Community protest against Toondah infrastructure deal
Residents will be protesting this week against Redland City Council’s plans to sign an infrastructure agreement for the Toondah Harbour mega-project.
The protest will be held outside Council chambers from 8.30 am on Wednesday.
Cleveland resident and protest organizer, Jeannette Douglass said: “We welcome any Redland residents who feel their interests are not being well served by this Council to join us outside the Chambers building”.
Parking debacle concerns Straddie residents and visitors
Within a few days of the Toondah Harbour master plan being unveiled, it became apparent that the project would reduce the amount of free car parking available for people taking a ferry to North Stradbroke Island.
Cr Craig Ogilvie has pointed out that Walker Corporation’s Toondah plans would reduce the number of free car parks for ferry customers from 716 to 591.
Walker Corporation and some councillors have claimed that the project will deliver an increase in the number of free car parks. But what they don’t explain is that if the development proceeds as currently planned there would be lots more people wanting to park in the area: residents in the new units, hotel patrons and people visiting the “destination retail area”.
If a basic requirement like car parking has not been dealt with adequately then it’s likely that many other aspects of Walker Corporation’s ‘Master Plan’ are also poorly thought out.
Mayoral candidate says “what’s the rush?”
Greg Underwood, Mayoral Candidate in next March’s Council elections has slammed Council’s timing, saying:
“It’s financially irresponsible and premature for Council to commit the Redlands to any sort of infrastructure cost sharing of the $1.39 billion Toondah Harbour redevelopment at this stage.
“Ratepayers may well ask ‘What’s the rush?’ when the final extent of the project could well change considering environmental approvals on the enormous reclamation area and other affected areas are at least a year away,” he added.
He said that in his experience, signing early agreements before the final project is fully scoped is a recipe for disaster.
“This Council should not be agreeing to any significant future costs in the closing days of its term of office. It is bad management and just does not pass any commonsense test,” he said.
How much due diligence?
In March 2015 Redland City Council reported it had completed independent analysis of the Walker Corporation’s proposal to revitalise Toondah Harbour. At the time, Mayor Williams said “the detail of the reviews was confidential at this stage due to the commercial nature of the Walker proposal, which was yet to receive final approval”.
It is unclear to the community whether these reports, done by Aurecon and BDO Australia, were based on detailed investigations and analysis or just quick tick and flick exercises using ‘back of envelope’ numbers. We don’t even know which project scope was the subject of these reviews.
Questions of concern to the community
The proposed Toondah development has sparked wide-ranging community discussion and increasing angst . Perhaps the Council should consider these questions before making commitments that will bind a future Council and the Redlands community.
- Given increased population and traffic generated by the development, what will be done to ease traffic congestion in the local streets of Cleveland?
- Why is the infrastructure deal being finalized in advance of the the development agreement?
- Why is the infrastructure deal under wraps? When will the ratepayers see it?
- What is Council’s financial exposure in this infrastructure agreement?
- What expert advice has Council obtained in assessing the infrastructure agreements and is the Council’s March 2015 due diligence report still relevant?
- What is the benefit cost ratio for Councils investment?
- What local employment will be available for the thousands of people expected to inhabit the planned ‘Toondah Towers’ residential development?
EPBC referral decision suspended
In another development, the Federal Government has issued a notice that it is suspending the decison timeframe period for its consideration of Walker Corporation’s Toondah Harbour Project EPBC referral. The suspension is for a period of 27 business days effective from when the Government’s notice was issued, on 17 December 2015.
Councillors! Come clean with the ratepayers!
While the Federal Government seems to be taking its time to consider Walker Corporation’s Toondah plans, the Redland City Council is fast-tracking a deal behind the community’s back. A prudent Council acting in the public interest would take a cold shower and think more carefully about making long term commitments.
If Council is prepared to invest say $100 million to supply infrastructure supporting coastal real estate speculation why not examine a simpler plan that fixes the harbour and improves car parking for ferry customers. Assess the benefits and costs and share the results with the ratepayers.
Surely it is time for councillors to act in the public interest. An interest that includes due process, transparency and reassuring the community that they will not be saddled with a dud deal.
Agreements rushed through secret discussions in the dying stages of a Council’s term are not a good look.