One of Redland City Council’s jobs is to manage public parkland, not as a land owner but as a trustee for the community. But can we trust the Trustee to act in the public interest?
The Land Act 1994 deals with the issue of “unallocated” land in Queensland and a trustee’s administration of parks and reserves.
Administration of parks, reserves and other unallocated land can involve complex issues which need to be resolved using detailed argument, careful weighing of points of view, well established policy and legal precedence. The public interest may not be served if these decisions are rushed and corners cut.
In its unseemly haste to give away public land on and around Cleveland’s foreshores, the Redland City Council (and the Minister for Economic Development) may have overstepped the mark in their administration of State land in the declared Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area (PDA).
G.J. Walter Park
Of special concern are the “fast track” actions to allocate G.J. Walter Park and State land below high water mark as suitable for residential and commercial development.
The PDA has an area of about 67 hectares 49.5 hectares being land below high water (all of which is within the Moreton Bay Marine Park). About 17.5 hectares of the PDA is land. Of the land area, G.J. Walter Park is a significant proportion. The Park is known as Lot 66 SP115554 a Reserve for Park and Redland City Council is the trustee, appointed under the Land Act.
The declaration of the PDA under the Economic Development Act was at the request of the Redland City Council. Inclusion of the G.J Walter Park in the declared area is clearly at odds with the Council’s role as the Trustee of the Park. The PDA declaration attempts to commit parts of G.J. Walter Park to residential, retail and commercial development i.e. new land uses. But the intended land uses are clearly inconsistent with the purpose of the reserve as a park. So Council’s decisions about future use of G.J. Walter Park (or parts of the Park) and support of the PDA outcomes are inconsistent with its responsibility as the Park’s Trustee.
Local media and related Ministerial statements indicate that the foreshore reserve, G.J. Walter Park, will be used as an incentive so a developer would invest in the Toondah Harbour redevelopment. Using public lands as a development incentive puts at risk every piece of park land under the control of the Council.
Management Plan and most appropriate land use assessment
Council has not explained its trustee responsibilities under the Land Act concerning a change of use of the reserve. To date there is no advice from Council about preparation of a management plan. It has not acknowledged that alienation and sale of the Park requires an assessment of the most appropriate land use. In fact Council seems to be operating on the mistaken assumption that the Park is there for it to do as it sees fit.
Glib statements by political leaders (and the Council’s project officers) that the park will be expanded and improved so more people can use the Park, show alarming naivety about greenspace planning and management. Council seems unaware of the regional context, and the region’s critical shortage of foreshore community greenspace.
A most appropriate land use assessment, should be undertaken under the Land Act before any commitments are given to an alternate use. To do this assessment, credibly, the existing users should be consulted and a proper assessment of the setting, users and existing use undertaken.
To date there has been no consultation with park users, by Council acting in its capacity as the Trustee. In fact, it seems that Council is avoiding or failing its responsibilities under the Land Act, either in ignorance or through maladministration (of its trustee responsibilities).
Redland City Council can’t be trusted to be a trustee!
PDA consultation did not deal with land Act requirements
Public consultation to date (on the PDA) has only considered the draft PDA development scheme (under the Economic Development Act). In response there were over 500 formal submissions, 1,200 signatories to a parliamentary petition and more than 500 petitions to an on-line petition. Most of these were objections to the PDA Scheme in whole or in part.
The PDA project team dismissed and dispensed with well documented community values and in lieu relied on inadequate economic justification and poor planning practice.
The community views are well-established and overwhelmingly support retaining the reserve for the purpose for which the land was originally set aside. This evidence was clearly available to the Council as the Trustee but it did not act in the public interest or in line with its Trustee responsibilities.
Further, when expressions of interest were invited over an intended Stage 1 of the PDA the advertising signage and associated documents clearly show two parcels of land (in this Stage 1) to be part of the reserve (i.e. labelled parts 1A and 1B ). Here again, it seems the Council’s approach is based on the premise that the alienation of parts of the reserve were a forgone outcome.
This, it seems, was done (again) without due diligence as regards Council’s role as trustee. If the reserve is deemed as not being required for the purpose for which it is set aside then the alienation and sale is not a matter for Council alone to decide. It is not a matter to be decided without the most appropriate land use assessment and consideration of a full range of alternative uses and users.
Likewise the PDA area includes an extensive area of State land, being the land below high water mark that is nominally the bed of Moreton Bay.
Given it is a part of both an internationally recognised RAMSAR site and the Moreton Bay Marine Park an assessment of the public interest linked to a most appropriate land use assessment should have been done before announcing preliminary commitments to sell or lease (long term) this land.
The incorporation of an extensive area of State land in the PDA without completing or committing to a “most appropriate land use assessment” appears to be an example of maladministration which could result in confusion about any legal rights to develop projects in this area.
Redlands City Council should have considered the implications of the Land Act before embarking on the pathway of declaring the PDA, and embracing an inadequately planned development scheme. If this precedent is not reined in, any public parkland is at risk of being sacrificed for short term economic gain. This is a matter of principle which has statewide implications. Voters should confront their own Councillor and members of parliament, with a simple question:
Can we trust you to safeguard our parks?
Questions for the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines
The Minister responsible for the administration of the Land Act, the Honourable Andrew Cripps, has been asked to provide advice to the following questions:
- The legislative and regulatory provisions of the Land Act require that the trustee must manage trust land and its improvements, consistent with achieving the purpose of the trust land (in this case park purposes) and the trustee must take all action necessary for the care, control and management of the land,
Can you, the responsible Minister, confirm that Redland City Council has met its obligations as Trustee of the GJ Walter Park prior to making decisions to change the use of the reserve, the purpose of the reserve or (it seems) change the ownership of the land?
- Further at the very least the changes in the setting and use of the park outlined in the PDA scheme are to facilitate high density residential development on or in the locality.
In these circumstances should not the trustee‘s actions have triggered (under Section 48) your direction for a Management Plan to be prepared for the Reserve?
Can the Minister advise what public consultation process, if any, did the Council (as trustee) undertake in accordance with its responsibility for care, control and management of the Park?
- Given the public announcements by the Mayor and the Minister for Economic Development in favour of the alienation of all or part of the Park to facilitate economic development, is the responsible Minister:
Concerned that Council has failed in its role as trustee of the reserve?
Considered dismissals of Council as the trustee of the reserve for maladministration of its Trustee responsibilities?
- Further, Given there are over 2,200 people who by petition or submission (all on the public record) objected to the scope of development in the PDA and impacting on the Park it is hard to see how this consultation related to the administration of the Land Act. However, these objections would most likely be echoed should the sale of the Park (or part thereof) be countenanced.
Can the responsible Minister provide an assurance that before action is taken to revoke all or any part of the reserve that due process for a most appropriate land use assessment is undertaken before any more unilateral decision making is allowed to occur with respect to the existing park?
Given Council has publicly pre-empted its position re the sale of the park, should not it be excluded from conducting or overseeing the most appropriate land use assessment?.
- Redland City Council is also acting to change the level of development and type of use of the nearby Linear Park. The proximity of the two parks and similar use and shared use and users of the two parks is obvious, yet Council has made no attempt to assess the impact of changes it proposes on one park with or on the other. This seems a fundamentally flawed planning process.
Can the responsible Minister ask that Council consider the impacts of the proposals it has promoted on the two Parks (Linear Park and GJ Walter Park) and advise what if any impacts it deemed that development on one will have on the other?
- The incorporation of an extensive area of the State land below High Water without completing or committing to a “most appropriate land use assessment” is a significant concern.
Can the responsible Minister provide an assurance that due diligence will apply to the determination of the future use of the State land impacted by the PDA declaration?
Will a most appropriate land use assessment be undertaken for the State land impacts by the PDA declaration? If not why not?
Will the “most appropriate land use assessment” (or any other process) consider the existence or otherwise of Native Title over the land now Park (once it is revoked) and the land below high water before being allocated to private interests?
- Given, South East Queensland has, regionally, significantly less community greenspace than other metropolitan areas (eg Sydney has about 49% V SEQ at about 18%) the decision to alienate foreshore lands (such as GJ Walter Park) has impacts well beyond the local government area in which the park is located, short term and NIMBY thinking by the Redland City Council is exactly the approach that the Land Act itself and regional planning should mitigate. The inadequate provision of greenspace generally and foreshores in particular is well known in SEQ, and has been since the early 1990’s).
Can the responsible Minister assure the region’s community that in considering future use of the GJ Walter Park and the land below high water that the dearth of community greenspace in SEQ will be fully considered in the land use allocation process?
Redlands2030 will report back when we receive a response from the Minister