In a move that shocked and angered many living on the Kurilpa Peninsula, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner announced a strategy to allow CBD-style heights for residential buildings in South Brisbane’s Kurilpa precinct.

Councillor Schrinner said the changes would facilitate the creation of around 10,000 additional dwellings over time, striking the right balance between ensuring Brisbane can meet housing demand while preserving character and greenspace.

 “Brisbane is Australia’s fastest growing capital thanks to our enviable lifestyle, clean and green credentials and strong economy,” he said.

 “Our incredible growth is adding to the current housing supply pressures, which are being exacerbated by labour shortages and supply chain disruptions.

“Brisbane has limited greenfield development areas, so we need to ensure our plan enables a diverse range of housing opportunities within the existing urban footprint.

Cr Schrinner said Council is determined to “maintain Brisbane’s unique ‘tin and timber’ character homes and low-density suburbs while preserving the precious bushland and greenspace that makes our city so appealing.”

“Our strategy achieves this by facilitating the creation of new homes in the inner-city and by stimulating suburban renewal on under-utilised land.”

Nevertheless, many see the Mayor’s announcement as a return to the Graham Quirk 2014  Kurilpa master plan (supported by Campbell Newman) for the Kurilpa Peninsula. That plan was scrapped by the incoming Labor government following Newman’s defeat in 2015.

Pam Bourke, a spokesperson for community group Kurilpa Futures, which formed in direct opposition to the Graham Quirk plan, told the Westender the new strategy is ‘outrageous’.

“They have had this in the drawer for years.

“Once again there has been no community engagement on their plans.

“We should not be developing on a flood plain that has gone under twice in eleven years.”

“Traffic congestion is awful now and getting worse. The strategy has no transport plan, nor provision of green and open space for recreation and the environment.

Ms Bourke said there is no evidence that the thousands of new apartments already built in West End have contributed to affordable housing.

“We still have an affordable housing crisis in Kurilpa and Brisbane that’s worse than ever. This isn’t a plan, it’s a PR document,” Ms Bourke said.

Kurilpa Futures, with other local organisations has been engaging with residents to develop a community vision for the Montague Road and Kurilpa precincts and they plan to release their findings soon. The Lord Mayor was invited to their community forum but did not attend.

West End Community Association President Seleanah More said in a Facebook post that the neighbourhood has had fifteen years of densification without adequate infrastructure (including specific affordable housing allocations). As a result, she said local schools are overcrowded, there is increased homelessness, stretched social services, and rising property prices.

On ABC TV’s Brisbane News last night, Ms More said recent densification has made the suburb less liveable and more expensive.

WECA and local community groups in West End and South Brisbane have a history of pushing back against overdevelopment in the area.

In 2020, Aria Property Group proposed a 32 storeys development in South Brisbane, 20 storeys above the zoned 12 storeys for the area. The developer claimed their planned building had a number of green credentials, including 1,003 trees and 20,000 plants, which would give Brisbane the world’s greenest residential building.

However, West End Community Association (WECA) and nearby residents argued that the community benefits Aria claimed would be delivered by the building did not justify the proposed height, which they argued would negatively impact local parks and roads.

After revisions to the plan by Aria, WECA continued to argue that the plan did not define or measure “community benefit”, and the community group decided to appeal the approval in the Planning and Environment Court at its December 2021 AGM.

In May 2022, Aria announced it was scrapping its plans for the building, but did not withdraw its application.

The Westender understands that court case is still pending.

On social media yesterday, local Councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan said that the area “is one of the most flood-prone parts of the inner-city. It is one of the LAST places in Brisbane that we should be concentrating more residential development.”

“The main reason that this area is mostly industrial sites and that previous generations never built housing there is that it floods so badly.”

“… this is the part of South Brisbane that was SUPPOSED to be turned into public parkland to cater for all the high-density development that’s happening elsewhere in the Kurilpa Precinct.”

Local State MP, Amy MacMahon, said nearly half of renting households in South Brisbane are under housing stress. She also took to social media yesterday, saying:

“This community is jaded from the last decade of luxury developments that have swept through our neighbourhood. These developments have often come with the promise of new infrastructure and better housing affordability – but this has not happened. These have been blatant lies from property developers and governments.”

In a facebook post, Cr Sriranganathan speculates that the Mayor’s announcement is a ploy to wedge Labor.

Mayoral and Council elections are due in March 2024, and the Mayor’s announcement seems to signal that he wants a vigorous campaign. It will be interesting to see who emerges from other parties to take up the community’s concerns.

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Cover image – Illustration from the 2014 City Council Kurilpa Master Plan