Candidates’ Forum – Kurilpa Futures
On the afternoon of Saturday 7 March, Kurilpa Futures hosted the first of the candidates’ forums in West End.
The event was well attended, questions were thoughtful and responses well-argued by the two attending candidates, Jonathan Sri for The Greens, and Labor’s Rachel Gallagher. In fact, so much so, that a number of people commented to me after the event that having such quality candidates, with such similar concerns, makes their voting decisions difficult.
Separating the candidates
Not only are the Greens and Labor candidates difficult to separate in terms of their perceived capacity, they are somewhat difficult to separate on the key issues as well. They have both articulated similar concerns about climate change, transport, greening and development.
They do differ somewhat is style however and in the details of their policy positions.
Cr Sri, perhaps with the advantage of incumbency, is more likely to have a definitive position on issues, while Ms Gallagher will call for further consultation and investigation. For some this signifies strength on the part of Cr Sri and hesitancy on the part of Ms Gallagher, but others have told me that they think this indicates that Ms Gallagher has a more nuanced grasp on the complexity of the issues confronting Council.
The first question to candidates on Saturday concerned global warming.
- Rachel Gallagher committed to working towards a carbon neutral city and net zero emissions for Brisbane by 2050. She also committed to identifying local street champions to advise on and determine local responses, “…because the reality is that you know your streets better than anybody…,”
- Jonathan Sri, who with the Greens has called for Council to declare a climate emergency for some time now, said he is committed to prioritising planning for the increased risk of flooding as a result of global warming. He said he wants to see a complete ban on for-profit residential and commercial development within the Kurilpa Flood Plan and for that land to be set aside for public green space. He also spoke about practical measures such making rainwater tanks, tree-planting and greenspace a responsibility for developers.
Both candidates agreed that the current planning scheme does not work for residents and requires serious review.
Cr Sri said at the Saturday forum, “…both of us have quite similar positions in terms of our criticisms of the current neighbourhood planning process. We want more sustainable planning and we want the community to be generally involved. We want better designed buildings. … I think really where we depart is around the mechanisms that we are proposing.”
- Ms Gallagher says Labor is committed to overhauling the neighbourhood planning scheme and introducing a community co-design process. “…for me planning schemes need to be clear, they need to be simple, they need to be consistent,” Ms Gallagher said.
- Jonathan Sri said the Greens are calling for Council to not introduce neighbourhood plans unless or before they have received majority support from residents.
Binding Height Limits
Both Labor and the Greens are also taking commitments to the election for binding height limits on new developments. However, Ms Gallagher said, “I think we get quite caught up with height limits, because it’s kind of an easy concept to grasp. … the real soul of the city actually dies on the ground. [Apartments] are not vibrant urban areas, they are parking lots with apartments on top of them”.
Both candidates also agree that Council is not meeting local requirement for greenspace and transport infrastructure, and it is around the funding mechanisms for these amenities that the two depart.
- Cr Sri said that developers are making huge profits in Brisbane but are not paying their fair share towards essential infrastructure. In a reboot of the Green’s 2017 State Election promise, he wants to see a commitment to doubling infrastructure charges levied on developers.
- Ms Gallagher responded that the research is unclear about the impact of increasing the infrastructure levy. “I think it [increasing infrastructure charges] definitely does affect housing prices, but by how much it’s unclear”
- The Greens have called for a vacancy levy to be imposed on landlords of both residential and commercial properties, which they argue will force landlords to rent empty properties and thus push down rents.
- As a further measure to address the lack of social housing in The Gabba, C Sri called for mandatory 15% inclusionary zones for all new developments to set aside apartments for public housing.
- Ms Gallagher labelled inclusionary zoning, “…a neo-liberal response to the housing crisis” that was first proposed by President Nixon in the US. She said that the provision of social services such as affordable housing by private developers or private companies, never works, and added that social housing is a State, not a Council responsibility.
- Ms Gallagher said that current planning for transport by Council is a ‘dog’s breakfast’. She said she wants to see holistic planning and is committed to planning for transport and development infrastructure together, or at the same time. “It’s about planning a city that’s for everybody, and everyone needs to be a part of that discussion,” Ms Gallagher said.
- Ms Gallagher said, “I think one of the prime examples of this kind of dog’s breakfast approach to planning is Dornoch Terrace. Why does it have to be that someone else dies or someone does die before council does anything?”
- Labor, she said, will prioritise commuter routes first, ”…looking at where the existing infrastructure is, and then improving connectivity.”
- Cr Sri, said the Greens are calling for free off-peak public transport for everyone that will help address the crowding in peak periods.
- And he wants to see a revival of the Bus Network Review, which he said has been postponed by successive administrations.
Both candidates cycle, although Ms Gallagher said her cycling has been curtailed for safety reasons now that she has a small daughter. Space for Cycling attended the event and provided the following post.
Thanks to Kurilpa Futures – Planning for People for arranging a Gabba Ward candidates forum this afternoon, and to…
DONATIONS/CASH FOR ACCESS
Its always interesting to pick the ‘party plant’ from among questioners at forums. For Labor it was a question about shaping the city for women (see below), and for The Greens is was a question about ‘cash for access’ and political donations.
Jonathan Sri said that cash for access meetings with politicians, “… are a blight on our political system… I think they should be illegal”. He said that both the major parties are complicit in this, “but in recent years, we’ve seen particularly the Queensland Labor Government take tens of thousands of dollars in donations from big corporations, including developers like Star Entertainment, that are building the mega casino across the river”.
Cr Sri added that the bigger problem is that housing is treated as a commodity. “And as long as long as housing is treated as a commodity for speculative investment, rather than as a basic human, right, developers and other big industries are going to try to find ways to influence the system”.
Rachel Gallagher had perhaps her strongest moment in response to this question. Rather than prevaricating as is so often the case when candidates are uncomfortable with their party’s positions, Ms Gallagher made an unambiguous statement rejecting all forms of political donation, saying, “I think that we should ban all donations. And that’s what I will continue to advocate for until it’s done.”
Ms Gallagher said that the Labor Party is not perfect, “there’s no political party that is perfect. But it’s through the hard work of the members inside, you know, I don’t want to burn the house down I want to fix the house, I want to repair the house”.
CITY FOR WOMEN
A questioner asked how the candidates would ensure the city meets the needs of women.
- Ms Gallagher, said, “It’s really difficult for women to claim a city that was never actually designed for us in the first place. The cities are not our spaces and they were never designed for us. How do we retrofit them so that they are designed for the whole community, for everybody? So, the answer is having more women making decisions, that is the answer. And so, I’m glad that Labor actually announced today that all Council boards that will be 50% women. So, the only people that can make decisions about how cities better for women are women.”
- Jonathan Sri, said that our planning processes are still gendered, including transport planning. “These gender biases aren’t always immediately visible, but they’re in our system, and we need to proactively correct for them. And I think it’s important that rather than just the representative making these decisions, they create spaces and proactively facilitate processes that enable all members of community and a diverse representative group to be able to participate in those decisions”.
Both candidates talked at some length about Boundary Street and included a number of ideas for its rejuvenation, and both agreed that Council has been neglectful of the precinct.
- Said that Boundary Street has to be a destination in itself. “It has to be a high street that caters for everybody “.
- She said, the mix of businesses needs attention, “…we don’t want a place that’s busy at night and dead during the day “.
- The street needs to be planned around how we can increase foot traffic
- Needs more equitable decision making and transparency around where Council provides infrastructure improvements, “…so that it’s not residents that have to spend their time volunteering to clean the streets… or to maintain public areas because that is actually a core council service.“
- High cost of rent, or the high cost of rates but particularly rent, makes it hard local independent retailers to survive on the strip.
- A vacancy levy will go a long way to help remedy high rents because it puts pressure on investors to drop their rents. And he said that once they do that, it will start to activate empty shops.
- Cr Sri talked about the need to slow the speed limit further, finding room for more street trees, broader footpaths, and considering closing off Russell street as a side street to cars.
- Cr Sri talked in some detail about the need to address street parking, and, “…focusing on a pivot towards loading zones and shorter-term parking and disability parking rather than general traffic parking so that we can have room for those wider foot paths, more shade trees, more usable public spaces. That’s my vision for Boundary Street, but I think it needs to be collaborative and community led “.
The Greens commitment to a vacancy levy will go a long way to help remedy high retail rents in Boundary St #WestEnd "…because it puts pressure on investors to drop their rents, and once they do that, that starts to activate those shops" @jonathan_sri told residents. #Gabbavotes
— Westender News (@WestenderNews) March 8, 2020
PROMISES FOR THE GABBA
Both candidates have made a number of commitments at the local level.
Ms Gallagher has committed to:
- A city farm in West End. This commitment requires that land adjacent to Davies Park is acquired by Council for this purpose. “One of the first commitments that I made if elected was the full expansion of Jane street community garden wonderful remediated site into a complete city farm,” Ms Gallagher said.
- Ms Gallagher said that parents at WESS have been asking for a scramble crossing on the corners of Hardgrave and Vulture Street outside the school, “…because someone’s going to get run over one day and it’s going to be a child”.
- She also committed to making Montague Road and Vulture Street one of the first community codesign projects she would work on if elected.
Cr Jonathan Sri, as outlined above, wants to see:
- A new city-cat terminal on the western side of West End, well as, and not instead of, a new foot bridge between West End to Toowong for pedestrians and cyclists. Cr Sri said that a bridge between St Lucia and West End needs a more detailed business case and more detailed community consultation.
- Cr Sri also considered that “the backside” of Highgate Hill is not well serviced by public transport and there needs to be a greater focus on improving reliability along those corridors, so where walking is harder, people still have a way to get around.
- He said that recently funding has been secured for traffic lights at the intersection with Victoria Street and Montague road, and that The Greens are also pushing for many more intersections to have pedestrian crossings throughout the peninsula.
This is a very brief overview of the discussion on the day, so for more details see the video and links below.
Kurilpa Futures live streamed the Saturday Forum – see here for details. Best to start watching from around the six-minute mark when the camera work gets a bit steadier.
LIVE Kurilpa Futures is hosting the Gabba Ward Candidates Forum Tune in now
Posted by Kurilpa Futures – Planning for People on Friday, 6 March 2020
FULL LISTS OF COMMITMENTS
For a full list of their commitments see the candidate’s websites:
The Brisbane Times has also provided a useful summary of party promises for Brisbane, including the financial commitments – see HERE
Part Two of this story, covering the WECA forum held on Wed 11 March can be found HERE
 Nathaniel Jones did not attend the forum. See his website for details of his commitments.