The Raby Bay Ratepayers Association met 5 October 2015 and Chair Zrinka Johnston introduced the speakers: Mayor Karen Williams and President of Redlands2030 Steve MacDonald. She commenced the proceedings by describing the Economic Development Act 2012 under which 23 Priority Development Areas (PDAs) have been declared to boost Qld growth.
She cited 9 important PDAs including Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek in the Redlands. All were huge billion dollar developments to plan Qld’s growth, revitalize the economy, increase population density in urban areas and introduce a roadmap for new community infrastructure and business growth. Under this Act, local planning rules such Redlands City Plan are suspended. The Minister for Economic Development receives development applications and makes decisions with advice from Councils. The Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, Jackie Trad is this nominated Minister. She told the audience that Council’s role is therefore very different: advising not deciding.
The discussion begins
Ms Johnston introduced the first public discussion of Toondah by Mayor Karen Williams and Steve MacDonald, President Redlands2030. It was neither a debate nor a meeting of minds, more a first expression of pros and cons and a re-cap of what’s happened so far – very little in public but quite a lot behind the scenes
Steve MacDonald, President, Redlands2030, spoke first and against the development.
Mr MacDonald raise there concerns:
- Flawed vision and consultation
- Flawed planning process and
- Risky financial implications.
He expanded his concerns as:
- Toondah Harbour vision does not reflect the community’s vision for Redlands eg no high rise; adjacent wetlands and seashore are RAMSAR protected and will be adversely affected; social costs and community costs are too high: eg traffic congestion. He was concerned about the impacts of Toondah on the Cleveland CBD, the neighbourhood and “Straddie”. He mentioned how the Council’s consultation process was cut short by the Minister for Economic Development and considered the time and timing inadequate for meaningful comment. He outlined the commentary by the Master Design team and how the pro bono work of professional planners were not considered.
- Toondah plans so far are not evidence-based, they are poor planning; eg first development scheme plan was unreadable for most people; there is no respect for existing planning codes and building types, heritage areas, ecology, economic hierarchy, or the storm surge and flood-proneness of Toondah foreshore.
- Financial implications are risky eg what burden will fall on ratepayers.
State is pushing costs of harbour upgrade on to Council (aka ratepayers); the PDA process gives unearned betterment to private individuals; Toondah will mean competition the Cleveland CBD; reduce Straddie’s attractiveness. He questioned how the consulted proposal was for $100million development while it is now a reported $1.4 billion development, a 1400% increase. He questioned why a business plan and benefit cost analysis had not been investigated and advised to the community.
He explained his concern that the $1.4 Billion project was now going to house 10,000 people and that this had not to date been disclosed.
He concluded that Toondah’s risks and costs to the community are too high.
Mayor Karen Williams then presented her views of the huge benefits the $1.3b Toondah Harbour promises to Cleveland and region outlining recent progress behind the scenes.
She called it a game-changer putting Redlands “on the map” as a gateway to Stradbroke Island and a destination in its own right. The project comes at a time when it’s desperately needed especially with Stradbroke Island sandmining ending.
Toondah has been “eyed” for development for 50 years but is a difficult site which is finally being subjected to a rigorous planning process. She said “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”
She acknowledged the Toondah project had grown in scale and the the Redlands2030 estimate of 4 000 units and 10,000 people was about the scale now envisaged. This would be part of the 50,000 allocated to Redlands for growth to 2041. (Compare that to Logan which has been allocated 300,000 population growth and an expected 2 million extra people in Qld’s South-east). 26,000 new homes are needed in Redlands
Toondah will deliver a world-class ferry terminal, huge coastal promenade, a dining and retail precinct, protection for GJ Walter Park and a fourfold increase in public open space within the PDA
It will provide a massive jobs and economic boost viz 1000 construction jobs and an estimated 500 jobs a year after completion
She estimated there will be $100m in new community infrastructure the Walker Corp will contribute, the $75m in full infrastructure charges it will pay and the new rating income Council will receive for the life of the project.
While the Mayor couldn’t divulge exact figures Council will make from the project (because they are commercial-in-confidence) Council will receive handsome returns for residents for the $7.5m of land it has put in
Possible future additions include a Convention Centre and a Visitor Information Centre as well as other cultural and tourism assets compatible with a large retail and dining centre.
The Mayor criticized the alternative proposals drafted by the early 2014 Master Urban Design Workshop cited by Steve MacDonald as preferred alternatives to Toondah: The Working Harbour and A Bolder Option.
She said the Working Harbour would not have attracted a credible developer because it had insufficient space for mixed residential and commercial uses and the price set for this development, $10m plus, would never have delivered the $100m needed to upgrade the ferry facilities let alone the promise of 1000 jobs. The proposal would have delivered 30 jobs at most.
Mayor Williams also criticized “A Bolder Option” alternative which was fraught with difficulties eg it proposed development in the areas richest in history and covering several historically listed buildings and most importantly, it channelled all the traffic down non collector Raby Bay canal estate roads like Masthead Drive.
Members had some important questions for both speakers
Because Steve MacDonald had heavily criticized the consultation process for Toondah, one Masthead Drive resident asked Steve MacDonald whether he and his Workshop Group had consulted with the Masthead Drive residents when this project was proposed! Mr MacDonald acknowledged the participants in the Design Workshop had not consulted with the residents of Masthead Drive but emphasised the approach was about planning and a fundamental approach of “planning from the whole to the part” . He was concerned about proper planning and starting with a site (the PDA) and planning outwards (for a project of this scale).
Each of the presenters, Steve MacDonald and Mayor Williams, said the majority of residents supported their view on whether Toondah should go ahead or not. Mr MacDonald relied on the formal submissions while the Mayor referred to people expressing support for something to happen at Toondah when she attends functions across the city.
The Mayor outlined the two phase consultation process Council ran in 2013 and 2014, one reaching 2000 people, the other 3000. She claimed an independent survey showed overwhelming support for upgrading Toondah Harbour and private funding for the project.
She mentioned the four changes made after the community consultations: building height reduced to ten storeys, making no net loss of public open space a condition of development, greater protection for GJ Walter Park and a reduction in marina berths from 800 to 400.
Walker Group’s proposal so far has been independently assessed by third parties- BDO (for financing) and Aurecon (for engineering).
The agreement with Walker Group will be finalized by end of 2015 and the concept masterplan will be out for consultation again by the end of 2015 when the environmental impact statement is released.
An Association member experienced in hydrographic analyses of harbours, dredging and explosives asked if a siltation study had been done on Toondah Harbour. This is apparently the first requirement to test if the harbour approaches are mud, gravel or rock and are able to made deeper (with or without explosives!).
Another Member questioned the impacts of the previously unknown 10,000 extra people would have on the traffic and congestion in Cleveland. Another member raised a concern about financial risks from possible flooding of the site.
Zrinka Johnston concluded by saying that although Peter Saba from the Walker Group had not been able to come to this RBRA meeting, he had offered to come early in 2016 when their application was completed. She said RBRA would hold another meeting on Toondah then.
Zrinka Johnston – 7 October 2015
Further reading and viewing
Redlands2030 published a brief account of the discussion on 9 October:
A videorecording of the presentations by both Mayor Williams and Steve MacDonald is available for viewing on Toondah Harbour Talks.