Council’s extraordinary Shoreline decision needs a better explanation

Approval of Shoreline's proposed 4,000 home development was based in part on the land's "Investigation" status in the current town plan

Shoreline’s “Investigation” status greatly boosted its chances of getting Council approval for a 4,000 home development

We need to talk about Shoreline. Again. Redlands2030 has been trying, with limited success, to get an explanation from the Council administration for an extraordinary decision taken three years ago.

We will keep seeking an answer, because the stakes are so high for the future of our city.

We need to know what happened inside the Redland City Council over a crucial fortnight in 2013. Because the way it looks from the outside, democracy went out the window when persons unknown willfully circumvented a vote by Redlands’ elected representatives.

That the vote would have, and should have, decisively impacted the city’s biggest residential proposal only makes it worse.

The full background is available in a Redlands2030 submission tabled in the Queensland Parliament in March this year. We encourage you to follow the link and read it. But the key issues are straightforward.

Council makes a decision

Redland City’s elected council, at a meeting on 27 February 2013, confirmed the removal of a planning zone in the Southern Redlands – an Investigation Area, established in 2006 to facilitate the eventual development approval of a housing estate for 10,000 people – which we now know as Shoreline.

Proposed Shoreline Development area

Proposed Shoreline Development area

It’s been Shoreline’s long-term ambition to cover 300 hectares of Southern Redland farmland with thousands of houses, and create a waterfront suburb they can on-sell for multi-millions.

When the councillors voted, in 2013, to remove the Investigation Area, it was a considerable setback for the Shoreline developers because it represented Council’s clear directive that there was to be no sprawling estate, no 4,000 houses, built on Shoreline’s rural land.

End of story? End of Shoreline? No way. That decision, by Redland City’s elected representatives was given to the administration’s planning staff to be implemented. Their task was to amend the city’s planning scheme and maps to reflect the clear intention of the councillors. It never happened. The whole thing was derailed – hijacked. It took just two weeks.

The decision is circumvented

The fortnight in question began on March 26th 2013 when a public notice was placed by Council, in the Bayside Bulletin, to announce that the Southern Redland Bay Investigation Area had been removed from the Redlands Planning Scheme. This gave effect to the councillors’ 27 February directive. The newspaper notice was reasonable grounds for concluding that Shoreline was now highly unlikely to get development approval.

Reasonable, but wrong. Evidence of drama behind the scenes came a fortnight later when the Bayside Bulletin carried a curt public correction from Council to say the Investigation Area was back in business, as large as life, miraculously restored to the Redlands Planning Scheme. It had all been a Big Mistake!

Who proposed the idea of ‘correcting’ the 26 March advertisement, and who approved a course of action so inconsistent with a recently passed council resolution?

Without any reference to the councillors, who’d repeatedly voted it into oblivion, the Investigation Area was back on the map. So was Shoreline! For a full six months, councillors were given no explanation by Mayor Williams, the CEO or anyone else as to why their legitimate decision had been over-ruled. They could only speculate. We can speculate too.

The Shoreline developers must have been blind-sided by the appearance of the 26 March notice. Why? They surely knew the removal of the Investigation Area was in train. A likely answer is that they’d been assured it would not be finalised before Shoreline’s development application was safely lodged, and put to the vote. That was still a couple of years away.

Who, inside Council, had enough contempt for due process, and enough authority, to give such assurance? And how could an open Council decision, amending the Redland Planning Scheme, be hijacked and stalled?

In fact the only senior council figures who were kept out of the loop were the elected representatives of the ratepayers of Redland City. And even as they waited for some explanation, yet another operation was underway that evidenced the same culture of concealment, the same disregard for honest and open administration.

Development Industry Reference Group

Without the knowledge of most councillors, monthly meetings were being hosted at Council’s Bloomfield Street HQ, between senior Council planners and selected development industry representatives. Meetings of the Development Industry Reference Group were not to be publicly announced, their terms of reference and the names of those taking part were also not for publication. The minutes of the meetings were likewise off limits, even to elected councillors.

How could any savvy administrator, or half-wise politician, condone anything that so endangered public trust? What are we meant to think when planners who are charged with implementing a council directive, like removing the Investigation Area, are spending hours in a ‘locked room’ with the very developers who have so much to lose if and when that happens?

The Mayor knew. The CEO knew. What were they thinking?

Protests from councillors and the public finally broke the meeting-room door down. The minutes revealed an administration bending over backwards to accommodate its ‘customers’ – no, not the ratepayers, the developers.

While the Shoreline consortium and their industry colleagues were meeting covertly with the council’s planning staff, the administration laboured to produce an explanation for halting the removal of the Investigation Area, in defiance of the elected council. It took them six months. It was hardly worth the wait.

Officers finally report back to Council

On October 9th 2013 the Community & Customer Services department advised councillors in a report to the Coordination Committee  (refer item 8.1.6) that their decision to remove the Investigation Area had been put aside, not so much on the back burner, as off the stove completely. Why? Because “there is no timing obligation placed on Council to make such changes.” This is as bizarre as it sounds. It’s like a batsman being clean bowled, but deciding to stay at the crease as the rules of cricket do not attach a ‘timing obligation’ to his departure.

Another straw they clutched at to thwart the Council’s will, was delaying any decision until the next review of the SEQ Regional Plan. For the record, three years on, initial consultation for this review has barely begun. It’s earliest release will be mid-2017.

The effect of indefinitely delaying the implementation of the Council’s decision, binding on the administration, to remove the Investigation Area greatly advantaged only one stakeholder – the Shoreline consortium, that now saw a clear path to approval of their development application in the Southern Redlands. And so it came to pass, when it was granted on November 18th 2015, in the dying days of Mayor Williams’ first term.

The CEO’s explanation

Council CEO Bill Lyon to supervise next Council election

Council CEO Bill Lyon

To this day, the Investigation Area remains over the Shoreline build site. We asked the Redlands City CEO, Bill Lyon, to tell us what happened over that crucial fortnight that stopped a clear council decision from being implemented… indefinitely. He offered the following explanation…

… officers at the time concluded that the minor amendment was unworkable and would lead to potential implementation issues for development assessment officers. This was because the investigation zone mapping was not proposed to be amended as part of the minor amendment package at the time. It was anticipated that this would occur as part of a future amendment package.

This would have lead to a situation where land was mapped in the investigation zone with no supporting code or strategic provisions. In these circumstances, officers deferred implementation of that matter as the only sensible course of action. At the advice of Council officers this matter was subsequently reconsidered to clear up the inconsistency. Following a recommendation by Council officers Councillors resolved on 9 October 2013 that the investigation zone provisions would remain in the scheme pending the planning scheme and regional plan reviews that were being undertaken. I note that even if the minor amendment had taken effect, this would have had no bearing upon the ability of the applicant for the Shoreline application to lodge the application to be assessed on its merits.

A better explanation is required

Shoreline - going to fast?

A 4,000 home suburb linked to the city’s distant infrastructure by a two lane road

We’re being asked to believe that Council’s professional planners, after three years working on this rezoning, produced an outcome that was suddenly found to be ‘unworkable’ without any ‘supporting code or strategic provisions’. This rendered the planners so helpless they were now unable to remove from the map something they’d so easily added to it, back in 2006.

That ‘councillors resolved’ to accept this reversal of their previous directive, hardly describes the protests put up by the councillors who voted in the October meeting against Mayor Williams’ pro-development bloc in the chamber.

And CEO Lyon’s assertion that the Shoreline development application was just as likely to succeed if the Investigation status had been stripped from the build site, is refuted by all the expert opinion Redlands2030 has consulted.

We call upon the current councillors to demand an explanation from the Council administration that sets out in clear, non-specialist terms, why the Investigation Area was unable to be removed from the Redlands Planning Scheme.

The city deserves to know, too, where the buck stops. Who were the links in the chain of command whereby a council decision was side-lined without immediate reference to the elected representatives who made it?

We also ask that a motion be tabled in Council to once again direct the administration to amend the Planning Scheme and the maps to give effect to the wisdom of the original decision by Council – that there is no good reason to create a suburb of 4,000 homes and 10,000 residents – on farmland linked to the city’s distant infrastructure by a two lane road.

Further Reading

Grumblings on social media about Shoreline

Redlands2030 – 27 May 2016

 

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

14 thoughts on “Council’s extraordinary Shoreline decision needs a better explanation

    • Tom I have found the best way to get it investigated is call the CMC and ask for an appointment, take all your evidence and they will take it from there. You will be interviewed by an investigator but you have lodged it and it will go from there

  1. I don’t understand who voted mayor Williams back in!!!! It has been blatantly obvious for a long time that we had a corrupt & morally bankrupt council & yet she got back in!!! It blows my mind. So, well done to all who voted for her! You’ve got no one but yourselves to blame for the current & looming messes we now have!………….and yes, we should refer it to the CMC!

  2. M Hardy is right! The Deputy Premier should surely be investigating this matter.

    The community needs to be able to trust local and state government decisions.

  3. That the Redland Council administration disregarded and acted against a decision and instruction made by elected councilors is an absolute disgrace and cannot be allowed to continue.
    Redland Council must be forced to act in accordance with decisions made by councilors at official council meetings and not act in contemp of the ratepayers and elected councilors.

  4. Why hasn’t this matter been referred to the CMC for investigation and possible fraudulent behaviour by the Council’s administration staff and/or the Mayor? Actions like the one reported are ones that slowly unravel democracy.

    Hannah Arendt expressed the opinion that a good, well-ordered society needs to be able to receive promises, make promises and keep promises. A decision of Council, that is, the elected representatives, is, in effect, a promise to the key stake holders, namely the citizens, that must be kept or formally overturned by those same elected representatives. Otherwise, we are on the road to a bad society.

  5. Shoreline and now we hear that development is approved on Taylor Road and Woodlands Drive Thornlands. This also is land not approved for development, one would wonder how these Councillors who gave Shoreline the nod and some staff including the CEO sleep at night. 4 Corners last week highlighted the situation in all levels of Government but in Local Government it is easy, it is the grassroots of approvals, mates and deals, we should be very thankful we have Redlands 2030 to bring these important issues to the notice of all.

  6. Once again,,,secret meetings held in contempt of the ratepayers……Secret meetings appear to be commonplace in Redland city council…….WHY….WHY ALL THE SECRETS?……….who is advantaged by the secret meetings on this development?……..something stinks!!!

  7. This is alarming stuff. Justice delayed is justice denied. The issue should have been on the next agenda of the Council – why the delay? Are the Councillors running the show or is someone else? The delay left the community in the dark …was that the intent?

    At best, this suggests poor public administration. It could be worse. Councillors should be asking for a public explanation from the CEO.

  8. Does this not make the acceptance of a Development Application for that area illegal?
    Jackie Trad needs to look at the legal implications.

  9. Current Councillors must understand and ask why the Investigation Area was unable to be removed from the Redlands Planning Scheme. Even though it was correctly advertised as being removed, for just a couple of weeks before the big back flip, a strange thing indeed. (No one mention Shoreline please).
    Councillors need to be on the watch that the tactics outlined in your report are not tried again. It surely is the role of administration to effect the directives of Council and of course the Mayor should see that this is done.
    Where does this “no timing obligation to do anything” sit now that the discussions are taking place for the revised SE Qld Plan?

    • With reference to the explanation that the resolution was “delayed” and there was “no time limit on when it had to be done”……
      …….is this a bit like council having no heritage policy for the new City Plan, rather being left until after?
      One could be forgiven for thinking that a lack of heritage policy enables certain things to go through without that bother. Has anyone else found heritage discussion in the Toondah proposal?

  10. Development Industry Reference Group. There’s your answer. Mayor Williams openly stated that were she to be voted in as Redlands Mayor, they, developer/s in the reference group, could have Shoreline. Mayor kept her promise as we all would.
    How foolish of any government body to approve 10,000 more residents here, and another 10,000 in Thornlands when infrastructure road/rail can’t support this massive growth considering that today traffic is bumper to bumper from where I live off Finucane Rd Capalaba along Old Cleveland Rd to Brisbane and no progress on rail since 1987 extention Thorneside to Cleveland. Yet…there is to be a sizeable development above rail station. Again, we are hearing about looming traffic chaos in Cleveland CBD. Dedicated busway Coorparoo–Capalaba is not expected before 2028. Redland/State govt pollies have been putting the cart before the horse for too long already. No time like the present to initiate round table conferences…this time without Development Reference Group members holding the floor.

  11. This appears to be a gross abuse of due process. How can we trust that any of the decisions made in good faith by the elected Councillors won’t be negated by parties that meet behind closed doors? Shame!

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