On Thursday the 7th of May, Cr Jonathan Sri raised concerns on Social Media about a Brisbane City Council proposal to remove several fig trees growing in front of the State Library.

Cr Sri said he is concerned that Council had not consulted with the community about these changes.

“I am very firmly opposed to this project in its current form, and believe there should be more public consultation at the bare minimum. While I’m not personally angry at any individual decision-maker or council officer, I’m surprised a project like this can occur on state government land without public notification by the state, and without council consulting residents and briefing the local councillor well in advance,” Cr Sri said on Facebook.

In response, the Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner told the Brisbane Times today that the upgrades would increase safety for motorists and pedestrians. He is quoted as saying:

“This is all about making sure that, when Victoria Bridge becomes a green bridge for Brisbane Metro, there are alternative ways for getting in and out of the precinct,” Cr Schrinner said.

“We’ve upgraded multiple different intersections already and this is the last one that needed to be done.”

Cr Sri told the Westender that although this is a Council project, it is occurring on State Government land in order to accommodate better access to the government-owned carparks under South Bank. Cr Sri called on State Member for South Brisbane, Jackie Trad to withdraw Government support for the project.

Ms Trad told the Westender that these works are part of the Brisbane City Council Metro project and that she is disappointed about the lack of consultation.

“This is a major transformation of South Brisbane and our local community deserves to be consulted on every aspect of the work and its impact.

“I have personally spoken to the Lord Mayor to express my disappointment that our local community was not consulted on the impacts of this part of the project and I believe he has taken those concerns on board”.

Ms Trad said that ultimately this is a Council project and it is the responsibility of the Council and the local councillor to ensure the community is kept up to date on Council projects and their impacts.

“I have been advised that as part of the works, Brisbane City Council have provided Arts Queensland with a replanting plan that provides for 13 new trees that match the quality of the existing trees to be planted on the reconfigured site.

“These early works are part of the broader Metro project that will allow Victoria Bridge to be turned into a green bridge, providing safer access to the city for cyclists and pedestrians.

 “I know these are outcomes the local councillor also supports.

“I have advocated for more active transport options, and improved public transport solutions, for our booming local community and these are benefits the Metro project will deliver,” Ms Trad said.

West End based community group, Kurilpa Futures said that while it appreciates there will be benefits from the Brisbane Metro project it is extremely disappointed that Council has not allowed time for detailed community consultation on this project and on its full impacts. Mr Kelly said that lack of consultation creates uncertainty and confusion.

The group is also concerned about the late advice of these plans by Council to Cr Sri.

“How can our local Councillor represent the community appropriately if he is not being fully briefed by Council,” said Kurilpa Futures spokesperson Michael Kelly.

Mr Kelly said that Kurilpa Futures is committed to a greening strategy for the Kurilpa Peninsula and is always alarmed about the removal of mature trees in the area. He notes the recent removal of trees to accommodate traffic lights at the intersection of Victoria Street and Montague Road intersection in West End, and the multiple new developments that result in tree removals.

While not fully satisfied that it understands the necessity for the tree removals at the Grey and Peel Streets intersection, Mr Kelly said that the Group notes Ms Trad’s advice that the trees will be replaced by additional trees of matching quality. Mr Kelly said that if tree removals are necessary in any Council project, Council should ensure that any replacement option has equivalent value in ecosystem services (i.e., shade, habitat, carbon capture and storage) that are provided by the existing trees.

John Mongard who is a local landscape architect and nearby business owner has advised Kurilpa Futures that ex-ground trees of 8-10 metre height in 1800 diameter root cages would be required to replace the five mature species and that this is achievable given the space available, and also the importance of the civic space.

Mr Kelly said the group is writing to the Lord Mayor’s office to ask:

  • What impact the Brisbane Metro project will have on the current traffic congestion on the William Jolly Bridge, especially considering that people tend to avoid the high cost alternative of the Go-between Bridge.
  • What safety assessments were conducted for the slipway in front of the Library for non-vehicular traffic, e.g. cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Whether this project has been assessed against the South Brisbane Transport and Mobility Study published by the State Government in November 2019.
  • How it will impact the greening strategy for South Brisbane and whether there have been any climate change assessments of the project.

Mr Kelly said that Kurilpa Futures is passionate about the future of the Peninsula and ensuring it becomes part of the likeable city that the Council is endeavouring to create.

Queensland Walks spokesperson Anna Campbell told The Westender that they are seeking further details about the project but said in general they support designs that encourage all people to walk, to safely cross the road, provides shading and makes walking easy and accessible. Ms Campbell said:

  • “the removal of trees are generally not supported by Queensland Walks as they provide important shading and amenity that encourage people to walk
  • all proposed design improvements should benefit people walking
  • slip lanes can create a more dangerous way for people walking to try crossroads (particularly for the blind community) and for people moving on bikes
  • walking infrastructure needs to be prioritised, and encouraged through good design”.

“If this project fits these elements, we will happily support it,” Ms Campbell said.

UPDATE – Questions to BCC

The Westender put several questions to Council about its plans and received a response after this story was published – for Council’s response please see – https://westender.com.au/council-responds-to-lack-of-consultation-concerns/