Every so often, our office receives an enquiry about what happened to the proposed CityCat terminal that was supposed to be installed at the end of Victoria Street in West End. And every time, we have to explain that it has slipped off the LNP’s priority list and that the council isn’t investing enough money in local public transport infrastructure.
I'm continuing to support and advocate for the installation of a new CityCat terminal to cater for the rapidly growing neighbourhoods to the west of Montague Rd. I believe the ideal location for a Citycat terminal should be determined based on a holistic masterplanning process of Riverside Drive, which takes into account future development, as well as other projects currently in the pipeline such as the West End-Toowong footbridge.
With the Toowong footbridge proposed to land in the vicinity of Forbes St and Ferry Rd, it might make sense for the CityCat terminal to be located at (or just to the north of) Beesley St, as opposed to at the end of Victoria St. If the CityCat terminal is a little closer to Davies Park, it can play a greater role in helping reduce congestion associated with events in the park (such as the Saturday morning markets).
A Victoria Street CityCat Terminal was identified as a crucial piece of public transport infrastructure in the South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan, which came into effect back in April 2011 (note that this was after the 2011 floods). This is the same neighbourhood plan that up-zoned much of the West End Peninsula for high-density development and accelerated the flurry of apartment construction down along Montague Road.
Residents who bought apartments after this plan was introduced in 2011 were told by developers and real estate agents that the ferry terminal was coming soon. But it’s now 2017, and the nearest CityCat terminals to Victoria Street are on the other side of the river.
You can still see the ferry terminal listed in section 220.127.116.11.2 subsection 10(b) of the current City Plan. Unfortunately it’s no longer listed in the related ‘Priority Infrastructure Plan’. Building a new CityCat terminal right in the middle of the new high-density neighbourhood along Montague Road was supposed to help cater for the growing population. In fact, it was part of the justification for the upzoning – “Sure, we’re going to cram a lot more people into West End, but don’t worry about traffic congestion because we’ll be providing a new CityCat stop.”
At the Public and Active Transport Committee meeting on 6 August, 2019, the committee considered yet another petition calling for the delivery of a ferry terminal for the western side of West End. The LNP's response was to say "there are no immediate plans to implement an additional high-capacity service in the West End area. However, Council Network Planners will continue to monitor all new developments at or near Kurilpa Point and will continue to liaise with their counterparts at TransLink."
Disappointingly, the committee - comprised of 4 LNP Councillors, 1 Greens Councillor and 1 Labor Councillor - voted 4-2 to take no substantial action in response to the petition.
At the council meeting on 11 September, 2018, I again used an opportunity in question time to push the Lord Mayor on this issue. Here's the transcript of that exchange...
Councillor Sri: Thanks, Madam Chair. My question is to the Lord Mayor. The approximate distance between the Orleigh Park and the South Bank CityCat terminals is five kilometres. On the north bank, the average spacing of terminals is only around 1.5 kilometres. In 2011, after the January floods, the South Brisbane riverside neighbourhood plan introduced or proposed to introduce a CityCat terminal for the western half of West End to cater for the rapid projected population growth for that part of the Kurilpa Peninsula.
Since that time we’ve had thousands of additional residents moving into that area, and now Montague Road is extremely congested and the Blue CityGlider is over capacity. There’s no more capacity on the Montague Road corridor itself to carry that growing population. So my question to you is: does this Administration have any plans to deliver a CityCat terminal for that western Montague Road side of West End, and if not, what is the main reason? Is it simply cost, or is it that an additional stop there is seen as inefficient from a network perspective?
Lord Mayor: Well, Madam Chairman, I thank Councillor Sri for the question. I think it’s a very reasonable question to ask. It is true that we have in that area the CityGlider service. It is a high frequency service. I remember when we first introduced the CityGlider, we thought that it would carry about 600,000 passengers the first year. It carried something like 1.5 million people.
So, Madam Chairman, now over 2 million, the Deputy Mayor informs me. In terms of Montague Road itself, Madam Chairman, I believe that the Glider still has a good capability to carry passengers, and we believe also that the Metro will assist in terms of the freeing up of capacity of road space, and will I think make it easier for those CityGliders to continue to operate.
In terms of the issue of the CityCats, Madam Chairman, we do have a long term plan for putting in an additional CityCat facility in West End. It is a matter of timing. It is a matter of Cat availability and it’s a matter of also the timeliness on the river. So the river transport is a very good form of public transport, a very scenic form of public transport. It is probably not the most time efficient form of public transport. So, Madam Chairman, one of the reasons that we are introducing SpeedyCats as a priority at the moment is the fact that there is a need to, I think, create faster services that will be more attractive to a time poor community.
So, Madam Chairman, it is weighing up the various needs that are on the river. We have, of course, a new CityCat that we’re out for design for, and all of these things will help. But I just say to you, Councillor Sri—
Councillor Sri: Point of order, Madam Chair.
Chairman: Point of order, Councillor Sri.
Councillor Sri: Just on relevance. The substance of the question is whether the reason the terminal hasn’t been delivered is primarily about cost or primarily about route efficiency.
Chairman: Thank you, Councillor Sri, and the Lord Mayor does have five minutes to provide that answer. Lord Mayor.
Lord Mayor: Thanks very much, Madam Chairman. It is primarily about—well, it’s a bit of both, to be frank, but its route efficiency is one thing that is certainly a factor on our mind. It’s one of the reasons why we are focusing at the moment on SpeedyCats because we want to try and look at creating with the stops that we have—every time we add a new CityCat stop in, it slows the service down more. That makes it less attractive from a time point of view.
So what we are intent on doing is to make public transport as fast as we can in terms of particularly the river transport, which is a slow form of transport. We want to speed that up, make it more attractive for people, and that is one of the reasons, as I say, we are introducing as a priority SpeedyCats. It is not to say we don’t think that another CityCat terminal here is important. We do, in the same way as we think a pedestrian bridge from Kangaroo Point to Edward Street is important. There is a case of the financial resources. We’ve just finished having a question about staff numbers and so forth, Madam Chairman, and getting value for money; we are intent on driving value to be able to do these sorts of very things. We think it is important.
You might recall that the number of CityCats out on the water has grown enormously in the last decade, and we want to continue to bring new vessels and, over time, new services as well. But we’ve got to do it smarter. We can’t just keep adding more and more stops along the route. People will stop using it because of the fact that it will just get too slow. That is the dilemma. I think it is a very genuine question. It’s a reasonable question in every respect, and it is one which is certainly exercising our mind, both in terms of the timing and resourcing. So, I thank Councillor Sri for that question.
So, reading between the lines of the Lord Mayor's response, the LNP still don't see the new CityCat terminal as a priority. It seems to me that they intend to wait until after the 'Brisbane Metro' project is completed, which is expected to change the broader bus network and the journey times of West End services like the Blue CityGlider. My personal view is that we need to improve public transport frequency and reliability in West End now rather than waiting another five or more years.
I’ve managed to get a bit more info (but not a huge amount of detail) from the budget information sessions titled ‘Transport for Brisbane’ and ‘Infrastructure for Brisbane’. I’ll structure this with a few general comments that are relevant to the city as a whole, followed by some more specifics about local projects within the Gabba Ward. Remember you can see a full list of infrastructure spending allocations for 2017/18 in the Gabba Ward at this link.
As mentioned in other posts, council is spending way too much of its budget on road corridor upgrades that prioritise private vehicles over pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. Some of the intersection redesigns throughout the suburbs include green-painted bike lanes, but none of these seem to have a physical barrier separating cars from bikes, which is what you need to genuinely improve safety and encourage more people to ride.
The Road Maintenance Black Hole
Upwards of $90 million will be spent this year on road resurfacing alone. This is not financially sustainable long-term. Resurfacing is an ongoing maintenance cost that is only likely to rise as traffic volumes increase. Several councillors are telling me that despite the high spend, they are aware of roads in their ward that need resurfacing but weren’t included on this year’s list. This is concerning because if you delay resurfacing a road, potholes and cracks get deeper and the deterioration can accelerate, increasing maintenance and repair costs down the line. So when I say I’m concerned that the large road resurfacing budget is not financially sustainable, I’m not saying that I necessarily think we need to drastically cut the resurfacing budge immediately. I’m saying that council’s broader strategy of prioritising funding for road corridor upgrades which encourage and facilitate higher volumes of private vehicle transport will mean roads deteriorate faster and road maintenance demands and costs will keep rising.
BCC is a much bigger council than other local councils around Australia, so naturally its resurfacing budget will be a lot larger than other councils. However I was surprised to learn that council doesn’t engage in any formal comparison or benchmarking with other councils about what proportion of their budget is spent on road resurfacing. Every city and every road network is different, so direct comparisons can be difficult, but given that BCC is spending such a large chunk of its budget on recurring road maintenance, it needs to be looking at what other councils are spending, and more importantly, what else they are doing to reduce their road maintenance budgets.
An important first step towards reducing the road maintenance budget would be to lower speeds throughout the city. Many other cities around the world are dropping their default speed limit to 30km/h, and I think there’s a strong argument that Brisbane should at least lower its default speed to 40km/h. As well as the many benefits in terms of improving safety and encouraging active transport, this would reduce wear and tear on roads and potentially save council millions of dollars a year.
Improved River Access
Within the Gabba Ward, one of the welcome announcements is funding to improve public pontoons at West End, South Bank and Mowbray Park in East Brisbane. I’ve been pushing for improvements to these facilities, as have many residents who I’m sure will be pleased with the announcement. However my one concern is that rather than reusing and repurposing some of the old pontoons, council will simply chuck them out, which I don’t consider to be an efficient use of resources.
A few astute residents have also asked questions about the Lord Mayor’s announcement that a new facility for non-motorised water recreation activities will be established on the river at Dutton Park. Despite repeated questions about this, I couldn’t get very detailed answers. I don’t think this is because the LNP is deliberately withholding information, but simply that they don’t actually know exactly what they want to do there yet. In the budget, the council has allocated $3.96 million for the coming financial year and $3.98 million for 2018/19 towards ‘River Based Leisure and Tourism Infrastructure’ but hasn’t specified exactly how much of that will be spent at Dutton Park. This project will be administered under Councillor Amanda Cooper, who is the chair of council’s Infrastructure committee, so residents should feel free to email her further questions at email@example.com. All they’re telling us at this stage is that the Dutton Park facility definitely won’t be for motorised water vehicles, that the focus will be on vessels like kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards, and that they will conduct extensive community consultation.
My concern is that council will hand over the facility and try to establish some kind of for-profit tourism business down at Dutton Park under the Green Bridge. Council’s track record on tendering out these sorts of projects is that they tend to go to larger businesses that are more focussed on profit than on delivering services to the local community. This would amount to privatisation of the public realm, and is not an appropriate use for public parkland.
My preference is for the money in the budget to be used to construct a pontoon and canoe launching facility that residents won’t have to pay to use. We could even look at getting a local community group like a canoe club to have a permanent presence at the facility and rent out kayaks (or even organise classes and group tours) on a non-profit basis. I think this would be a much better way to activate the space and improve access to the river than partnering with a private for-profit operator.
As soon as I learn more details about this project and what’s proposed, I’ll make sure I let residents know.
Frustratingly, no money has been allocated for new bike lanes anywhere in the Gabba Ward, but it seems like slightly more money has been allocated to the Woolloongabba Bikeway Project along Stanley St and Annerley Rd, which is apparently still in the design stage. One of the main reasons that the Woolloongabba Bikeway project is taking so long and costing so much is that council is unwilling to make any changes to the road corridor that reduce or slow the flow of cars, so they’re spending a lot of money on complex design solutions. For 60km/h roads, the State Government’s designs require that the barriers on barrier-separated bike lanes must be quite wide, which reduces the amount of road space available. So the council’s reluctance to lower the speed on Annerley Road is driving up the costs of this project unnecessarily, whereas if council supported my request to drop the speed to 40km/h, we could have narrower barriers and the project would be completed a lot faster.
With design work for the Woolloongabba Bikeway project almost completed, my next highest priority for a new separated bike lane is Vulture Street, creating an east-west connection between Davies Park in West End all the way through to the Lady Cilento Hospital in South Brisbane. I was very disappointed that no money for this was included in the budget, and I will continue advocating for this crucial piece of infrastructure.
Also of note is that council is proposing to reduce bike access along the Victoria Bridge as part of the Brisbane Metro project. The LNP councillors claimed that currently only around 900 cyclists use the bridge per day, compared to thousands of pedestrians, and that it’s sufficient to just maintain one shared path between cyclists and pedestrians on one side of the river. I don’t think this is satisfactory, as cyclist and pedestrian numbers in Brisbane will continue to grow and there will be more conflicts between cyclists and tourists on the bridge in the future. I would argue that many more cyclists would be using the bridge currently if the bike lanes were wider and safer. They wouldn’t give me a straight answer as to whether it’s possible to add platforms to the bridge to create wider cycling lanes, so I suspect they haven’t really looked into this.
I would like to see additional funding directed towards ensuring that safe bike access across the river is improved rather than reduced. (If you care about this issue, please come along to the mass community bike action we’re organising for the morning of Saturday, 22 July - https://www.facebook.com/events/1341044809349438)
Happily, council confirmed funding for the installation of traffic lights at the intersection of Vulture St and Montague Rd, West End. BCC did not allocate any funding for traffic lights at the intersection of Victoria St and Montague Rd (the ALDI crossing), but did at least allocate funding for a pedestrian island. In many ways, this is a big win for the community, who have been agitating for upgrades to these two intersections since well before I became a councillor, but a pedestrian island doesn’t necessarily address concerns for some of our most vulnerable residents, including people with impaired vision who cross at this location. Residents have been campaigning for quite a long time for improvements to the Victoria St intersection and it’s nice to see all that hard work pay off, but it’s a bit ridiculous that such an obviously needed improvement has taken so long for council to get around to.
We’ve also seen a bit of funding allocated for local area traffic management around the Hardgrave Road part of West End. This should include funding to repair some of the build-outs and speed bumps, and for a pedestrian crossing island over Montague Road down near Rogers Street, but we’re still waiting on more detail from council about exactly what will be covered by this budget item.
As mentioned in a previous post, $641 000 was allocated to redesign the Stones Corner roundabout at the intersection of Logan Road and O’Keefe St, and I will lobby for the scope of this project to be extended to include safety concerns about the turn from Logan Road to Cleveland St. This is a big project that will probably take council a couple of years. I expect design work won’t be completed until June or July 2018 and I will have to lobby further to ensure that funding to actually build the intersection is allocated for the 2018/19 financial year.
No funding was allocated for any other crossings or pedestrian safety improvements in the Gabba Ward. I’m particularly disappointed that no money was allocated for safer crossings along Gladstone Road in Highgate Hill and Dutton Park, or for Vulture Street East in East Brisbane. This is in a context where council is spending around $1 billion per year on road projects. A big chunk of council’s money is going into widening roads and increasing the capacity of intersections, while comparatively little is spent on projects that improve pedestrian safety and slow down cars.
As Brisbane grows, we need to shift a significant proportion of our population away from reliance on private vehicles and towards walking, cycling and public transport. But far fewer people are going to catch a bus if they can’t safely cross the road to get to the bus stop. If we want to reduce traffic congestion, we are going to need lower speeds, more pedestrian crossings, and of course, a much better public transport.
Another big ticket item in the budget is the Brisbane Metro Project ($49.7 million for the coming financial year, with roughly another $400 million over the next few years). The total cost of the project over several years will be just shy of $1 billion (again, remember that council is spending close to $1 billion every year on roads) but the council hasn’t yet clearly explained where the rest of the project funding will come from.
I’ll be producing some more detailed analysis of the Brisbane Metro project in the near future. While it might not necessarily be the best possible use of money in terms of public transport infrastructure, it’s certainly a lot better than spending the money on road-widening.
During the budget information session, I asked a couple of questions about the project, including sustainability requirements for the high-capacity buses council expected to acquire. It seems that the main reasons council is leaning towards buses rather than some kind of track-based vehicle are lower cost and greater flexibility. I see the logic of this, but one of the main benefits of light rail is that it doesn’t have to run off fossil fuels. In my view, it would be a huge missed opportunity if council spends $1 billion on a Brisbane Metro where the buses still run off diesel or something like that. Putting aside the serious concerns about carbon emissions, light rail or electric buses would also presumably have a much lower impact in terms of noise and air pollution along the bus corridor.
Beyond the Metro, there wasn’t much of interest in the budget in terms of public transport. Council is spending $33 million to acquire new buses to replace old ones, and $12 million on ferry terminal upgrades (largely to meet disability access standards), but no money has been allocated for a new CityCat terminal or other high-capacity transport infrastructure to service the Montague Road side of West End. (I’ve started a petition about transport infrastructure for West End here: http://www.jonathansri.com/montaguepublictransport)
There’s still no direct east-west public transport route between East Brisbane and West End, which means people travelling from Woolloongabba still have to catch one bus all the way into the cultural centre and another one back up Melbourne Street just to get to West End. There are still no high frequency bus routes through Kangaroo Point or East Brisbane. A couple of hard-working volunteers at my office have produced this transport route map, which only shows bus and train routes that come every fifteen minutes or less. This map shows clear gaps in the inner-south side, including through Highgate Hill (where steep roads make it harder for pedestrians to walk long distances to bus stops) and pretty much the entirety of 4169. This helps explain why so many inner-city residents are still driving and clogging up roads.
I could go on, but the core theme is pretty simple. Consistent under-investment in public transport, walking and cycling, and over-investment in road projects that don’t even include transit lanes and which will do precious little to shift residents out of their cars and into more sustainable modes of transport.
Brisbane City Council has again failed to include funding for a ferry terminal near Victoria St, West End in its annual budget, and has also neglected to include it in its 10-year Local Government Infrastructure Plan.
This petition is worded broadly to include alternative public transport options, so you can sign it even if you don't necessarily think a ferry terminal is the best choice, however it also makes quite specific demands. Previous petitions regarding this issue only targeted the city council, but the State Government is ultimately responsible for signing off on the Local Government Infrastructure Plan.
The point is to force both Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government to acknowledge that the current Blue CityGlider service is not enough to handle future projected population growth on the Kurilpa Peninsula and that council must plan to deliver better public transport in the next few years if it wants to reduce traffic congestion rather than sitting by and watching it get worse.
Other actions you can take:
Call or email Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner on 3403 4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to ask him to fund a West End CityCat terminal in the annual budget.
We call on the Lord Mayor and Brisbane City Council to include funding in the annual budget and the Local Government Infrastructure Plan (LGIP) for a new ferry terminal or other high-capacity, high-frequency public transport service along the western side of the West End peninsula. We call for the delivery of this infrastructure within the next three years.
We call on the State Government and the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning to refuse to support further high-density development along the western side of the Kurilpa Peninsula until there's a clear commitment from council to a new ferry terminal or other significant public transport investment for this area.
A new ferry terminal to service the Montague Road side of West End was a specific inclusion in the 2011 South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan, and was seen as essential to cater for the area’s rapid population growth. West End’s population has risen significantly, and council has approved several apartment developments of even greater heights and gross floor areas than the already generous limits set out in the South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan.
Montague Road is often heavily congested during peak periods and the current Blue CityGlider route gets delayed by general traffic. While the Brisbane Metro and Cross River Rail projects will improve public transport services for other parts of Brisbane, the city council has failed to fund public transport improvements along Montague Road and around West End more generally. High-density development without public infrastructure is unsustainable. Please prioritise delivering this long-overdue upgrade.
Brisbane City Council just released its annual budget for 2017/18
June is budget time, and while most of the media attention is on State and Federal Government budgets, Brisbane City Council has also just released its $3 billion annual budget, which holds direct and immediate repercussions for local residents.
The BCC budget is drafted by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and requires a majority vote of all the councillors to get through. Because the LNP have a very large majority on council, whatever the Lord Mayor puts forward will be rubber-stamped without much public debate or scrutiny. The Labor Councillors usually vote to support the individual budget programs but vote against the budget as a whole, effectively so they can have a bet each way and oppose the LNP without opening themselves to criticism for opposing specific positive projects. I would suggest that while they might disagree with the Lord Mayor on specific funding priorities, their broader vision for the future of Brisbane is not so different from that of the LNP.
This means that while I can suggest and lobby for funding for different projects and services, the LNP has the final say. You can find the list of the priority local projects I requested for the Gabba Ward for the 2017/18 financial year here.
Below is a list of all the local projects within the Gabba Ward that the Lord Mayor decided to fund in our area. As you’ll see, there’s a little bit of positive investment in infrastructure for the inner-south side, but it falls far short of what’s necessary in order to cater for the rapid population growth we’re experiencing.
If you are interested in looking into the budget further, or wanting a more detailed explanation of what each heading refers to, you can download the full 2017-18 Brisbane City Council Budget from this link. If you download the file, 'Annual Plan and Budget full document 2017-18', you can look up a specific part the report by searching for the section number listed under each heading below (For example, for Footpath Reconstruction, search for 18.104.22.168).
More specific details of the particular projects listed under these headings haven't been released yet. I will find out more in the coming weeks, through the Budget Information Sessions. I’ll try to post regularly on my Facebook page to keep residents updated about what I’ve learned. I’ll also be sending out another email in the coming weeks with more details and some general thoughts on the BCC’s broader budgeting strategy. If you haven't already done so, you can sign up to my regular emails here.
I'm writing a couple of short articles to unpack and analyse the ramifications of the council budget. You can learn more via the following links...Read more
The widening of Lytton Road in East Brisbane is a Brisbane City Council project – ‘Wynnum Road Corridor Upgrade: Stage 1’, which involves widening a stretch of Lytton Road between Latrobe Street and Norman Creek as well as upgrading intersections and installing a proper off-street bike path. Importantly, council has not allocated funding for Stage 2 or further stages, so practically speaking, Stage 1 is basically the whole project.
The project will involve the demolition or relocation of almost fifty properties along the northern side of Lytton Road (many of which are very old traditional character homes), but it will also require reclaiming part of Mowbray Park to use for additional traffic lanes. This is where the State Government comes in, because Mowbray Park and the East Brisbane War Memorial within it are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register, making the park a ‘State Heritage Place’. (The project also arguably impacts on the State Heritage-listed Hanworth House, which is immediately adjacent to the road and will be detrimentally affected by increased nise and air pollution.Read more
Frustrated residents will protest outside Queensland Parliament House on Wednesday against the $115 million widening of Lytton Road in East Brisbane, which will include the destruction of character homes, reclaiming heritage-listed parkland and the removal of large fig trees.
Mowbray Park, which includes the oldest war memorial in Queensland, falls on the State Heritage Register, which means the Queensland Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning has to approve the Brisbane City Council project before it goes ahead.
Last year, a large number of residents submitted a petition to Brisbane City Council calling for a drop in the speed limit on Montague Road, West End. I requested a speed limit review because I felt the road is too fast and too dangerous.
Council outsourced the review process to a consultancy, but bizarrely, the consultancy only looked at crash data from between 2007 to 2011, rather than focussing on more recent crash histories. As shown in the accompanying image, they also made some terrible choices in locating their traffic counters. They placed traffic recorders up near the Jane St traffic lights and down towards Orleigh Park, but didn’t collect any data on speeds or traffic volumes in the fastest and most dangerous section of Montague Road.
Below is my (long) speech to council about why I think the speed limit should be lowered (preferably to 40km/h south of Vulture Street). It’s pretty dry, but a few traffic planning geeks might enjoy it. And here’s a link to the report produced by the consultancy that council outsourced to…
SPEECH IN COUNCIL CHAMBERS ON 28/03/2017:
I’d like to unpack a couple of major flaws in the speed limit review process, which is the basis of council’s opposition to lowering the speed limit at this time. I’ll then go on to highlight some of the key arguments weighing in favour of dropping the speed limit on Montague Road.
So council conducted this speed limit review in response to safety concerns raised by a number of local residents and business owners. My general concern is that the speed limit review process which the Queensland Government encourages councils to follow doesn’t necessarily yield sensible outcomes in inner-city suburbs, particularly in areas that have recently undergone rapid development and transformation. This is in large part because the process does not include pedestrian or cyclist counts and deprioritises the needs and concerns of pedestrians and public transport users.
The speed limit review process is inherently resistant to changes that would improve pedestrian safety and amenity. It is overly bureaucratised and heavily centralised and does not sufficiently account for local context or the need to prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users ahead of cars. If we’d followed this process in the CBD, it would have recommended against dropping speed limits to 40 km/h. But I think we can all agree that 40km/h is working pretty well in the CBD and that if the State Government’s review process contradicts that, then the review process is flawed.
It’s also kind of morbid that the review process relies so heavily on crash data as the primary indicator regarding safety. This creates a situation where no matter how dangerous a road is and no matter how many residents and local businesses complain that an area has become more dangerous, council won’t act until after multiple serious crashes have occurred.
So I’m not convinced that this speed limit review process should be relied upon by council as our only tool of analysis and decision-making regarding speeds, particularly in areas with lots of pedestrians.
However, for the purposes of discussion today, I wanted to raise specific concerns about this particular speed limit review. I hope these concerns will be conveyed to the relevant council officers and that Councillor Cooper will be good enough to take these concerns in good faith as they are intended. The outcome I’m seeking is that we hold off on responding to this petition until further research has been conducted. An alternative outcome I’d like to see is that this administration will remain open to conducting another speed limit review in the most dangerous section of Montague Road sometime in the next few months, once newer crash data becomes available.
The speed limit review report relies heavily on data from two traffic recorders, which recorded both traffic volumes and speed data over a seven day period.
But unfortunately, this data is fundamentally flawed due to the poorly thought-out locations of the traffic counters.
One traffic recorder was positioned right down at the southern end of the road near Cordeaux St, which is a lower density residential neighbourhood that receives substantially less traffic than the rest of Montague Road. This is just before the approach to Orleigh Park, where the road narrows and vehicles slow down to turn onto Orleigh Street.
The other traffic recorder was positioned at the very northern end of the review area, immediately before the Jane Street traffic lights. The segment of Montague Rd between Jane St and Vulture St also receives far less traffic, because the majority of vehicles travelling into and out of the peninsula currently turn onto Vulture Street, avoiding the Jane St intersection altogether.
So the independent consultancy has put these recorders in places where there are lower traffic volumes and lower speeds than the most dangerous stretch in the middle of Montague Road. It’s a little bit like measuring how fast a bunch of sprinters are running by positioning the speed gun twenty centimetres in front of the starting line.
So even though my concerns and the concerns of residents were primarily related to the middle stretch of Montague Road near Victoria Street, the consultancy has measured the vehicle speeds and traffic volumes at the far ends of the road, away from the major trouble spots.
My second related concern is that this report doesn’t include pedestrian or cyclist counts, even though pedestrian safety issues were the primary trigger for this speed limit review. The report goes into a lot of detail about the number of vehicles per hour and what speeds they were travelling at, but doesn’t make any serious attempt to explore how frequently pedestrians cross the road or where pedestrians cross most often, which should logically be the focus for this kind of review. The report’s failure to focus at all on cyclist safety and comfort is deeply concerning, and again defeats a key purpose of the speed limit review.
My third and perhaps most significant objection is that the independent consultants appear to have relied on very out-of-date crash data in assessing safety concerns. This is particularly problematic because it seems to have been the crash data, as part of the Environment Assessment component of this review, that tipped the balance in favour of retaining the current speed rather than dropping it.
The review relied upon crash data from 2007 to 2011, even though this review was conducted at the end of 2016. This is in spite of the fact that I have repeatedly emphasised to council how significantly traffic conditions and crash frequencies have changed in the last few years. Back in 2007, Montague Road was a lot safer. There were far fewer cars and far fewer pedestrians. People didn’t have to play chicken with semi-trailers every time they wanted to get to the bus stop or the local shops.
In the period from 2007 to 2011, there were fewer than 15 significant accidents along Montague Road. Nowadays, there are dozens of accidents along Montague Road every year. I’m personally aware of five accidents that have occurred along the Victoria Street stretch since the beginning of January this year, and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t heard about.
I’m extremely sceptical of claims that no relevant crash data from 2011 onwards was available, or that more recent data was not suitable to be relied upon. I know the State Government can be pretty slow to release this sort of information, but a lag of five years is pretty hard to believe. If it really was the case that more recent data was unavailable, it would have been better to exclude crash data from the review altogether, rather than relying on crash statistics that were between 5 and 10 years old.
The Montague Rd precinct has changed dramatically in recent years. This area is undergoing a process of rapid densification, with dozens of warehouses and industrial businesses replaced by high-density residential along with commercial uses that generate higher volumes of traffic – both pedestrian and vehicles – than previous land uses.
Montague Road includes a range of uses that generate high pedestrian volumes including the blue cityglider bus route, a major supermarket, and several smaller supermarkets, commercial offices, major dance schools, high-density residential, a large new childcare centre that’s currently under construction, and the very popular Davies Park Markets. It’s also a key connector to the local primary school and the riverside parklands.
The opportunity we have along Montague Road is to create a walkable neighbourhood more reminiscent of Grey Street at South Bank, with a lively and vibrant streetscape and high volumes of pedestrian and cyclist traffic.
As the West End population grows, we need to make it easier, safer and more comfortable for people to use active transport and public transport rather than relying on private vehicle transport. This will improve local amenity and commerce, and will also allow for larger numbers of commuters to travel in and out of the suburb along Montague Road.
The LNP’s South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan reinforces this vision. It says that along Montague Road, retail development, street upgrades, landscaping and building design will establish an attractive and comfortable environment for pedestrians. So it sounds like we all share similar visions for how this road will evolve, and should be working together to achieve that vision.
A crucial and necessary step in this transformation of Montague Road is lowering the speed limit. This will reduce noise and air pollution, which will make the footpaths a more comfortable pedestrian environment, and will improve amenity for the many residents now living in apartments along the road. It will also improve the actual safety and perceived safety for cyclists who ride along this corridor.
Dropping the speed limit will make it easier and safer for vehicles to turn onto Montague Road from side-streets and driveways, and will also reduce hassles and safety concerns for Cityglider bus drivers who are pulling out of bus stops.
During peak periods, traffic along Montague Road already moves very slowly, and dropping the speed limit is unlikely to have any significant impact on travel times for private vehicles during rush hour. However it will significantly improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists throughout the day. In the last two or three years, there’s been a significant increase in crashes and near misses along this corridor. The Victoria Street intersection near the ALDI supermarket is the most notorious hotspot for collisions and near misses.
Pedestrians of all demographics cross Montague Road on a daily basis, including dozens of school children, people with impaired mobility, and people with impaired vision. Thousands of commuters cross Montague Road each day to access CityGlider bus stops, particularly at the Victoria St intersection. If council pushes ahead with the installation of more pedestrian refuge islands along Montague Road, it would make sense to drop speed limits at the same time.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the Dutton Park-Fairfield Neighbourhood Plan. I’d like to thank and congratulate the council officers who’ve put so much time into drafting this plan. Sadly though, I expect much of their good work will be ignored or rendered irrelevant as Brisbane City Council has a strong track record of allowing big developers to ignore key requirements of the neighbourhood plan.
Insufficient infrastructure for current population
Currently there is insufficient infrastructure within the plan area to support the existing local population. In particular, there are significant shortfalls in the availability of community facilities, the amount of useable public green space per capita, in local public transport services, safe bicycle facilities, tree canopy coverage, and perhaps most importantly, educational facilities. Much of this plan area falls within the catchment for Brisbane State High School. Brisbane State High already has 3200 enrolled students even though the functional capacity of the school is only around 3000.
In this context, where the local public high school is already well over capacity, and there is nowhere near enough green space – particularly at the northern end of the plan area – it is irresponsible and extremely disappointing that this neighbourhood plan is not accompanied by a local government infrastructure plan. If it is the case that changes in Queensland Government policy and process have delayed the development and delivery of an infrastructure plan, the neighbourhood plan should also be delayed until that time.
Without providing infrastructure to handle increased population density, we risk exacerbating existing problems such as traffic congestion and school overcrowding. Under these circumstances, I am afraid I cannot support any zoning changes which will lead to significantly increased population density. I strongly oppose upzoning of the Stanley Street and Annerley Road sub-precincts unless the rezoning is accompanied by local infrastructure spending.
If we had a guarantee that necessary infrastructure had been identified and that funding for it had been allocated, I would be happy to support increased density, particularly within the northern sub-precincts of the plan area, however no such infrastructure plan exists. At the very least, council should prioritise increasing the frequency of bus routes along Annerley Road and installing additional CityCycle stations along this corridor to better serve local residents who move about the suburb via active transport.
I strongly feel that this neighbourhood planning process should be delayed until it is accompanied by a meaningful and substantive local government infrastructure plan.
Height limits for Health Sub-Precinct and Stanley St and Annerley Rd Sub-Precincts
The current height limits proposed for the northern precincts of the plan area are not in keeping with the character of the area and will create an environment which is not human-scale or pleasant for pedestrians. Even if added infrastructure was being provided to support the greater density (which I note is not the case), allowing buildings of up to 15 and 20 storeys will make the precinct feel closed-in, cold and unwelcoming.
The height limits contemplated in the draft plan will excessively shadow the street and risk creating a wind tunnel effect along the pedestrian arcade behind Stanley Street, and down Annerley Road. A precinct which is not human-scale will completely undermine the neighbourhood plan’s stated goal of creating a walkable precinct with bustling streets and activated laneways.
I’ve talked to many residents who are unhappy about the proposed maximum heights for these sub-precincts. I also note that there is ample literature from architecture and design experts demonstrating that when residential buildings go higher than the 5 to 8-storey range, residents lose a sense of emotional connection to the streetscape, and the capacity for forming geographic community networks is significantly undermined. The work of architects like Lloyd Alter is particularly instructive – for a brief introductory read I recommend this article: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/16/cities-need-goldilocks-housing-density-not-too-high-low-just-right.
Taller buildings are also far more resource-intensive to build and maintain and have far higher impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood. Many of these costs are externalised and borne by ratepayers and the natural environment.
With this in mind, I would suggest that a maximum height of 12 to 14 storeys for the Health sub-precinct (NPP-001a) and an absolute maximum of 8 storeys for the Stanley Street and Annerley Road sub-precincts (NPP-001b) would be far more appropriate. Table 22.214.171.124.4 should be amended to reflect this, so that developers can’t build above 8 storeys even where the site area is larger than 1200m2.
I also note that in other parts of Brisbane, developers have consistently been allowed to build far higher than the neighbourhood plan’s maximum building heights, even where the area is covered by a relatively new neighbourhood plan. These exceptions to the neighbourhood plan make a mockery of the work of council’s planning team in drafting the plan. Allowing ‘performance outcome’ variations to height limits results in suburbs where infrastructure doesn’t keep pace with population growth, and leaves developers and landowners feeling frustrated that some developers are arbitrarily given special treatment while others are forced to comply strictly with the plan.
Given the existing infrastructure shortages, the lack of an infrastructure plan, and the special character of this precinct, performance outcomes that allow developers to exceed the maximum heights in Table 126.96.36.199.4 should not be allowed.
PO1 in table 188.8.131.52.3.A must be removed, or at the very least amended so that the only circumstances in which a developer is permitted to build higher is if they provide a significant component of affordable community housing or public housing as part of the development. Unless a component of community housing or public housing is provided as part of a development, or the developer is willing to gift a significant proportion of private land to council ownership for a public park, it is difficult to conceive of a development application which could provide enough of a public benefit to justify exceeding the already generous height limits for sites within the neighbourhood plan.
There are better ways to increase density
I understand that Brisbane City Council has a broad strategic goal of increasing density in the inner-city, but this can be achieved without excessively tall towers. Density can be increased by:
- Requiring more three and four-bedroom apartments within the precinct and fewer one-bedroom apartments
- Requiring developers to provide shared laundry facilities for each floor
- Encouraging developers to reduce the size of bathrooms and bedrooms while slightly increasing the size of lounge rooms, common spaces and balconies
- Encouraging developers to make better use of ground-floor lobby space so that these parts of an apartment tower can double as community meeting venues or permanent workspaces for non-profit community groups
- Reforming DA requirements and regulatory barriers that make it harder to convert older free-standing dwellings into sharehouses, boarding houses and student accommodation
- Making it easier for vacant properties which are zoned for commercial or industrial purposes to be readapted for residential accommodation
Green space and Community facilities
As noted above, and as previously acknowledged by officers within Brisbane City Council at the neighbourhood plan information sessions, there is currently insufficient public green space within the northern part of the plan area. On a per capita basis, residents of Gabba Hill have virtually no public green space within easy walking distance of their homes. South Bank is a citywide destination parkland, and does not play the same role as a local park (it’s also on the far side of some very busy intersections). While there is more public green space further down Annerley Road at Dutton Park, the busy roads, natural barriers like the train line, and the hostile pedestrian environment mean that even though those parks aren’t such a long way away as the crow flies, they still aren’t within an easy walk for residents in the northern end of the neighbourhood plan area.
It is crucial that council allocates funding to acquire sites for use as parks within the northern end of the neighbourhood plan area. If council persists in its intention to upzone the Stanley St and Annerley Rd sub-precinct for high-density residential, the many new apartment residents will have a particularly strong need for public green space given the fact that they don’t have their own private backyards.
The northern end of the neighbourhood plan is also poorly served by community facilities. There are no council libraries or community centres within the Dutton Park-Fairfield Neighbourhood Plan area north of the train line. In fact, there appear to be no council-owned halls or meeting spaces that are available for community use whatsoever. Existing community facilities further south – such as the Murri Watch shed – are also in poor condition and in need of major renovations if they are to be of use to the wider community.
This lack of community centres and meeting spaces around Gabba Hill and South Brisbane means residents have fewer opportunities to get to know their neighbours and connect with their local community. It also means residents have to drive further to access services and facilities, increasing traffic congestion in a precinct where, ideally, most residents would be using public and active transport for the vast majority of their trips.
Council should negotiate to acquire the Bethany Gospel Hall site at the corner of Annerley Road and Catherine Street for use as a public park and possibly a community centre or hall. Accordingly, the site should be rezoned for public parkland or community use. Kerb build-outs on Catherine Street could be used to convert adjacent street parking into additional green space to add to this new park. The hall could perhaps be relocated into the northeast corner of the existing lot, freeing up more of the site to provide a larger patch of useable green space.
Council should also acquire part of the carpark out the front of Diana Plaza for use as a public park. Alternatively, the acceptable outcomes for development of this site should specifically require that a privately owned publicly accessible park be included along part of the Annerley Road frontage of this site.
The draft neighbourhood plan should be amended to specifically mention a strategic goal of converting selected street parking bays around the northern end of the plan area into public green space, to allow for the creation of pocket parks. Some roads within the plan area are sufficiently wide that significant amounts of useable green space could be created by converting part of the road reserve into green space using kerb buildouts. Locations for this kind of transformation could include:
– northern end of Fleurs St near the existing community garden
– Catherine St near Annerley Road
– Gloucester St between Stephens Rd and Annerley Road
– Many intersections along Park Road West
– Park Rd near the intersection of Merton Rd (a key pedestrian route to the train station)
– Lockhart St or Ross St near the intersection of Merton Rd
– northern end of Merton Rd between Stanley St and Hawthorne St
– Petersen St, near Fleurs St intersection and at the cul de sac at the eastern end
– Colin St (very substantial road-width – potential to create a lot of extra green space)
Council must also identify at least one other building (ideally two) within the northern part of the plan area to acquire for use as council-owned community facilities.
The existing small public space at the intersection of Vulture and Graham Streets should also be rezoned as public parkland to bring its zoning into accordance with its existing and intended future use.
Short-term rezoning impacts on small businesses haven’t been adequately considered
My understanding is that rezoning properties around Stanley Street and the northern end of Annerley Road for higher density will potentially increase their property value. This will likely lead to increases in rates that property owners have to pay, which in turn will lead to landlords expecting higher rents from small business tenants.
My concern is that a range of factors, including heritage protections, the BCC’s reluctance to drop speed limits, and the lack of investment in the public realm (specifically, a shortage of green space and useable public spaces) will mean that development of this precinct over the next five to ten years will be patchy and ad hoc. Because of the high costs of ensuring that heritage-listed buildings comply with modern regulations and are appropriate for tenant businesses, some landlords will choose to leave their commercial properties sitting empty rather than keeping the rent down.
This risks creating a situation where many of the street-level shops sit vacant long-term. In turn, this will reduce foot traffic and undermine any opportunity to create a vibrant walkable precinct, making it harder for the remaining businesses to survive.
Council should consult further with existing small businesses (not just property owners) along Annerley Rd prior to passing this neighbourhood plan to understand the likely impacts of rezoning upon their rents and future viability of their businesses, and mitigate these risks through temporary rent controls, rates reductions or other incentives. Without urgent investment to improve the public realm and attract more pedestrians to the area, upzoning the Stanley St and Annerley Rd precinct may inadvertently drive more local operators out of business.
Heritage and character protection
The most significant negative impact upon the heritage values and character of the area is the excessive height and built form proposed for key sites along Annerley Road and Stanley Street. I am particularly concerned about overshadowing and the close proximity of new residential towers to the Princess Theatre. The proposed public arcade/laneway should be extended to wrap around the rear of the theatre. Setbacks should also be increased to provide a proper buffer zone.
I feel I must again emphasise that 20 storeys is far too tall for the Mater Hospital site, and that development throughout this northern end of the neighbourhood plan area should generally be capped at 8 storeys to preserve the character and amenity of the area, and preserve a human-scale, pedestrian-friendly environment.
Lack of faith in the overall process
There is much more to be said about the need for this plan to include specific requirements regarding built form outcomes and sustainable building design features. All new developments should have to achieve a much higher standard in terms of sustainable construction materials, rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling, onsite composting, airflow and cross-ventilation. Sadly though, I have no faith that council would impose any such restrictions on developers against their will, even where such requirements would yield significantly better outcomes in terms of sustainability.
Overall, I’m extremely disappointed in how little meaningful input I as the elected councillor for the Gabba Ward have had into the drafting of this neighbourhood plan. I feel I have been ‘consulted’ and ‘listened to’ on many occasions but that my comments and concerns will be largely ignored. It is deeply troubling that this neighbourhood planning process has proceeded without a proper infrastructure plan to accompany it.
If I had more faith in the process, I would have spent much more time on a more detailed submission regarding this draft plan, but my experiences as a councillor to date and the fact that big developers are consistently allowed to ignore the neighbourhood plan anyway leads me to the conclusion that my time is better spent on projects that actually help the community.
A renowned and well-respected philosopher once wrote that “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum… That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
I mean no disrespect to any particular councillor or political party, but from what I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, it seems those words wouldn’t be out of place in the introduction to the 2016/17 Brisbane City Council budget.
We live in an era of great change. New challenges are presenting themselves and new solutions are emerging in response, but generally speaking, this budget is a rusty relic of an approach to city governance, financial management and urban planning which probably should’ve been abandoned years ago.
Obviously this budget isn’t all-round terrible. In fact, it’s strikingly mediocre. There are a few major funding allocations that make a lot of sense, and a wide range of smaller initiatives that I genuinely believe do and will continue to make this city a better place to live. My decision to vote against the various budget programs should not be misinterpreted or misrepresented as a vote against every single item and allocation within those budget programs.
Many of the funding allocations make a lot of sense.
But when I turn my mind to examples from cities around the world of the kinds of changes we could be making… of the kinds of projects we should be funding, I can’t help but feel like we’re missing out on some amazing opportunities.
When I think about the challenges of climate change, of rising homelessness, of an increasingly shaky local property market, of social isolation and wealth inequality, I can’t help but feel deeply disappointed at how little we’re doing to prepare our city for an era of economic and environmental volatility.
I could talk at length about what the drafters of this budget should have done differently, but I have very little confidence that the current administration has any significant desire to take on my suggestions or work constructively with non-LNP councillors. This view is based on the opaque and un-consultative nature of the budget drafting process I’ve just witnessed. I’m beginning to feel that the ibis out in King George Square are more interested in productive, policy-focussed conversations than some of the councillors in this chamber.
City Councils around the world are adopting participatory budgeting strategies to give ordinary ratepayers significantly greater direct input into how their money is spent. Unfortunately, here in Brisbane, we don’t even give non-LNP councillors any meaningful input, let alone residents.
As one small example, I’d like to read into the record a few excerpts from my email to the Chair of the Finance and Economic Development Committee regarding the budget. Noting of course, that Councillor Adams did run a more transparent budget estimates session than some other councillors, and I’ve thanked her for that. Excerpts of the email:
“Dear Councillor Adams,
Please find attached my budget submission for the 2016/17 financial year for the Gabba Ward. Please reply to confirm you’ve received this submission and that you are able to open and view the attachment.
I would like the opportunity to meet in person to discuss my submission in further detail, and to share other proposals for reducing council expenditure and increasing revenue which I didn’t include in my submission.”
Then in the email I went into a bit of detail about a few local priority projects, before writing:
“Please advise a time and date that would suit you to discuss my budget submission further.
Thanks for all your hard work.
Here’s the only reply I received:
“Dear Councillor Sri,
Thank you for your email of 6 May 2016.
I acknowledge receipt of your submission.
Councillor Krista Adams”
That’s it. No dialogue. No meaningful consultation. No acknowledgment of my request for a meeting. Is it any wonder then that I have so little faith that my perspective will be heard and respected in this place? That I struggle to see the point of engaging in debate when many councillors appear unwilling to see across party lines and engage in genuine cross-party dialogue? When they’ve already made up their minds? I expect some councillors in this chamber will defend the administration’s approach saying, “That’s the process for all councillors, whether you’re LNP or not.”
But my point is that we need not and should not settle for such an adversarial process.
We can do better. Every councillor in this chamber, regardless of their political alignment, has something meaningful and constructive to contribute to the budgeting process. To perpetuate a system where the talents and insights of so many councillors are ignored, on the shallow pretext that they can share their views in council debates after the budget has already been finalised and released, is undemocratic and a disservice to the people of Brisbane. I don’t say this lightly, but the lack of accountability, transparency and consultative collaboration is deeply troubling.
Overall, I believe this budget is characterised by two distinct flaws:
- An absence of any meaningful commitment to social justice.
- A general failure to prioritise projects that improve resilience and adaptability.
Australia is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis. Brisbane’s property market is on a trajectory disturbingly reminiscent of American cities before the GFC, where local government representatives like us failed to plan for and mitigate against the risks of a property market collapse that caused widespread homelessness.
In this context, it is shameful that a budget of $3 billion allocates only a couple hundred thousand dollars towards housing support and homelessness services.
I have little patience for statistics about the number of free haircuts that were provided by unpaid volunteers at Homeless Connect. If homeless Brisbanites are to get back on their feet, they need a lot more than haircuts. They need affordable housing.
Right now, hundreds, if not thousands of houses and apartments in this city are sitting empty. Brisbane City Council should be charging higher rates on empty properties so that investors have a stronger incentive to rent them out. We should be setting aside money to acquire more of these properties for use as crisis accommodation and community housing.
I have no patience whatsoever for buck-passing excuses that housing is a State issue. This is our problem too, and we shouldn’t wash our hands of it.
Brisbane City Council is far bigger and more powerful than your average city council. I’ve frequently heard council officers refer to BCC as functioning more like a small state government. Historically, Brisbane City Council played an active role in providing affordable housing, and I can find no legislative document stating that housing is exclusively the responsibility of the Queensland government and not city council.
We spend millions of dollars on road-widenings, graffiti removal and ornamental fountains, and councillors can stand here with a straight face and tell me that we don’t have the money for housing? That it’s not our responsibility? If a man falls down in front of you on the street, would you not stop to help him up?
Council policies are actively exacerbating the current housing crisis. You’re the ones rezoning land so that developers can knock down affordable boarding houses and Aboriginal hostels and replace them with unaffordable dogboxes. You’re the ones enforcing laws against large sharehouses that young people live in because they can’t afford any other option. You’re the ones encouraging an unsustainable construction boom fuelled by easy credit and speculative property investment that drives up prices and locks first homebuyers out of the market. And your only solution is to keep increasing supply until the market collapses. As though that’s worked so well in the past.
So when I say this budget lacks a meaningful commitment to social justice, I mean that councillors who support this budget are neglecting their duty as elected representatives to prioritise the needs of the most marginalised and disadvantaged members of our society. Council might be doing something, but it’s not doing anywhere near enough. The money allocated towards homeless support services is chicken feed compared to spending in other areas, and to say that we can leave housing affordability to the magic of the free market, or to other levels of government, is a dereliction of duty.
If council can borrow money to fund the metro, or a highway to the airport, you can borrow money to buy affordable housing. The long-term savings and social benefits will more than justify the cost.
This brings me back to the quote I shared at the outset. The spectrum of debate surrounding the content of this budget has been uninspiringly narrow. Councillors of all sides seem to be playing our parts in some kind of theatrical production. But no-one’s watching. We don’t even allow cameras to film the supposedly public debates in this chamber. So who are we all performing for?
When I talk about a narrowing of the parameters of debate, I’m referring in particular to the “hands in the air, there’s nothing we can do” sentiment that we have to choose between funding a pedestrian crossing in Nundah or an intersection upgrade in Inala. That we have to choose between flood mitigation in Fairfield or a park upgrade in Wynnum. The simple truth is that we don’t have to choose. In the words of that cute little girl in the burrito ads, why don’t we have both?
Minor infrastructure upgrades that improve pedestrian and cyclist safety offer far better returns on investment than major road-widening projects. Making it safer and easier for people to use active transport for short trips reduces the number of cars on the road and saves us millions of dollars in road resurfacing and upgrades over the long-term, not to mention the wider positive impacts in terms of health and fitness, air quality, carbon emission reductions, community connectedness and increased foot traffic for small businesses.
I’m told that even the RACQ said the Kingsford Smith Drive widening project didn’t represent value for money. But those local safety upgrades do.
If you really believe those big flashy major road projects are more of a priority than the local stuff that materially improves residents’ lives, I probably won’t be able to convince you. But I say again that while interest rates are low, we should be borrowing money to fund those local priority projects, because they will save us money down the track.
This is a risky budget. It is risky because it clings to the same old methods and priorities in spite of significantly changed circumstances and future challenges, including an unstable climate and a rates base that’s increasingly vulnerable to a property market collapse.
I hope next year the administration councillors will involve the rest of us in genuine, meaningful discussion so we can all work together on the budget, rather than shutting us out of the conversation and forcing us to resort to adversarial debates after the budget has already been released.