The Southeast Busway construction from the city to Eight Mile Plains cost $452.8 million (in 2001 dollars). Holland Park West busway station opened on 30 April 2001. At the time, the Queensland Government policy encouraged local governments to have a minimum residential density of 40 dwellings per hectare within 800 metres of existing rail or busway stations.[i] So Brisbane City Council proposed to rezone areas within a 400 metre radius of the new busway station at Holland Park West to low-medium density.

For those that don’t know Holland Park, the area generally consists of detached, single-family homes constructed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Holland Park in 1950. Source: Queensland State Archives

Approximately 600 residents signed a petition asking for council to scrap the proposal, with the petition organiser stating that “There could be increases in crime with the increased population. We are looking at becoming potential slum areas.”[ii]

The petition organiser said, “Had we known that [there would be increases in density], we would have vigorously opposed the busway,” she said. “This is being done by stealth.

The irony is that many of the houses in Holland Park are former Housing Commission, constructed at low cost and sold to owners with mortgages heavily subsidised by the government.

Housing commission homes in Holland Park in 1958. Source: Queensland State Archives

In Holland Park, Tim Quinn was booed and heckled by a large crowd while fronting a public meeting and the proposal to rezone parts of Holland Park West was eventually abandoned.[iii] He said, “Any time you propose a planning change, even though it might have a lot of logic behind it, naturally the local community will have its concerns.”

When asked by journalists if the Queensland Government supported the council’s proposal, then Transport Minister Steve Bredhauer stated that “it’s the council’s local area plan and you were right to pursue it with Tim.”

The Holland Park rezoning was scrapped, and 20 years later you can still only build a single family, detached house there.

Opposing development is a successful political strategy

Planning and development is inherently political. You only have to look at how opposing political parties respond to proposals. Back in the early 2000s, the LNP opposed densification in West End, with Margaret de Wit (LNP councillor for Pullenvale from 1997 to 2016, and then Opposition Leader) stating that she shared the residents’ concerns, and that “it would be a shame to have high-rise units along the river…”[iv]

Opposing redevelopment can be a very successful political strategy. Many local politicians are elected on ‘anti-development’ platforms and there is significant evidence of government decisions being contrary to best practice, due to political pressure from constituents or lobby groups.

Research time and again shows that a local community’s ability to protest against density increases has a large impact on whether zoning will change. In the United States, research shows that high levels of home ownership correlate with low levels of rezoning. Wealthier areas of Melbourne have higher levels of planning disputes and a greater number of objections to new development when compared to other areas of the city.

If anything, this is what makes Tim Quinn’s stance in the early 2000s more significant. It would have been much more politically viable for him to oppose densification and prevent change, rather than seeking to negotiate affordable housing outcomes with the State Government.

A suburbanisation of disadvantage has been realised

Arguably, the Labor Council in the 2000s was far more progressive than its contemporaries. David Hinchliffe (councillor for inner northern suburbs of Fortitude Valley, New Farm) warned that “If we don’t act now, we will create outer suburban ghettos and inner suburban yuppie areas”, and that “The effect of pushing people out of the inner-city and middle suburbs is that they get spun out to the outer suburbs, where there is a lack of support services and public transport.[v]

Unfortunately, the suburbanisation of disadvantage has largely been realised. The spatial location of disadvantage in Australia has changed significantly since the 1980s, with inner city areas (within 10 km of a city centre) losing the majority of their low socioeconomic residents, and a high increase of disadvantage in areas 20 or more kilometres from the city centre. These are areas that often lack good public transport, and resulting car dependence is a significant burden on households already struggling with cost of living pressures.

And, of course, West End gentrified. It is one of the most affluent areas of the city. The creatives that gave West End its reputation can’t afford to live there – unless they bought a house in the 1990s.

A few familiar faces at the Kurilpa Derby in 2012. Source: Peter Walters

Is inclusionary zoning the panacea we need?

Maybe, probably not.

In the post-World War Two period Australian governments of all levels have also shifted the responsibility of new housing supply to the private sector. Adopting the policies of the United Kingdom and the United States created this mess, and it’s certainly not going to be enough to get us out of it. Plus, getting a development from rezoning to development approval to construction can take a really long time on the private market. Even research funded by the Property Council shows that the private sector is ill equipped to deliver affordable housing without significant funding from the government – to cover both construction cost and rental discounts.

Only an unprecedented public social infrastructure spend will resolve an unprecedented crisis. But that’s for another article.


[i] Smith W (2001). Too many is a crowd. The Courier Mail, 10 November 2001.

[ii] Southern News (2001). Call to scrap rezone plan by motorway. 23 August 2001.

[iii] Smith, W. (2001). Residents rejoice at City Hall backdown. The Courier Mail, 6 December 2001.

[iv] Heywood, L. (2002). Battle for West End heats up over units. The Courier Mail, 18 January 2002.

[v] Passmore, D. (2002). Ghettos of the future? – Crisis in housing boom.. The Courier Mail, 1 September 2002.

Cover image courtesy of Holland Park Townhouse Development Action Group.