In August 2013, the Redland City Council received a Toondah Harbour Market Assessment and Development Strategy Report from Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL). The nub of the report is that Toondah Harbour is very risky. Numerous questions regarding economic feasibility and environmental costs remain unresolved. Bottom line: it just won’t work. Why then did Council press ahead?
When I was just a little girl
The JLL report makes me think of Doris Day’s Que Sera. We all sang ‘Que sera, sera, Whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see …’
Even as a kid growing up with this song on the radio, I was not convinced that the future was out there, fully formed, waiting for me to come along.
As an adult, I know that no single person or group has tenure on the future. Individually and collectively, it is we who shape our future world. The only question is the one of intention and values: whose vision becomes realised?
The future’s not ours to see
Reading the JLL report, I was struck by three things. The first is JLL’s disclaimer acknowledging that the future is not theirs to see: ‘The process of making forward projections of such key elements involves assumptions about a considerable number of variables that are acutely sensitive to changing conditions and variations, and any one of which may significantly affect the resulting projections. This must be kept in mind whenever such projections are considered’ (my emphasis).
The second thing is how the report equally might apply to development potential at Raby Bay.
The third striking fact is that nowhere does JLL mention the economic (or intrinsic) value of any environmental assets (excepting water views).
What will be, will be
The vision of Toondah Harbour as a Gold Coast high-rise cluster – plus lots more cars and traffic – is not a community vision. It is a fevered fantasy indicating delusions of grandeur. There is no election ‘mandate’ or community consensus for this inappropriate development.
At Toondah Harbour, there is only the compelling need to revitalise existing port facilities and rationalise the parking and the barge transport-based traffic that courses through Cleveland to and from North Stradbroke Island.
Will I be pretty, will I be rich?
JLL’s report talks about “destinational attraction”. You would run a mile – or two miles to be more exact – away from Toondah Harbour to avoid its “attractions” which include: inclement prevailing winds, traffic bottlenecking, flooding, site pollution and significant environmental complications, terrestrial and marine.
The smart developer would look to Raby Bay which has a pleasant northerly aspect with attractive sandy beaches.
JLL compares Toondah Harbour with Fremantle, Hervey Bay, Mooloolaba, Cairns and Manly. But which of those places face hostile south-easterlies 300 days of the year and mudflats that defeated a colonial governor?
The JLL report states Council is keen to have a marina ‘to activate the waterfront’– but a marina ‘is complicated to deliver’ and may not produce high enough returns; and lenders are not supportive of marina developments. Further, the shallow harbour ‘would require both substantial upfront dredging and an unknown level of maintenance dredging’. Would that be the ratepayers’ responsibility?
The residential component would deliver the largest financial returns, however, the residential market is ‘slow’, ‘shallow’. Developers regard Council’s infrastructure charges as being too high. JLL advises discounted infrastructure charges ‘to incentivise increased medium density development activity’. In other words, ratepayers must lure developers with attractive discounts – and presumably also pick up the open-ended, ongoing maintenance tabs associated with building in the harsh marine environment, and the cost of additional infrastructure such as road improvements, water supply and waste management.
JLL advises that a destinational attraction needs a bar/restaurant/hotel/retail component. Unfortunately in the case of Toondah Harbour, ‘the lack of established bar and restaurant development around the project and few retail projects of a comparable nature within the broader region means that the operator will be pioneering the product in a new market with no proven demand. This represents a significant risk which will likely need to be offset and addressed by the private sector or Council in order to attract a quality operator.’ (my emphasis)
Will we have rainbows, day after day?
‘The project will need to be significantly de-risked to attract a high quality operator. This may include upfront funding to establish the building’. Whoa, hang on here. The ratepayer will also be expected to ‘de-risk’ the project to attract a hotel/bar operator? This is as good as stating that the waterfront attraction is not attractive. Who is driving this crazy vision?
Even land tenure is shaky.‘Significant parts of the [development] site are not suitable tenure to enable procurement of the developer to deliver the project. The most significant of these issues is the Reserve tenure. Native Title is being investigated to confirm if it has been extinguished or not. The issue will need to be resolved to a level of certainty before the market can be formally engaged … The outcomes of this will determine the area able to be developed and in turn will influence the procurement process for how the site is taken to market.’
So there you have it. Toondah Harbour does not look like a sure thing, and the Mayor had been advised of this before the Council planners were set to work.
Whereas, Cleveland does have an almost ideal alternative site that has not even been considered in this exercise.
What lies ahead?
Why didn’t Council get JLL to look at nearby Raby Bay and assess its far richer, less complicated development potential, and leave Toondah’s natural environment intact.
Northerly orientation at Raby Bay is ideal. There is nearly a kilometre of under-used beachfront parkland. It’s an easy walk to the railway and CBD. Potential exists for new development sites on finger wharves built over the water – like those at Walsh Bay where the likes of Russell Crowe and Lachlan Murdoch enjoy harbour living.
Raby Bay is the wealthy district of Cleveland. It’s also where JLL has identified a potential market for high-end, medium-density residential accomodation: the owners of large houses at Raby Bay who want to downsize but remain in the area.
If Cleveland must have a ‘destinational attraction’, Raby Bay is, and always was, the only logical contender.
Post by Jackie Cooper
P.S. if you want to hear Doris Day sing it again here is Que Sera Sera on You Tube.