Current as of 10 June, 2022 - please note that some of the info in these newsletters (especially event listings) can go out of date quite quickly
I hope you’re coping better than I am in this cool weather. My little houseboat feels very cosy at this time of year, which makes it extra hard to get up and ride off to work each morning. But there’s a lot happening in our area at the moment that you might be interested in…
Pushing back against gentrification
Unfortunately, the LNP-dominated Brisbane City Council is continuing to approve developments which aren’t supported by sufficient investment in public infrastructure, or which put upward pressure on property prices.
Recently, the council approved a development application for 5 Dudley Street, Highgate Hill, which is proposing to demolish an existing 3-storey building of fourteen smaller apartments, and replace them with a 5-storey building that has just seven luxury apartments. Low-income tenants will be pushed out to make room for a taller, bulkier building that actually houses fewer people (and doesn’t comply with the neighbourhood plan).
I’m worried that this approval could set a precedent for other sites around the inner-city, as there are many other blocks which are zoned for 2 and 3 storeys where the council might start approving 4 or 5-storey luxury apartment developments, displacing even more low-income residents.
Meanwhile, beside Davies Park, the council is currently considering an amended application for the proposal of two towers at 281-297 Montague Rd, looming over the soccer field. The developer has reduced their proposal to a height of 20 storeys, but Amy MacMahon and I feel that this is still too tall for the site and will cause significant traffic issues along Montague Road. The current height limit is 6 to 12 storeys, but we would ideally like to see these blocks acquired by Brisbane City Council and amalgamated into Davies Park.
Amy and I previously wrote to the local cement company Hanson, expressing our concerns about the negative impacts of these two projects, and asking Hanson to refuse to supply concrete to them. Hanson still hasn’t replied to our letter, so we are organising another protest against these development proposals, specifically targeting the cement factory.
Please join us on the morning of Saturday, 18 June when we will gather in Davies Park from 9am and march down Montague Road to Hockings Street, to temporarily block access to the Hanson Cement factory. You can RSVP for the protest at this link and invite friends to the Facebook event via this link.
Protest against eviction of disability pensioner
Unfortunately the State Government has recently reached a new low, as they are trying to evict a disability pensioner named David from public housing in Taringa, apparently on the basis that he didn’t keep the place clean enough.
I’m partnering with Greens MP Michael Berkman and the Brisbane Renters Alliance to protest this eviction and put some pressure on the State Government not to make this man homeless. If you can make it over to Taringa from 9am on Friday, 17 June, we could really use your support.
Please invite friends to the Facebook event and spread the word through whatever channels you can!
Metro Construction changes in South Bank and Dutton Park
Construction work on the Brisbane Metro is stepping up in intensity, with some significant impacts for roads and parks within the Gabba Ward.
The council has advised me that from 24 June, the following permanent traffic changes will be made around South Brisbane to facilitate construction work around the Cultural Centre Bus Station…
- Grey Street will be reduced to two traffic lanes (one lane in each direction) between Russell Street and Peel Street
- Melbourne Street will be closed to general traffic between Hope Street and Grey Street - general traffic will not be able to access Melbourne Street inbound between Hope St and Grey St or outbound between Grey St and Merivale St
- The left turn from Hope Street onto Melbourne St will be closed
- The left turn from Grey Street onto Melbourne St will be closed
The following temporary changes are also taking effect during the construction period:
- Melbourne Street will be reduced to two traffic lanes (one lane in each direction, not inclusive of turning lanes), between Manning Street and Merivale Street. All traffic travelling inbound on Melbourne Street will be forced to either turn right onto Merivale Street or left onto Hope Street
- Some of the loading zones, street parking and motorbike parking along Grey Street around Fish Lane will be removed
- The separated bike lanes that run alongside the Cultural Centre (connecting from the Grey Street intersection to the Victoria Bridge) will be closed and cyclists will have to travel on the shared footpath.
More details on these construction impacts can be found via the council website at this link.
Over at Dutton Park, most of the lower field beside the UQ Green Bridge is being fenced off, and work will soon begin on installation of Metro vehicle charging infrastructure for the UQ Lakes bus station on the other side of the river. I’m not very happy about this aspect of the project, as it involves removing several established trees, but the council has at least agreed to make some significant green space improvements elsewhere in Dutton Park - including converting some bitumen beside the river back into green space - in order to offset the negative impacts.
Xylophones on Boundary Street?
We’re still in negotiations with the council and other stakeholders about the future of the small public space at the corner of Russell Street and Boundary Street, behind the lizard statue. My long-term goal is to close off the western end of Russell Street to cars in order to create a much larger public space, but the LNP are still quite resistant to that.
For the time being, I’m proposing to ask council workers to install an outdoor musical instrument around the edge of the existing public space, as well as some more seating. These outdoor instruments won’t take up much room, and can be relocated later if necessary. They are supposed to be weatherproof and vandalism-resistant.
We are also proposing to install a small glockenspiel at the corner of Vulture St and Thomas St near the entrance to Bunyapa Park.
If you have any questions or concerns about these proposed installations, please send us an email. Personally I think they’ll be a positive addition to these public spaces, and I’ll be interested to see how they go.
‘Official’ opening of Inner South State Secondary College
On Tuesday I attended the official opening of the new public high school at Dutton Park. The students who performed in the band and sang in the choir did a great job.
It’s a bit odd that a school which began accepting students from the start of 2021 was still under construction until November 2021, and wasn’t officially opened until June 2022 (by which point students had been studying there for almost 18 months), but I guess that’s a sign of the times.
My two biggest frustrations with the new school are:
- It doesn’t have enough green space for the kids, which means students regularly have to cross Gladstone Road and walk across the UQ Green bridge to access sports fields at UQ, and
- The catchment boundaries of the school have been drawn in such a way that they don’t actually take much pressure off Brisbane State High.
The new facilities really are very impressive though, and it was nice to see the new school formally celebrated after so many residents spent years campaigning for a new high school.
When I joined the push for a new high school for the inner-south side in 2014 (well before I was elected as a city councillor), a lot of people said it would never happen. By that point, some residents had been highlighting the need for a new school for years, and had given up hope that the political system would ever respond to community pressure. So while I still believe the State Government made a poor decision in terms of the specific location and catchment boundaries of this school, I think it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate the many years of activism from local residents and community groups that contributed to this facility being delivered.
Based on the future projected population growth for West End and South Brisbane, it’s possible we may still need another new high school for the Kurilpa Peninsula at some point in the future, even if BSHS does drastically reduce its ‘out-of-catchment’ intake. This will be an important issue to keep an eye on.
Highgate Hill Concert
As noted in the events list below, there’s another free community concert coming up in Highgate Hill Park this Saturday afternoon (11 June). My office has ordered additional portaloos to accommodate the event, and the organisers have committed to being proactive about cleaning up any litter left behind by residents afterwards. It looks like the concert will be quite well attended, and parking around the park is extremely limited, so I encourage residents to travel to the park by public or active transport rather than driving if possible.
Council arborists have advised that they are removing a couple of trees around the ward that are either dead or are seriously injured/sick and at risk of falling over.
- 125 Gray Rd, West End
- 7 Vulture St, West End
- 21 Appel St, Highgate Hill
- Mater Hospital Emergency Entrance on Vulture St, South Brisbane
If you have more questions about any of these tree removals, please flick us an email. The arborists will be planting replacement trees in the same locations or nearby.
That’ll probably do it for this week. Please do come along to the protests next Friday and Saturday morning if you can!
Free Mental Health Carer Support & Services, Arafmi
Arafmi provides free counselling services, whether in-person or online (phone or Zoom). As a NFP organisation that provides supports and services for unpaid mental health carers, Arafmi appreciates that sometimes you need to talk to somebody outside of the home or your caring situation. To make an apt or to learn more, please visit their website: www.arafmi.com.au or call them on 3254 1881. Arafmi's website ▸
My Little Sunshine, an exploration on grief.
23/05/2022 to 11/06/2022, 12:00am
My Little Sunshine is a multi-media interactive exhibition posed as a thought-provoking exploration of grief as a companion of love. It is both a poignant tribute to the strength and resilience of families who have experienced the death of a child, and an impassioned call to challenge long held perceptions of grief and bereavement in contemporary, western society. The exhibition will be supported by two unique events, including a ‘Tending to Grief’ panel discussion and an ‘In Conversation with the Artists’ Q&A Get more info and free tickets to the talks here ▸ | Facebook event ▸
Moonrise at Highgate HIll Park
Sat, 11 Jun, 12:00pm
‘Moonrise’ is the sequel to Be The Cascade’s debut community music event ‘Sunfall’. On the 11th of June we will be putting on 5 local bands with a focus on celebrating female talent. Moonrise is Free Entry to all! We will be selling some wholesome drinks and tickets to our official afterparty which will be a full lineup of female Dj’s at a local venue. Facebook event ▸
Red Light Distancing
10/06/2022 and 11/06/2022, 07:00pm
We all like to watch. Some of us love to be watched. Some of us only exist when someone is looking. What happens when the watcher isn’t there? Red Light Distancing is a new inverted performance where the viewer can select from audio playing simultaneously in different rooms, as characters live and move inside each room. Tickets 16.90 ▸ | Facebook event ▸
Free workshop for Multicultural organisations
Sat, 11 Jun, 09:00am4.30pm
In this full day workshop, you will learn the basic elements of project design and planning and building on this foundation, you will have the opportunity to undertake hands-on exercises focused on preparing a grant application. Register here ▸
WEAAD 2022 - it's all about the Respect
Wed, 15 Jun, 09:00am–03:00pm
Join advocates and allies to Elders in an interactive all-day event.WEAAD provides an opportunity to connect and learn about Elder Abuse, its impact and older people’s right to protection. When respect and honour are positioned in our interactions with Elders, we are all better positioned to combat and mitigate Elder Abuse from occurring. See the program here ▸
Navigating the Digital World
Wed, 15 Jun, 10:00am–11:00am
In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), COTA Queensland, U3A Network Queensland and nbn are pleased to bring you this great webinar to assist you to navigate the digital world. Register for free ▸
Save David’s Home: Protest against eviction into homelessness
Fri, 17 Jun, 09:00am–12:00pm
Everyone deserves a place to call home. David is a renter living in public housing in Taringa and an active member of his community. He has a disability and receives a pension. The Department of Housing is unfairly trying to evict him with no plan for long-term accommodation. I know that there is a lot of support in our local community for David, so please join us at 9am, Friday 17 June, to protest this unfair eviction and save David’s home. Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never attended a protest before. There will be no need to get arrested, but some protestors may form a peaceful “human chain” to prevent police evicting David. Facebook event ▸
Snap Action: West End and Highgate Hill Deserve Better
Sat, 18 Jun, 09:00am
Developers have updated their proposal to build two highrise towers looming over Davies Park that are still way above neighbourhood height limits. Brisbane City Council has also just approved a development application at 5 Dudley St, Highgate Hill, which will demolish 14 existing affordable units to replace them with just 7 luxury apartments. This demands a strong response from the community. So join us for a snap action on Saturday 18 June. We’ll start in Davies Park, Corner of Jane Street and Montague and march down Montague Road to Hanson Concrete on Hockings Street. We’ll peacefully block their driveway to send a clear message to any local companies thinking about working on these projects that if these developments go ahead, the community will make it very hard for all involved. Facebook event ▸
Winter Solstice Festival
Sat, 18 Jun, 01:00pm–10:00pm
Northey Street City Farm have been celebrating the Winter Solstice for over 25 years with an annual festival of live music, dancing, talks and workshops for all ages, incredible food, a lantern parade and of course our beautiful bonfire. Our festival invites the Brisbane community to celebrate our relationship with Nature, to listen to First Nations knowledge, attend permaculture and sustainable living talks, appreciate local music and multicultural performances, and be a part of a ceremony that models setting intentions for the new year. Buy tickets here $0 - $40 ▸ | Facebook event ▸
Guided Historical Walking Tours of South Brisbane
Sun, 19 Jun, 09:30am–10:00am
Includes an in depth guided tour supported by unique and historical photos at the various stops. Plus morning tea on arrival and discounted entry to Queensland Maritime Museum and discounted lunch at the Ship Inn. Book early as numbers are limited and close, two days before the nominated day. All other enquiries see the QMM Website or Phone: QMM (07) 3844 5361 Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 4.30 pm Email: [email protected]memuseum.com.au Tickets for $25 here ▸
Queensland’s gaol and imprisonment crisis"". Speaker: Keith Hamburger
Wed, 29 Jun, 07:00pm
Keith is no arcadian dreamer - he has spent a life time working and changing the incarceration system in Qld. Unfortunately, since his retirement, Qld has regressed: more people - notably First Nation People - are incarcerated; there is a higher rate of recidivism; and communities are less safe; and billions is being wasted - unnecessarily! Keith will speak through several approaches that can reduce incarceration, recidivism, diverting offenders from prison and making genuine progress towards Closing the Gap aspirations. RSVP here ▸
Thinking you'd like to run for Brisbane City Council as a candidate? Casual chat and Q&A
Fri, 01 Jul, 04:30pm–06:30pm
I'm an organising a Q&A session for potential future city council candidates... Big swings to the Greens at the recent federal election mean quite a few council wards around Brisbane will also be up for grabs in the 2024 local government elections. If you’re thinking you might like to run for the Greens and become a city councillor, but still want to learn more about what’s involved, this is a chance to have a cuppa with Brisbane’s first Greens councillor and ask whatever questions you’ve been wondering about. Facebook event ▸
BCC has initiated a reasonably broad-scope investigation into the 2022 floods, to be led by Mr Paul de Jersey. The following text is copied from the Terms of Reference circulated to councillors by Mr de Jersey on Friday, 18 March.
Review into the February 2022 Brisbane Floods ‐ Terms of reference
18 March 2022
1. The City of Brisbane has throughout its history been the subject of intense seasonal weather events. It is not uncommon for Brisbane to receive several weather warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) throughout summer months. Of relevance, was the flooding event of 2011 which resulted in the findings of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry being released in March 2012 (QFCI Report).
2. As a result of the 2011 flooding event Brisbane City Council (Council) established a board in late January 2011 and requested a report be produced by the middle of May 2011 (Brisbane Flood Report).
3. In response to the recent weather event described below, Council seeks to have an independent review undertaken to ensure that Council continues to improve its ability to protect lives and property from similar natural disasters in Brisbane in the future.
The Weather Event
4. Between 24 and 28 February 2022, South‐East Queensland and northern New South Wales experienced an unprecedented weather event (Weather Event).
5. The Weather Event was the largest rainfall event (for that period) to have occurred over the Brisbane catchment with 792.8mm falling 24 February 2022 to 9.00am 28 February 2022. To put this in perspective, this exceeded the 1974 rainfall record of 655.8 and represents about 80 per cent of Brisbane’s yearly average rainfall falling in this five‐day period.
6. The Brisbane River peaked Monday, 28 February at 3.85m (AHD city gauge) at 9.00am. whilst this is less than the 4.46m AHD recorded in 2011, the widespread intense rainfall also caused significant creek and overland flow flooding.
Appointment and Scope
7. On 1 March 2022 the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Councillor Adrian Schrinner announced that former Governor and former Chief Justice of Queensland the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC CVO QC would undertake an independent and comprehensive review with respect of the following matters:
(a) the extent to which Council has implemented the relevant recommendations from the
QFCI Report and the Brisbane Flood Report, as they related to the City of Brisbane, prior
to the Weather Event;
(b) the effectiveness of measures recommended by the QFCI Report, and the Brisbane Flood
Report taken by Council to improve the protection for flood prone properties from
inundation with a particular focus on backflow devices and the Flood Resilient Homes
(c) the effectiveness of Council’s disaster management framework in responding to the
Weather Event having regard to the combined means of other relevant entities, with a
i. Council’s disaster management organisational structures and policies;
ii. the establishment of Council’s evacuation centres;
iii. the adequacy of public information provided by Council on flood risk for individual
iv. the coordination with other government agencies, communications and utility providers; and
v. community response, including the organisation and management of community volunteers.
(d) the adequacy of the Council’s public warnings and advice, having regard to:
i. the requirements and responsibilities of the other relevant entities, such as the State Government, Commonwealth Government and BOM;
ii. the reliability and timeliness of the information provided to Council by other relevant entities;
iii. the capability of external systems relied upon by Council;
(e) the effectiveness of changes made to the Planning Regulations 2017 in mitigating loss and damage in respect of flood prone areas post 2011;
(f) the resilience of riverine and waterways infrastructure which has been upgraded or constructed following the 2011 flood event (a list of relevant infrastructure is provided in Attachment ‘A’).
8. Mr de Jersey will be calling for submissions from all Councillors, Council, and all others at Mr de Jersey's discretion, in respect of the matters subject of the review, with submissions to be provided to Mr de Jersey by close of business 8 April 2022
9. Mr de Jersey is required to produce a report addressing the above matters including any recommendations arising from the terms of reference which he considers as reasonable to improve the City's preparation and planning for any such future weather event.
10. The report is to be provided to the Lord Mayor on or before 1 July 2022. However, should Mr de Jersey require any further information on a particular matter that cannot be addressed in the above timeframe, this request should be made through the report and be addressed after the provision of the material. This timing will enable any recommendations to be addressed prior to the next summer’s wet season.
11. The report will be made public following its delivery to the Lord Mayor.
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...
Originally published on social media on 8 March, 2022
Ok so this should be obvious to most people by now, but I wanted to say it really clearly for those up the back who aren't paying attention... Even within flood-prone suburbs, poorer/lower-income residents have (in general) been much more seriously affected by Brisbane's floods than wealthier residents.
After the 2011 floods, some big changes happened along low-lying residential streets in West End like Ryan Street and Orleigh Street. Lots of houses were absolutely trashed by that flood. Some owners had the money to rebuild (often because they had good insurance), while others who couldn't afford to rebuild just sold up to wealthier buyers who did have the money for major renovations.
One way or another, most (but not all) of the worst-affected West End homes were raised higher, with all habitable areas raised above the 1974 flood level, leaving only easy-to-hose-off concrete carports at ground level. So after the February 2022 flood, many of these properties lost a bit of old furniture that was stored in their garages, and had to cope without power for several days, but the impact was nowhere near as severe as ten years ago.
The same seems to have happened in many other parts of the city. Over the past decade, almost all wealthier owners have spent big money (sometimes taking advantage of various government grants) to build higher. This probably also reduced their insurance premiums.
In contrast, poorer residents who couldn't afford to raise their homes kept paying much higher insurance premiums, or were completely uninsured. In suburbs like West End, East Brisbane and Fairfield, a very high proportion of the properties that hadn't been raised (and thus flooded again) were older investment properties rented out to lower-income tenants.
We're gradually building a list of homes in our area that were so badly flooded this time around that the residents couldn't move back in (i.e. they became homeless). So far in the inner-city, it seems like they were all rentals.
The situation is even worse in suburbs like Rocklea, an extremely floodprone area alongside Oxley Creek and Stable Swamp Creek (and also further out in Goodna, Ipswich etc). Many low-income long-term owner-occupier residents gave up paying flood insurance here years ago. They would sell if they could, but property values are so comparatively low in this area that they wouldn't have enough money to buy elsewhere in Brisbane. They also don't have a couple hundred thousand dollars on hand to raise and renovate their home.
In practical terms, the floods create a situation where poor residents are either displaced, or have to take time off work (potentially losing more income) to clean up their homes, while wealthier residents in the same streets can hose off and return to 'normal' life pretty quickly.
Some wealthier residents may even get a windfall out of this... For example, we saw one riverfront home in West End where the owners threw out thousands of dollars' worth of vintage wine from a flooded underground wine cellar and put it on the footpath for kerbside collection. The wine itself wasn't damaged, and some neighbours who scavenged it reported that it tasted amazing. But I'll bet the people who threw it out will be claiming the full value back through their insurance and will barely end up out of pocket.
I know some wealthier residents decided to go stay in hotels as soon as the power was cut off in their street, confident in the knowledge that even if their insurance company ends up refusing to pay for the hotel, they have enough savings to cover it.
I know all this is a bit of a generalisation. And I'm sure there are a few wealthier residents who've been really hit hard by these floods too, but the impacts have fallen most heavily on the poor.
This disparity overlaps and intersects with other forms of marginalisation and oppression. For example, we know that many people with disabilities and people for whom English is a second language will have a particularly hard time surviving and recovering from the floods, especially if they also don't have a lot of money. The psychological impact of feeling left behind and overlooked will be doubly traumatising.
For many residents in suburbs like Rocklea, the best outcome would be a new non-compulsory flood buyback scheme, where the council buys flood-affected homes at a higher value, giving the residents enough money to buy another home elsewhere while reclaiming more of the floodplain for green space and native habitat.
We also need to make sure we stop further floodplain development, because each new building in a low-lying area tends to push more floodwater somewhere else.
All this is important to keep in mind, because I expect that over the coming months, politicians, property developers, tourism companies etc will be eager to promote a narrative of how quickly the city has bounced back from the February floods.
They'll talk about how resilient we are, how the changes made after 2011 paid off, and how quickly life is 'getting back to normal.'
With an Olympics on the horizon, the establishment's preferred framing will be about how we all helped each other and 'got back on our feet' - that climate change is something we can learn to live with (even though climate disasters can get a lot worse than this one).
This narrative of resilience and recovery will ring true for many middleclass residents whose main experience of the floods is a few days of transport disruptions or power cuts (noting of course that prolonged power cuts are pretty hard to live with, particularly when your apartment has been designed to be heavily dependent on aircon, powered elevators etc).
The voices of those most severely affected will be left out of mainstream conversations, or only fleetingly engaged with simply as disaster porn/poverty porn.
We know that a lot of lower-income people who were made homeless by the 2019/2020 bushfires still don't have stable housing over two years later; the same will likely be true for these floods. But how much coverage will that get in the media 6 months or a year from now?
Over the coming months, there will be a lot of media stories of infrastructure being repaired and political leaders cutting ribbons on newly-completed projects that reinforce the myth of endless growth and progress.
We will have to work hard to continually remind one another that future flooding could be a lot worse, and that for some of the poorest among us, even these relatively moderate floods (moderate compared to what else the river is capable of) have been a life-changing disaster that will take years - not months - to recover from.
Posted by· June 19, 2022 9:04 AM
Posted by· May 30, 2022 10:17 AM
Posted by· May 27, 2022 12:18 PM
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.
Here’s some great news for West End/South Brisbane businesses and residents…
Brisbane City Council has confirmed it is planning to trial the introduction of a new free bus loop to link South Bank and Kurilpa Point to Boundary St and the cultural heart of West End.
We’ve been lobbying for improved bus services for the inner-south side for some time, and while there’s still a long way to go, this is definitely a step in the right direction.
While many able-bodied residents probably don’t have a big issue with walking or riding from West End down to South Bank, those of us who aren’t quite as mobile – including older residents and parents with small kids – will benefit greatly from this. Crucially for local businesses, it will also help bring more visitors/tourists from the South Brisbane riverfront further into the Kurilpa Peninsula.
Where will it go?
The exact route has not yet been determined. Council's transport planning officers are still working out details like where the bus layover stops will be (for when drivers need to have meal breaks and go to the toilet) and how feasible it will be to run a loop on such busy roads. They've told me that the free loop service is likely to have a frequency of every 20 minutes (which could be better, but hey, I’m not going to knock a free service), and will probably only run in an anti-clockwise direction. This is because corridors like Vulture St and Montague Rd are so heavily congested, and a clockwise route would involve many more right-hand turns, which would add significantly to the route travel times.
This new (trial) service is the result of sustained lobbying from a range of angles including my office, Business South Bank, and other major organisations like the Queensland Theatre Company. One of the catalysts for its introduction is the impending reconstruction of the Cultural Centre Busway Station as part of the Brisbane Metro project, which is due to begin in July 2022. Council is saying that this is only a trial, but if it’s really well-utilised (as I expect it will be) then it’s going to be very politically difficult for council to remove it again later on. The Lord Mayor actually first expressed support for this idea prior to the last council election in March 2020, but I’m always sceptical of LNP election promises, and I thought they’d probably use covid as an excuse to back away from it, so I’m pretty thrilled now that BCC has confirmed they’re actually aiming to introduce it mid-2022.
The accompanying image shows the route that I am personally advocating for. I’m calling it the Kurilpa Triangle. (To stress: The council hasn't yet confirmed what the exact route will be, but I think this alignment probably makes the most sense)
This circuit has the benefit of linking destinations which are slightly out of the way from existing bus routes – like Queensland Theatre Company – to commercial and transport hubs around Grey St and Boundary St, as well as providing another link from South Brisbane up to Davies Park. Perhaps more importantly though, this route would link the high-density neighbourhoods along Montague Rd to West End State School, Boundary St, Brisbane State High, and the South Bank train station and bus station.
Traffic makes new bus routes tricky
Probably the biggest challenge with a Kurilpa bus loop is Vulture Street. Most of Vulture St is only a single lane in each direction, and in peak periods there’s a high chance the bus will get caught up in general traffic congestion (this has also been one of the main barriers to another route I’m advocating for – an east-west Cityglider service running between West End and Bulimba). I’ve told council officers that I would be supportive of introducing bus priority lanes along Vulture St on the approaches to some intersections where the lanes split into two (e.g. Vulture-Hardgrave, Vulture-Hampstead). If you wanted the bus loop to extend further east along Vulture St to the hospital precinct, you would probably have to convert one of the general traffic lanes on Vulture St (where it crosses over the rail line) into a bus lane in order for the service to be reliable.
Whatever route BCC goes with, the reality is that the Kurilpa Triangle Loop is not going to be a fast service that’s attractive for commuters who are trying to get in and out of the city centre as quickly as possible (those people can either walk, ride or catch one of the existing high-frequency services that run straight into the CBD). This will be a slower, circuitous route that will likely stop at quite a few points, filling gaps in the network and linking people who can’t walk long distances to other services and transport nodes.
The most exciting part is that this will be a free service – accessible to everyone regardless of their income. I hope one day, all public transport in Brisbane will be free, but for now, we’ll be able to point to services like this as examples of what’s possible.
As an aside, I think this new service in an interesting case study in how the transport projects that the business sector is lobbying for tend to get prioritised ahead of other much-needed bus routes. Lots of local residents will benefit from this, but I don’t think the LNP would have agreed to it if not for the fact that a lot of the larger businesses/stakeholders around South Bank were also pushing for it.
By the way, Amy MacMahon and I are also still pushing for improvements to other routes, such as the 192 service and for new services to better connect other suburbs around the inner-south side. Please sign this petition calling for improvements to the 192 service.
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.