The redevelopment of Toondah Harbour has long been a burr in the saddle for successive councils of the Redlands. Investment is needed to improve the Harbour’s functionality and appearance. But what facilities are needed and how should the redevelopment take place?
Redlands2030 wants Toondah Harbour developed
Redlands2030 has always maintained that the redevelopment of Toondah Harbour is a must do! But we believe that the necessary development should be planned properly.
To date the concerns of community, as echoed through the Redlands2030 website and related social media, are about decision-making, consultation processes and the sheer scale of the “solution” being touted. The previous State Government (or at least its Minister for Economic Development) used hubris and arrogance to drive outcomes he wanted. That approach was rejected by the people of Queensland at the last State election. The Seeney approach was recanted by both the new Government and seemingly the now Opposition (as the former Minister was relegated to the Opposition back bench).
Redlands2030 believes that something must happen to “fix” Toondah. Redlands2030 met with Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and pushed the idea in April this year.
The concern is that the sheer scale of development envisaged under the Seeney plan will cause adverse and unnecessary social, environmental and economic impacts: some clearly acknowledged in the existing technical reports.
For example, environmental assessments under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 could take years to resolve including 3 rounds of public consultation as reported by the Redland City Bulletin in March 2015.
So it seems time for a Plan B …an option that has some prospect of coming to fruition. This should be kicked off soon, not in 3 years time (or even later).
In December 2014 Mayor Karen Williams said “we want to ensure that better access and improvements at both Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek PDAs … and that they remain first and foremost, effective gateways to North Stradbroke and the Southern Moreton Bay islands (our bolding).
She went on to say
“Council in drawing up its own development assessment criteria for a project that will provide infrastructure, including ferry ramps and passenger facilities, transport interchange and parking, improvements to the park and pedestrian links to the bay, worth more than $80 million” (our bolding).
At that time the Mayor promised “the preliminary plan for Toondah Harbour, which would be released early next year”. The details are still secret!
Has the Toondah development changed?
When the Mayor discussed her difficulties with her plans for Redlands with Des Houghton (Courier Mail 9 May 2015) they labelled the Toondah project “an imaginative $1.4 billion marina, apartment and retail precinct” (our bolding).
The story never mentioned the Harbour’s re-development or improving the gateway to North Stradbroke.
Obviously the commercial risks of a $1.4 Billion development precinct will dictate that apartment and retail aspects are now the critical aspects of the project. Any retail businesses on the scale now being discussed will not want to be part of a gateway…to anywhere. Rather, they will want to capture trade and act as a plug for people who might otherwise travel to Straddie!
It seems the harbour redevelopment is now a minor component of the overall development.
At the same time we have been informed that work on the Weinam Creek PDA has been deferred. This collapse of one of the tender pre-requisites puts the Council at a political disadvantage…. given initial announcements about when work would start. Political leverage afforded the developer could see further concessions by Council which might include provision of infrastructure, building heights, commercial activity and parking standards.
What cost would fix the real Toondah Problem?
A good start for a Plan B approach is for Council to release of actual costs of the work needed to fix the harbour. If the community stakeholders understood the scale of the problem they would be better placed to help devise a solution. A cost estimate of $80 million was mentioned by Council. This was never substantiated and seems too high as previous estimates ranged from $10 million to $50 million.
Council’s “due diligence” assessment?
Earlier this year it was reported Council had completed “due diligence” assessments of the Toondah project. In fact, Cr Gleeson touted,
The first review was conducted by consultant Aurecon and looked at the engineering elements of the proposal to see that it was achievable, while a second review looked at the proposal’s finances and was conducted by BDO Australia,”
Redlands2030 suspects that these reviews may not have been done to the standard that would meet normal investment requirements. The Council has been requested to disclose the amount spent on the reviews (a basic indication of effort) but so far it has failed to respond. In the absence of any disclosure, the community could reasonably assume that the so called due diligence assessment may be back of the envelope, tick and flick exercises.
Council’s understanding of projects of this scale is completely untested. To date Council has not mentioned how it or the community might assess the benefit cost ratio or opportunity costs involved.
Council looks worryingly “outgunned” when it comes to negotiation of a complex high-value development agreement. Reliance on the old chestnut of “commercial-in-confidence” to keep ratepayers in the dark gives little confidence that ratepayers’ interests are guaranteed. It is not known if the State Government is double checking everything to look after the interests of Redland City residents and ratepayers.
With a project of $1.4 Billion, it is reasonable to assume that allowance for profit (and risk) would likely exceed 30%. This would equate to a profit around $400 million. Given the concessions and support offered by Council it is concerning that even the Mayor’s $80 million costing for harbour improvements is an almost insignificant part of the “imaginative” $1.4 Billion project. The “deal” just looks one-sided.
What is Toondah…Plan B!
In March 2014 the community (including the founders of Redlands2030) held a workshop led by Shane Thompson which brought together renown planners, engineers and architects. The final report “Toondah Harbour Priority Development Area Masterplan Urban Design Workshop” was presented to the community and later made available to Council, councilors and local members of parliament.
The report assessed site opportunities and constraints and critiques the available PDA planning scheme.
The report found that:
The overall critique of the current PDA scheme is that is overdeveloped. No one can see how it can work, how it can be financed, how it can be constructed, or what the benefits are for the community.
The Toondah Harbour PDA is very risky, and represents an unacceptable long-term risk for ratepayers.
A massive project of this scale would freeze out local developers and construction companies and drain their opportunities in the Cleveland area for many years, decades.
The consortium added:
The Mayor says she wants Toondah Harbour to ‘provide a massive economic stimulus, generate jobs and put our city on the map’ [in a letter to a constituent, 27.2.2014]. Loading a single, cramped trophy site with competing – and even incompatible – activities will not achieve these desired outcomes.
Unfortunately, the pro-bono consortium was denied access to the technical reports held by Council. These reports were only released after the community consultation process closed. The delayed release was never explained.
It is surely time for a Toondah project plan that mitigates risks to ratepayers and minimises adverse social, environmental and economic impacts. There is need for planning that is focused on the harbour redevelopment, the gateway to North Stradbroke and ensures a new hub that complements (rather than destroys) the existing Cleveland CBD.
The development options published by the pro-bono consultants in March are still available to Council and the Government. Redlands2030 urges both to reconsider the “high risk” approach and look to a Toondah Harbour Plan B that requires a lower level of investment, uses local expertise, has a lower risk and minimises adverse impacts.
Work on a Plan B could still start this year providing the operational lands owned by Council or the State are at the core of the development. The public land set aside in trust (including the bed of Moreton Bay) should not be handed over to the private sector.
Redlands2030 will continue to explore feasible options for the re development of Toondah Harbour that doesn’t put “all the eggs in one basket”. Options to advance the redevelopment include investigations of “where is the money coming from”, further analysis of the Toondah site and more refined planning that looks at impacts on Cleveland CBD, North Stradbroke Island, Moreton Bay and the local precinct and for which a BCR is made known to the community and ratepayers before the deal is …”signed off”.
It is not too late to get Toondah right…ideas for an appropriate scale of development are set out below.
Toondah Harbour development options supported by Redlands2030 are:
The Macro or Shuttle Scheme which:
- Retains the feel of a littoral zone: it is the antithesis of the proposed PDA plan. Toondah Harbour is in a small-scale, low-lying littoral zone. The complementary lower-rise built form of this area gradually builds higher towards the urban centre.
- Attract a variety of developers, a diversity of options for developments.
- Transfer development rights from the centre of town to fund the harbour upgrade.
- This scheme follows proven urban regeneration principles. Work with what you’ve got and make smaller, judicious interventions.
The Working Harbour which:
This is a $10 million+ model.
- Create just enough development potential to make the harbour work.
- The notion of another town centre within walking distance of central Cleveland is unsustainable.
- Forget retail: it would kill the centre.
- Build apartments and three-storey townhouses along the back edge of the park (without removing trees) to generate cash to fix the harbour.
- The harbour is dysfunctional. Vehicle and barge movement is clumsy.
- It is a working harbour, noisy, smelly, busy. Not a place to put residential.
The Low Impact or Shuttle Scheme which:
- Remove parking from the harbour to several nearby locations, including a former CSIRO site. This frees up development opportunities close to the port and reduces traffic and parking congestion.
- A small working port, including yachts and tourism operators.
- Possibility of a future small marina, with the proviso that this orientation is not ideal in cyclonic weather; also, the toxic, silt-laden harbour requires that turbulence, dredging be minimised.
- Reinstate Cleveland’s pier?
- Development in bite-sized pieces can be more market-responsive.
Redlands2030 – 16 June 2015