stretch of the river happening any time soon, and I expect the LNP will be looking at other locations further up the river (upstream of the CBD) where there’s more space along the river banks to play with and fewer potential objections from wealthy riverside residents who don’t want their river views obstructed.
Personally I think a green bridge somewhere along this stretch of the river would significantly improve our public and active transport network, but I’m still not sure whether such a project would represent good value for money compared to other projects that the money and resources could potentially go towards. I’m interested to know others think about this…
Don't read too much into this image. I was just drawing lines across the river at points that seemed like they wouldn't require too many private property resumptions...
Over the past few months, my ward office has undertaken a local consultation process in partnership with Amy MacMahon MP and Michael Berkman MP regarding BCC proposals for new active transport bridges linking West End to Toowong and St Lucia.
This write-up unpacks what we learned from that process, with a particular focus on the results of our online vote. If we’d had more time and resources, we would’ve preferred to facilitate a more robust and accessible community decision-making process based on deliberative democracy principles. Ultimately, we did the best we could with what we had, knowing that if we took too long to decide what the community did or didn’t support, the LNP-dominated Brisbane City Council would probably rush ahead and make decisions without us.
To inform our advocacy as Greens representatives, we wanted to understand:
- Did residents support the general idea for new bridges between West End and Toowong/St Lucia?
- Of the alignment options proposed by Brisbane City Council, which had the greatest public support?
Our main forms of hearing from the public included:
- An online community voting platform
- Doorknocking parts of West End and St Lucia
- A large public forum held in King George Square
- A public forum held in Davies Park, West End with a specific focus on property resumptions
- Attendance at the drop-in project information sessions organised by BCC
- Smaller group meetings and one-on-one meetings with local residents and directly impacted community groups
- Incidental conversations with residents at the various community events we attend
- Reading comments and messages on social media
- Emails and phone calls to our offices
Most of these forms of consultation tend to be heavily dominated by the people who are most engaged on a given issue. People who are not as passionate about local transport and planning decisions, or who are less directly impacted, are less likely to proactively call or email the office of an MP, or show up to a community forum or meeting.
So while we read and seriously consider every piece of correspondence we receive, we’re mindful that the cross-section of people who proactively contact our office or show up to a drop-in session to give feedback may not necessarily be representative of broader community sentiment.
As such, we also give quite a bit of weight to forms of feedback that involve fewer barriers to participation and allow us to hear from a larger number of people, such as online voting and doorknocking. The various meetings and forums were extremely useful for qualitative feedback data on the bridge proposals, while the high number of participants in the online vote provided a healthy sample size in terms of quantitative data.
Common concerns raised
The following non-exhaustive list highlights some of the concerns and questions that came through repeatedly via qualitative feedback channels:
- general frustration at the lack of detailed information provided by council
- general frustration at the short consultation time-frame
- current demand modelling and assumptions might not reflect future needs and changing transport patterns
- possible resumptions of private homes (and the many significant flow-on impacts)
- possible tree removals
- impacts on views of the river
- impacts on amenity due to bridge structures stretching into a neighbourhood (particularly a concern for the St Lucia bridge Boundary St-Keith St alignment)
- loss of useable public green space due to bridge landings
- changes to the qualitative experience of public green spaces due to higher volumes of cyclists moving through the area
- noise impacts on homes near the bridge landings due to higher volumes of cyclists
- increased street parking demand near the bridge landings
- impacts on river navigation, both for recreational rowing and river-based transport (particularly for the Toowong bridge options closer to the Sailing Club and the Kayes Rocks riverbend)
- Lack of sustainable/renewable building materials and the high carbon footprint of bridge construction
(Note that this is not a complete list, but reflects the most common concerns we heard at meetings, doorknocks etc.)
Results of online voting
By far our biggest sample size of local resident feedback was the online voting via this page. We conducted polls on three related questions, but some participants only responded to one or two of the polls.
The results of the online vote appear to indicate reasonably strong support for both bridges to be built, and a preference towards the 'Option A' alignments proposed by BCC for both the Toowong and St Lucia bridges.
The first, general question asked whether people supported both bridges, without asking about specific locations. We noticed that BCC’s ‘official’ survey did not ask such a question, which makes it difficult to decipher whether respondents might be opposed to bridges in general, or just to specific locations.
We used an optional preferential system, which allowed participants to choose the option they liked the most, knowing that they could also allocate 2nd and 3rd preferences etc. This means you could, for example, identify that you ideally wanted both the Toowong and St Lucia bridges to be built, but could still identify which bridge you preferred more strongly if “build both bridges” didn’t turn out to be a very popular choice.
Total responses to this question: 735
Most popular option: “We need both the Toowong and St Lucia Bridges” attracted 470 first preference votes, that is, a 64% primary vote.
Only 56 respondents (8%) chose “We don’t need either bridge” as their first option and only 25 respondents (3%) chose “We only need a bridge between St Lucia and West End” as their first option.
As shown in the accompanying images, after allocating preferences, the option “We need both the Toowong and St Lucia Bridges” ended up at 70% of the vote, beating “We only need a bridge between Toowong and West End” on 30%.
Out of the 735 respondents, 55 votes ‘exhausted’ (meaning they chose not to allocate full preferences).
This result – a 64% primary vote and 70% after preferences – shows quite strong support for both bridges to be built.
First preference votes for Question 1
Question 1 results after preference flows
The results for the second question about the Toowong to West End bridge were even more conclusive. We asked participants to vote for their preferred bridge alignment out of the three proposed options published by BCC. We also included a ‘no bridge’ choice and a ‘find a different location’ choice so we could clearly see distinguish between respondents who were opposed to the Toowong bridge in general.
Total responses to this question: 619
Most popular option: “Option A – 592 Coronation Drive to Riverside Drive” attracted 449 votes, which was 73% of the primary vote.
After preference flows, Option A ended up on 80% against Option B on 20%. The results of these first two polls give us a lot of confidence in concluding that there’s strong support for a pedestrian and cycling bridge between Toowong and West End, and that Option A is the clear preference out of the possible alignments proposed by BCC.
First preference votes for Question 2 (Toowong Bridge)
Question 2 results after preference flows
Responses to the third poll question about the St Lucia to West End bridge were slightly more varied. Again, we asked participants to vote for their preferred bridge alignment out of the three proposed options published by BCC, and also included ‘no bridge’ and ‘find a different location’ options.
Total responses to this question: 664
Most popular option: “Option A – Guyatt Park to Orleigh Park” attracted 347 votes, which was 52% of the primary vote. After allocating preferences, Option A won with 70% against Option C on 30%.
Notably, 20% of respondents chose “No bridge should be built between St Lucia and West End” as their first preference.
The preference flows show that most of the respondents who were opposed to any bridge being built between West End and St Lucia chose Option A as their fall-back option.
While the Option A primary vote of 52% was not as high as the leading responses to the other two poll questions, Option A was still a long way ahead of any of the other choices.
Based on the fact that the overall response to the St Lucia bridge was slightly less enthusiastic than the support for the Toowong bridge, we would still like to see more detailed demand modelling and a business case etc. for the St Lucia bridge. However the project does seem to have majority support among engaged residents who took the time to respond to our consultation.
1st preference votes for Question 3 (St Lucia Bridge)
Question 3 results after preference flows
But who responded to the online vote and how representative is it?
There are almost 20 000 residents living in West End and Highgate Hill and thousands more in suburbs like Toowong, St Lucia etc. 600 to 700 respondents is a reasonably healthy sample size, but we would always like it to be higher.
What’s important to us is that the poll was quite widely promoted, including via public meetings, email newsletters to large mailing lists, social media posts, market stalls, some doorknocking, and a printed newsletter that was delivered to every household in the Gabba Ward electorate. So we feel confident that most local residents at least had an opportunity to read up about the issue and participate if they really wanted to.
The online voting platform did include checks and balances against duplicate voting, so we are confident that the results were not distorted by one or two individuals trying to create multiple accounts.
As part of creating an account to vote online, the system allows participants to self-nominate what suburb they live in. We don’t ask for information on age, street address etc. because we didn’t want to make the account creation process too onerous, or collect more data than is strictly necessary.
Based on the suburbs nominated by residents when they created their voting accounts, approximately 40% of participants lived in West End, 20% lived in Highgate Hill, 10% lived in South Brisbane, 20% of respondents were from the inner-western suburbs such as Taringa, Toowong and St Lucia, and the remaining 10% were from other suburbs around inner-city Brisbane and some of the middle-ring suburbs.
We also noticed a couple of accounts that nominated far-flung suburbs like Sadliers Crossing and Maroochy River. Out of curiosity, we called these individuals using the mobile numbers they provided to understand why they voted, and found that they were people who’d formerly lived in West End and still felt a close connection to the area, or people who regularly travelled into West End for work.
So assuming that the majority of participants were honest about what suburb they lived in, we had fairly strong participation and engagement from the 4101 postcode, and notably less engagement from the inner-western suburbs, which probably reflects how much promo the poll received through different local channels.
Attracting broader engagement with local transport and urban planning decisions is always difficult. A lot of residents feel they don’t know enough to have an informed opinion about such questions, while others simply don’t care. This is particularly the case when such a large proportion of our community are renters on shorter-term leases who know they might not even be living in the same area a few years from now.
The reality is that we never get quite as many people engaging with consultation process like this as we would like. I initially set myself an aspirational target of 1000 responses to the bridge votes, which we fell well short of. But I’m still satisfied that anyone who has been reasonably engaged in conversations about the bridges had a reasonable opportunity to participate if they wanted to.
This is the first time we've held a poll on a larger issue like this where I didn't have as much direct control of the outcome. Whereas with our community voting process for local park upgrades, I have a lot more direct control of the budget allocations, for the bridges projects there is a serious possibility that the LNP would overrule me and ignore my wishes (and the wishes of the residents I represent) if they really wanted to.
I found running this online poll to be a very useful and instructive exercise, as it helped ground-truth and cross-check some of the narratives we'd been hearing through other channels. For example, our office received relatively few emails expressing support for both bridges, and a couple dozen emails saying that "no-one in the local area wanted either bridge." If we'd relied purely on feedback from people who were proactively contacting our office, we would have formed a very different picture of community sentiment towards the bridges. It does seem like while there is quite strong and vocal opposition to the bridges from some residents, the vast majority of residents are generally supportive of both bridge projects proceeding.
We’ll be paying close attention to Brisbane City Council’s survey results (due to be published in a few weeks – we don’t know exactly when) to see whether the results of their 'official' consultation were similar to the results of our online vote.
After multiple unsuccessful enquiries and eventually resorting to submitting formal document requests, we’ve finally secured copies of the feasibility studies that partially informed the bridge landing options that BCC has put out for public consultation.
We remain of the view that BCC ought to have provided more information about the possible bridge options right at the outset of their consultation process, to facilitate higher-quality, better-informed public feedback.
We still haven’t had time to read all of these documents in detail. They show that BCC and the private consultants considered a much wider range of possible bridge landing options, most of which were deemed less suitable for various reasons.
Importantly, the two more recent reports were drafted by private consultants for council, but it seems council officers working on the bridge projects also considered other factors and arrived at their own position. The six location options that BCC ultimately put out to public consultation suggest they agreed with the private consultants in some respects and disagreed on others. I actually think this is a positive sign in that it shows public servants (who are experts in their fields) were also thinking for themselves rather than just doing whatever the private consultants recommended.
In some respects, the documents are quite technical, and easily capable of being misinterpreted if you rush through them. In publishing them here, I want to encourage residents who read them not to cherry-pick or rely too heavily upon individual statements (such as the very rough preliminary cost estimates) and to consider them holistically.
After an initial look at these reports, one of my main concerns is that the feasibility analysis of various bridge options still gives a lot of weight to proximity to existing bus service routes, even though bus routes are comparatively easy to reconfigure.
When planning a bridge project costing in the range of $150 million, it makes sense to place a lot of emphasis on topography, and on the current locations of more expensive infrastructure that’s harder to relocate (such as train stations and riverwalks). But given that these bridges are likely to remain in place for decades to come, it’s short-sighted to decide the best place to land a bridge based on something as changeable as the locations of existing bus stops or bus routes.
Other important stuff to keep in mind when reading these reports:
- The earlier documents were produced prior to BCC’s 2020 round of public consultation, after which council confirmed very clearly that the proposed Toowong and St Lucia bridges would not carry buses
- The 2020 and 2019 reports were produced for council by private consultancies, and none of the 3 reports have been published by BCC, so they should not be misinterpreted as being indicative of council’s current position on the bridges (they certainly don’t reflect my views)
- Some of the analysis regarding key destinations and nearby land uses is already out of date due to new development, as are the assumptions about how far a less-confident rider might be able and willing to travel (considering the recent proliferation of ebikes and escooters)
- two of the documents are still labelled 'Draft' but there are no 'final' versions of these documents. Apparently this is reasonably common within government projects. Documents that might be politically sensitive or require further development are left as 'drafts' so that they can leave certain questions open-ended. In this case, one of the key questions regarding bridge alignments is which alignments have public support, so I can see why the alignment study is still sitting in draft mode. It's possible (but perhaps unlikely) that once the public consultation period ends, BCC might even ask GHD to update their alignment study to take account of the public feedback received
Image from 2020 'West End Green Bridges Alignment Study' showing wider range of options considered
Personally I don’t think too much weight should be given to the recommendations and analysis in these documents. These kinds of studies exemplify a common (and, I would argue, flawed) approach at all levels of government, where political decision-making is outsourced not to the general public through deliberative and direct democracy processes, but to private consultants who apply their own values to what are essentially political decisions.
The options analyses in these documents, where different bridges are assigned scores to help rank their suitability, are highly subjective processes. Consultants seek to quantify some of the qualitative impacts and benefits of various options, but such exercises are always tainted by the values of the company in question.
For example, while one consultancy might see the creation of a concrete plaza leading up to a proposed bridge as a positive contribution to the public realm (and something which benefits the community), other consultants might see the proliferation of concrete and loss of actual green space as a detriment. Such questions are subjective and political. To pretend that they are politically neutral decisions that can be outsourced to ‘experts’ is to undermine the basic premise of democracy. So instead of treating such reports and analyses as definitive, we should recognise that they are merely the perspective of one particular company that has been paid to look closely at an issue or project.
Ultimately, it’s better if the community as a whole gets to make such decisions, but we still need access to enough detailed information to inform our decision-making.
Documents available for download via these links:
The Cross River Rail Project will deliver a much-needed new train station at Woolloongabba, and an upgraded train station at Boggo Road, Dutton Park.
The State Government is currently drafting Development Schemes which will dictate how the land above and around these train stations can be developed. Unfortunately, it looks like there will be very little scope for meaningful public input into the future of the Gabba and Boggo Rd stations.
So our office is supporting the community to get on the front foot and demand more control over how these sites are developed before decisions are made behind closed doors and the development schemes are released.
The Gabba Station development is not just a train station. This is a 5+ hectare site with huge potential to meet a range of community needs.
Below, you can find info about the alternative visions we’ve produced for the Gabba Station, what we think the government is currently planning for both stations, and how you can make your voice heard most effectively. Please enter your contact details at the bottom of the page to sign up for updates about the growing campaign for a better future for this site.
Alternative Visions for the Gabba Station
Our recent newsletter features two alternative visions for how the Cross River Rail Gabba Train Station site could be redeveloped. These images are not detailed proposals. Rather than purporting to be finalised concept designs, they are simply intended to show what’s possible. Some elements may not be feasible in the proposed context, or not quite what the community really needs. But we’ve produced these drawings to share a wider range of ideas and prompt deeper discussions about how both the Gabba and Boggo Road sites could be redeveloped.
So far, images and videos released by the State Government have shown very little detail about the future of the Gabba site, so I’m hoping these visions will inspire residents to produce your own visions for how this massive 5-hectare publicly owned site can best meet the community’s needs. I don’t accept the proposition that these station sites should be sold off to the private sector and simply developed as privately owned offices and high-density private apartment towers.
Both visions include space for an Aboriginal cultural centre, a 50-metre public swimming pool, a large skate park, playgrounds, sports courts, dog off-leash areas and a wide range of community facilities.
Naturally, we envisage that all buildings would be designed to be as sustainable as possible, with an emphasis on sourcing construction materials locally, and using materials like cross-laminated timber to reduce reliance on concrete and steel. All buildings would incorporate stormwater collection, greywater recycling, on-site organic waste composting, water-smart and energy-smart fixtures and appliances, and solar panels on underutilised roof and awning spaces.
Download: Gabba Station Alternative Visions (pdf)
The Mixed-Use Vision features a couple of office blocks and medium-density and higher-density apartment blocks, containing several hundred dwellings. We believe the government should retain ownership of all dwellings on the site and rent them out as public housing, with rent set at 25% of a household’s income. We envisage that these apartments could be rented not just to high-needs low-income residents, but also to middle-income and higher-income households, creating a diverse community of residents of different backgrounds and financial positions who all live in similar-style housing and have access to the same public facilities. Office space could be made freely available to government departments and non-profit organisations like Murri Watch, or rented out to the private sector as a source of revenue.
The Mixed-Use Vision shows a pedestrian overpass to the Gabba Stadium, which has also been proposed by the State Government. However unlike State Government concept designs, we envisage that such an overpass could also span Stanley Street, connecting cyclists and pedestrians to and from the Logan Road precinct and south-east active transport corridors. This serves a broader range of uses, whereas an overpass to the Gabba Stadium would be of comparatively little value on the many days of the year where large events aren’t hosted at the stadium.
The Blue-Green Vision does not include any residential apartments, but offers more space for sport and recreation, with a full-sized athletics track, as well as larger parks, community gardens and market stall spaces for artisans and farmers markets. The Blue-Green Vision also includes space for natural lagoons and densely vegetated bushland reserves, cooling the city, reducing stormwater flooding, and providing more habitat for native wildlife.
The Blue-Green Vision proposes to work with the sloping nature of the site, nestling a large underground music venue into the corner of Leopard St and the Vulture St motorway slip lane, with parkland over the music venue roof that connects to the existing corridor of native trees around the motorway. This would dramatically improve connectivity for native wildlife moving between central Woolloongabba and Maiwar (the Brisbane River).
If you have further questions about some of the other ideas and elements depicted in these alternative visions, email us at [email protected] and we can add more detail to this explanation. You might also like to share your own thoughts on social media, and post about which elements of the vision you do or don’t like.
What’s currently proposed for the Gabba Station site?
The State Government has provided no clear detail about its plans for the Gabba Station development. As this is public land, the government should be focussed on delivering public housing, community facilities and public green space. However, based on what has already happened to other components of the Cross River Rail project – such as the Albert St station in the CBD – and the commentary so far in government publications, we are concerned that the government is planning to sell off development rights to the private sector to crowd the entire site with highrises.
Priority Development Area Designation
In Woolloongabba, the government has designated a massive area of 21 hectares as a Cross River Rail Priority Development Area, incorporating the Gabba Stadium, the former GoPrint site and other parcels of state-owned land around the motorway. A ‘Priority Development Area’ (PDA) designation is the same mechanism which was used for the Queen’s Wharf Mega-Casino and for the Toondah Harbour development proposal in the Redlands. It allows the State Government to ignore existing height limits and other requirements in the City Plan, and takes away all legal objection rights that residents or other stakeholders might otherwise have.
The new Woolloongabba Priority Development Area
Crucially, under the PDA framework, the State Government is not obliged to contribute towards the cost of local infrastructure beyond the boundaries of the declared site. This means that private developers who partner with the government can introduce much higher population densities than anticipated under the neighbourhood plan, but are under no obligation to help pay for new pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, libraries etc. to support the growing population.
PDA designations have been widely criticised for undemocratically cutting out local residents from having any input into future development plans. They are a mechanism to fast-track development and privatise public assets.
As part of the PDA process, the government will have to release a ‘Development Scheme’ outlining the parameters of how the site can be developed. This document essentially serves as a mini-Neighbourhood Plan, outlining development height limits, site coverage requirements etc. The government says the Development Scheme for the Woolloongabba PDA will be introduced in 2021, after the state election. This means residents won’t know what’s proposed when they go to vote in October this year, and may not know what the various parties and candidates support and stand for.
What’s likely in the new Development Scheme?
In guessing at what the government might do, we can look at the Interim Land Use Plan released by the government in April 2020 when the PDA was declared. The ILUP sets out some development parameters for ‘Precinct 1,’ of the PDA, which is the area closest to the Gabba Stadium, and includes Woolloongabba Place Park. We can also look at the previous (now out-of-date) development scheme for the site from 2011.
On page 28 of the old development scheme, the State Government allows buildings of up to 30 storeys.
Following the plan in the old development scheme, the new Interim Land Use Plan allows buildings of up to 20 storeys within Precinct 1. ‘Precinct 1’ is adjacent to heritage buildings and furthest from the train station entrance itself, so ordinarily you might expect that buildings within this part of the PDA would be shorter and less dense than building closer to the centre of the site.
So this suggests a high likelihood that in the new development scheme, the government will propose multiple highrise towers on the main GoPrint site which are 30 storeys or even taller.
This is clearly reinforced in the illustrative visualisations released by the State Government in March 2020, which also show 12 very tall highrise towers on the site.
While there has been no mention from the government whatsoever of public housing on the Gabba Station, the Cross River Rail website makes it very clear that ‘commercial, retail and residential development’ is anticipated.
So it seems clear that unless there is very strong community pushback and a clear public demand for a different way forward, this entire site will be developed and sold off as privately owned highrise towers, with very little public green space or community facilities, and no public housing.
Why are you opposed to high-density development? It’s a train station after all
In urban planning circles, there is now strong support for concentrating higher-density development around public transport nodes like train stations. When residents have close access to public transport, they are less likely to rely on private cars, which has a wide range of positive flow-on benefits. So-called ‘transport oriented developments’ are certainly preferable to the outer-suburban sprawl developments that have been so disastrously common around south-east Queensland.
However, it’s important to strike the right balance. Residents of high-density development also need access to public green space and community facilities, particularly because they have so little private space of their own. If we are to reduce car-dependence, we need to reduce the need for apartment residents to drive regularly to outer-suburban parks, sports fields and other public facilities that might not be located along a train line.
In evaluating the best way to develop the Gabba and Boggo Rd train station sites, it’s important to consider the broader neighbourhood and citywide contexts, and all the other needs that the redevelopment of public land should strive to meet.
Around the Gabba, all privately owned sites to the north of Vulture St and to the south of Stanley St have already been zoned for high-density development of up to 20 storeys. Further development is proposed to the south-east along Logan Rd, to the west in South Brisbane, and to the north in Kangaroo Point. And yet, the provision of public green space and community facilities like public pools, libraries, halls, and creative spaces is not keeping pace with private development.
As shown by the orange and dark red areas on this BCC City Plan Zoning Map, much of the land surrounding the Gabba is already zoned for high-density development, while very little is zoned green for public parkland...
There is already a chronic shortage of public parkland in particular, and acquiring private land to create new parks would be prohibitively expensive. As more sites develop, the pressure on existing green spaces will increase further. The Desired Standards of Service in Brisbane City Council’s City Plan identify that for every 1000 residents, there should be 1.4 hectares of public parkland in the immediate local area. Woolloongabba already falls far short of this target.
If the Gabba station is developed with a large amount of high-density housing, this would place further strain on public parks and facilities, whereas if it is developed with more parkland and public facilities, this will provide a net benefit to residents of existing and future high-density developments surrounding the train station site.
At a time when inner-city land is in such short supply, selling off public assets for private development is a short-sighted strategy.
Considered in their broader context, it might make sense for the publicly owned Gabba and Boggo Rd station sites to be delivered with a higher proportion of public green space, thus supporting and encouraging high-density living on the private development sites around the edge of each station.
Residents of high-density development around other inner-city train stations also need access to green space. So by providing new parks and facilities at the Gabba and Boggo Rd stations, we can create opportunities for residents around stations like Albert St and South Brisbane to hop on a train and easily access sports fields close to home, rather than having to travel further afield. This in turn increases the attractiveness of high-density inner-city living, and helps our city resist the pressure for more and more outer-suburban sprawl.
What about the Boggo Road Precinct?
The Boggo Road precinct, which includes the State Heritage-listed gaol and the Ecosciences building, is a crucial node of the inner-south side, adjoining Dutton Park State School, the new Dutton Park High School, the PA Hospital, UQ St Lucia (via the Green Bridge) and serving as a major interchange for busways and train lines.
Most of this precinct is State Government-owned land, however there is currently no up-to-date, publicly available holistic vision for how the Boggo Rd precinct should evolve.
The Cross River Rail station development should of course consider the surrounding context, and be planned alongside proposals for the revitalisation of the gaol, future expansions to Dutton Park State School etc. The lack of a holistic plan for the entire precinct is deeply concerning.
BCC’s Dutton Park-Fairfield Neighbourhood Plan articulates some general aspirations, but this neighbourhood plan does not include anywhere near enough public green space or community facilities, lacks detail about the Boggo Road precinct itself, is likely to be overridden by State Government planning mechanisms, and is already out of date (e.g. it does not include consideration of the new Dutton Park high school etc.).
BCC has also recently produced a draft ‘Boggo Road Precinct Renewal Strategy’ which has no legal effect or associated funding, and is largely silent as to how all this State-owned land should be developed and activated, focussing instead on connections to and through the precinct.
At this stage, the only detail that’s been publicly released by the State Government is a 2-minute video overview of the project. The government has emphasised that this video is not a finalised concept plan. The video appears to show large new buildings to the north and east of the Ecosciences precinct, but doesn’t specify what these buildings will be used for, and is silent as to whether they’ll remain in public ownership or will be sold off to the private sector.
Screenshot from the State Government's video of the Boggo Rd CRR precinct showing proposed large buildings in white
The government has also confirmed that the long-awaited footbridge linking Boggo Rd to the PA hospital will be delivered as part of this project, creating a new east-west pedestrian and cycling link between Dutton Park and Ipswich Rd. But there’s no detail whatsoever about how much public green space will be delivered.
To facilitate construction of the upgraded station, the State Government has resumed Outlook Park (which had an area of 1500m2), promising to offset its loss with a new public park of equal quality and size. In November 2017, our State MP Jackie Trad also announced that the 3700m2 triangle of state-owned land between Boggo Rd and the existing Boggo Rd Busway Station would either be used for the new high school or for green space. So if the State Government does the right thing and sticks to previous public statements, the Boggo Road Station redevelopment should include well over 5000m2 of public green space, in addition to concreted public squares and plazas.
Previous government commitments suggest there should be at least 5000m2 of new parkland within the Boggo Rd precinct
I believe the redevelopment of the Boggo Rd Station site must be planned holistically as part of redevelopment proposals for the gaol itself, and other surrounding sites. Neither Brisbane City Council nor the State Government have provided enough clarity about future plans for this area, or given residents any meaningful say as to how all this publicly owned land should or shouldn’t be utilised.
While the area of the Boggo Road Station development site itself is not as large as the Gabba Station, it’s important to understand that the government also owns significant parcels of land around the PA Hospital and train lines. When you consider the possibility of building over parts of the train line in future, and incorporating the storage sheds and carparks along the train line and busway into the Boggo Rd precinct, we’re talking about a total area of 160 000m2 of state-owned land. This is clearly a huge opportunity that local residents should have input into, rather than leaving all the decisions up to politicians and private developers.
Once COVID-19 restrictions ease, we aim to organise further public meetings and events regarding the Boggo Rd site, so that we can push for outcomes that meet the community’s needs and pressure the State Government to stick to its previous commitments regarding the provision of public parkland.
How can we get better outcomes?
Back in the 1980s, property developers were actively lobbying for high-density highrise development along the South Brisbane riverfront between Grey St and the water’s edge. Developers deployed sustainability and affordability arguments for concentrating denser housing near the CBD in order to justify privatising public land and cramming in taller towers along the river.
Fortunately, building upon the momentum of Expo 88, a broad-based community campaign applied enough pressure for a different vision for this precinct to crystallise. Instead of cramming in as many apartments as possible, political leaders agreed to preserve much of South Bank for public parkland and community facilities. Today, South Bank is a destination that locals and visitors travel great distances to enjoy.
To prevent the privatisation and over-development of the Gabba and Boggo Rd Cross River Rail train station sites, and push for positive development outcomes that are in the wider public interest, we will need a similar kind of community campaign that applies pressure on politicians and government departments through a range of channels.
The first step is to raise awareness and broaden the parameters of debate, so that thousands of residents across Brissie’s inner-south side are excited about the alternative possibilities for these sites and are directly contacting MPs to ask them what they support, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 October state election.
If you want to get involved with this community campaign, please enter your details and sign up for updates.
It would also help if you can write to key government decision-makers as soon as possible to ask them specific questions and share what you think is important.
Please email the following people:
- Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk - [email protected]
- State MP for South Brisbane, Jackie Trad - [email protected]
In your emails, tell them a bit about who you are and why you care about these sites, and ask them the following questions:
Roughly how many apartments do you think there should be on each site?
How many hectares of new public green space do you think each site include?
What maximum building height limits are appropriate for both the Gabba and Boggo Rd sites?
Do you support selling off private development rights, or will you fight to retain full public ownership of both sites?
Please also email:
- Minister for Housing and Public Works, Mick De Brenni - [email protected] - ask him how much public housing will be delivered on the Gabba Station site
- Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner - [email protected] - ask him where he intends to deliver new public parkland in Woolloongabba and Dutton Park to cater for new high-density development
Other steps you can take:
- Talk to friends and family and post up on social media about what kind of development you’d like to see on these two train station sites
- Contact other elected State MPs and other state election candidates to ask them whether they support including more green space and public facilities above and around these train stations, or whether they support the State Government’s current plans to sell off the sites for private highrise development
- Get together with a group of friends or a community group you’re involved in, produce your own alternative vision for either the Boggo Rd or Gabba train station sites, and share it with our office and the wider community
Please sign up for updates and encourage your friends to do so too!Sign up
Brisbane City Council’s annual budget looks a little different for the 2020/21 financial year, but in many respects, it embodies the same trends and values as previous council budgets.
The budget includes a disproportionate amount of money spent on intersection-widening and road-widening projects which will discourage active transport and encourage more people to drive. On the other hand, the budget includes very little funding for the arts, community services and public facilities like libraries. They’ve also cut funding to the very popular kerbside rubbish collection service for two years.
Council revenue has reduced noticeably as a result of offering rates discounts, free parking and a range of fee waivers related to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Looking ahead, BCC is continuing to offer property developers significant discounts on infrastructure charges, with the supposed goal of encouraging private development. However this represents a false economy, as it means council won’t have enough money to pay for the public infrastructure needed to cater for further private development and growth (further info on infrastructure shortfalls at this link).
Council continues to under-invest in local active transport infrastructure such as pedestrian crossings, traffic calming and separated bike lanes. Across the entire city, council is only installing traffic calming (i.e. speed bumps or build-outs) on SIX streets this financial year (details on page 148 of the budget under ‘Local Area Traffic Management’). There are dozens of locations in each one of council’s 26 wards which currently require traffic calming, so the fact that BCC is installing traffic calming on just six streets this year is deeply concerning.
Happily, the budget does include a significant allocation towards construction of the Kangaroo Point footbridge, which council is aiming to complete by the end of 2023. Five years ago, the LNP backed away from funding this project, so I’m very pleased we’ve been able to turn that around and secure funding for this important active transport project. Funding has also been allocated for early-stage design and options analysis work for the West End-Toowong footbridge.
I’m also grateful that the council has adopted Greens proposals to introduce a compost bin rebate scheme, where residents can get a refund of up to $70 on the cost of purchasing a new or second-hand compost bin or worm farm. Unfortunately the current process for actually applying for the rebate is much more complicated than it needs to be, and I’ve already asked BCC if they can streamline this.
A huge chunk of council’s budget continues to be spent on general waste collection and management. The costs of waste collection and management are split across a few different budget items, but on average, council spends roughly $200 million every year collecting and managing household waste.
While I was opposed to the decision to cut funding to the kerbside collection program without warning, I think that overall, waste management represents one of the low-hanging fruits in terms of opportunities to reduce council spending. If BCC supported more waste reduction schemes (such as encouraging composting and discouraging single-use packaging) we could drastically reduce the costs of waste management in this city, which would free up a lot more money for pedestrian crossings, community projects and new public parks.
Overall, BCC’s budget continues to follow an unsustainable neoliberal paradigm. Instead of making big corporate property investors and land speculators pay their fair share (such as by introducing a vacancy levy on empty homes and shops), council continues to cut corners and under-invest in essential public services and facilities. Service and infrastructure delivery costs are inflated drastically as a result of outsourcing to private for-profit contractors, while more and more council public servants are casualised or placed on short-term contracts.
Below you can find a breakdown of some of the specific projects that have been funded within the Gabba Ward for the coming financial year. Other local projects will be funded out of generic budget items that haven’t yet been specifically allocated. For example, a lot of money has been allocated towards bikeway improvements, but council hasn’t yet decided which specific projects to prioritise (I am pushing for bike lanes along Vulture St).
Council has also listed several proposals, such as a signalised pedestrian crossing over River Terrace, Kangaroo Point in the vicinity of Bell St, which will be dependent on federal government funding. Normally, council funds some road safety projects using state or federal government grants, but with this year’s federal budget delayed, BCC is still waiting to hear whether funding for such projects will come through.
If you have further questions about any of the below projects, feel free to get in touch with my office. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll try to track down someone who does.
Shafston Avenue, Kangaroo Point - $72 000
Melbourne St, South Brisbane - $398 000
Park Rd, Dutton Park - $244 000
Princess St, Kangaroo Point - $172 000
Boundary St, South Brisbane - $245 000 (partial – not the whole corridor)
Cordelia St, South Brisbane - $491 000
Gloucester St, South Brisbane - $164 000 (partial – not the whole corridor)
Beesley St, West End - $125 000
Buchanan St, West End - $122 000
Hardgrave Rd, West End - $583 000
Montague Rd, West End - $372 000 (partial – not the whole corridor)
Raven St, West End - $61 000 (timing will probably depend on progress of the QLD Ballet development project)
Scott St, West End - $60 000
Ipswich Rd, Woolloongabba - $453 000
Stormwater Drainage Construction and Rehabilitation
Dudley St, Highgate Hill - $168 000
Mollison St, South Brisbane - $1 649 000 (drainage work for West Village)
Ipswich Rd, Woolloongabba - $179 000
(There’s also $431 000 allocated for major drainage work around Logan Rd and Toohey St, Woolloongabba. This area is now outside the Gabba Ward, but I’ve been advocating for this investment for several years so I’m glad it’s finally happening)
Traffic lights for Victoria St and Montague Rd, West End - $7 869 000 (they’ve already spent a couple of million on this in the 2019/20 financial year – commentary regarding the high cost at this link)
River Terrace and Main St, Kangaroo Point - $6 535 000 (I do not support this project in its current form, and consider it a poor use of ratepayer money)
Boardwalks, Bridges and Culverts
Major restoration works for Story Bridge, Kangaroo Point - $13 831 000
Stage 2 of Restoration/slab work for Eleanor Schonell Green Bridge, Dutton Park - $166 000
Cultural Centre Boardwalk Restoration - $1 338 000
Other Public Space Works
Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park – Repairing old wooden bridge (on the path along the bottom of the cliffs), new/restored safety anchor points for rock-climbing - $237 000
‘Main St Park’, Kangaroo Point (this is council’s name for the park beside St Mary’s Church that used to be a TAFE) – installation of irrigation system - $81 000
Sealing and upgrade of carpark in Dutton Park along TJ Doyle Memorial Drive - $180 000
River wall reconstruction near Dock St, South Brisbane - $222 000.
Local infrastructure ‘Suburban Enhancement Fund’ budget - $565 000
As well as all of the above projects, we have a local public space improvements budget that we can allocate towards minor park and footpath upgrades around the Gabba Ward. Council only allows us to use this budget for permanent, physical infrastructure, and not for events, community projects or temporary facilities.
This is the budget that I’ve used to deliver facilities like the Musgrave Park basketball half-court, and the very small skate plaza in Davies Park (yes, I would have liked to make the skate plaza bigger too, but council wouldn’t let us install a larger skate facility so close to land that’s zoned for future residential development).
We are always open to suggestions for minor projects that could be funded out of this budget, and will be running a community voting process later in the year to allocate this funding after further conversations with council about what projects are feasible and likely to be supported by the LNP. Some of the projects we’re currently considering include:
- a wheelchair-accessible pathway link from Riverside Drive up to the Davies Park ring road
- a larger skate park somewhere along the riverfront (finding sites that are far enough away from residential properties is proving challenging)
- paying artists to paint more public murals on existing toilet blocks and council walls
- new native garden beds and bushland reserve plantings in existing council parks
We are also still waiting for council to install a new public toilet block along Riverside Drive, just north of the Merivale St rail bridge (this project was allocated funding out of last year’s Suburban Enhancement Fund budget), and to confirm a proposal for a second toilet block at the north-west end of Musgrave Park (keep an eye on email newsletters if you’d like updates about these projects).
West End Riverside Land Remediation
Previously, council allocated upwards of $15 million towards remediating heavily contaminated parkland adjoining a former industrial site along Riverside Drive near Hockings St, West End. This project has now been postponed for a couple more years, as BCC is negotiating with the State Government and a private developer to remediate adjoining blocks of government-owned and privately-owned land at the same time.
Money for this remediation project is now earmarked in the forward estimates for the 2022/23 and 2023/4 financial years, but as this project depends on negotiation with other stakeholders, it’s hard to say for sure exactly when it will happen.
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.
This week, I'm calling for the introduction of two new CityGlider routes to fill gaps in Brisbane’s public transport network.
Getting from one suburb to another by bus or train is often a lot harder than getting in and out of the CBD, and we need to improve inter-suburban connectivity so that people can make the shift away from depending on private vehicle transport.
These route proposals are not final or definitive. We’re putting them out there to seek feedback and crowdsource residents’ insights to create the best possible route alignments. Where should the stops go? Exactly where should the services terminate? And are these the best streets for high-frequency buses to be using?
The Green CityGlider route is focussed on cross-suburb travel, connecting people from predominantly residential areas like East Brisbane and Hawthorne to employment and service hubs like the major hospitals in South Brisbane/Woolloongabba.
It would run from the intersection of Vulture St and Montague Rd in West End, and turn around at the Bulimba roundabout where Oxford St meets Hawthorne Rd and Riding Rd.
The Green CityGlider connects to two train stations – South Bank and the future Cross River Rail Gabba station – as well as a couple of key busway hubs, including future Brisbane Metro stops at Mater Hill and South Bank.
It connects to several big schools, including West End State School, Brisbane State High, Somerville House and St Laurence’s College, Lourdes Hill College and Bulimba State School, giving students and staff a reliable all-weather public transport alternative to driving.
Crucially, it provides a direct connection between West End’s high-density areas along Montague Rd, through the Boundary St commercial precinct to South Brisbane and Woolloongabba, without having to go in and out of the Cultural Centre bottleneck.
The north-south Orange CityGlider would fill one of the biggest gaps in inner-city Brisbane’s transport network, connecting Kangaroo Point, Annerley and Woolloongabba to major destinations in Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills. It also picks up quite a few school catchments along Ipswich Rd and Main St which currently generate a huge amount of peak-hour traffic.
We suggest the Orange CityGlider could run from Cracknell Rd, Annerley to Campbell St, Bowen Hills.
Both of these routes could be augmented by introducing dedicated peak-hour bus lanes through key choke spots, so that catching the bus is always quick and reliable. They would run at high frequency, so that you could turn up to the stop at any time of the day or night and be confident of getting a ride. They intersect at the Gabba Station and Stadium, reinforcing this as a transport node so that people can easily change services and head to different parts of south/east Brisbane without having to go all the way into the Cultural Centre to transfer.
Cross-suburb connections like these also improve network resilience, as these high-frequency routes can still flow reliably, even if a car crash or flooding causes a traffic jam on one of the main roads leading directly in and out of the city.
Alongside our call for free off-peak public transport for everyone, a change like this would greatly improve connectivity and mobility, particularly for lower-income residents who don’t have access to private vehicles.
For those who are wondering about funding, we’ve estimated that these new routes would each cost around $5 million per year to run. But we know that other services such as the Blue CityGlider actually earn the council more than that in ticket revenue because they are so popular. Thinking bigger-picture, it is actually cheaper and more efficient for people to move around the city via public and active transport than by private vehicles.
Each year, council spends hundreds of millions of dollars maintaining and widening roads, as does the State Government. Getting more people out of their cars and onto public transport is great for the environment, and would also save a lot of money in the long-term, because a single bus needs much less road space and causes a lot less wear and tear on the road than dozens and dozens of cars.