Russell Island Bridge past and present

Aerial view of southern Moreton Bay islands (click to enlarge)

Aerial view of southern Moreton Bay islands

The recent post by Redlands2030 titled Bridge project needs investigation prompted two residents of the southern Moreton Bay islands to submit this article. It summarizes the history of plans for a bridge to Russell Island and then discusses current issues of concern.

The 1970s – first mention of a bridge

The idea of building a bridge to Russell Island has been discussed on and off for more than 40 years

By Council Order of 12 May 1973, the southern Moreton Bay islands (SMBI) became part of the then Redland Shire. This Order is based on a Feasibility Study by John Wilson and Partners, Submission No. 16100 referred to in confidential Cabinet Meeting Minutes of 9 January 1973. The submission was examined by the Cabinet of Joh Bjelke-Petersen Government.

According to those minutes, it is stated under Future Development that a “road link to the mainland part of the Shire could also be extended to provide road access to Stradbroke Island, giving the people of the Brisbane region better access to the recreation areas of Stradbroke Island.”

By decision No. 18070, Cabinet decided to approve the recommendations contained in paragraphs 4 and 5 of the submission.

Plans for a bridge to Stradbroke Island via Russell Island

April 1985 letter mentions bridge via Russell Island

April 1985 letter mentions bridge via Russell Island

In May 1982 Cabinet considered an unsolicited private sector proposal to develop a bridge to Russell and North Stradbroke islands in return for prime beachfront land on North Stradbroke Island. At this time the bridge proponent estimated the cost of the bridge project to be $45 million. The relevant Cabinet minute shows that this proposal was not accepted. Cabinet decided instead to invite proposals for such a bridge and prepare related plans for development of the islands.

In January 1985 State Cabinet announced a proposed Stradbroke Island bridge would go via Russell Island.  Redland Shire Chairman Merv Genrich said the route was the best option if the bridge had to go ahead.

Five tenders were received by the State Government for the bridge. In June 1985, Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen said the bridge would go ahead provided the successful tenderer could ensure there was no financial risk for the State Government. Eight months later, in February 1986, he announced that the bridge would not proceed for the foreseeable future because it was not commercially viable.

Drainage before a bridge

The State Government announced it planned to pass a development Act for Russell Island to ensure orderly development. Deputy Premier Bill Gunn said the Act was a firm indication the bridge would be built.

In 1989, Premier Mike Ahern said the bridge was not the only issue, something would also have to be done about the small blocks and drainage problem land.

Further bridge discussion

In 1991, Queensland Transport Minister David Hamill rejected proposals of a bridge by the Russell Island Development Association to establish a bridge, causeway or vehicular ferry to the island.

In 1992, Redland Shire Council opposed new redevelopment proposals for Russell Island which included a low level bridge to the mainland.

During 2000, the Russell Island Development Association said Redland Shire ratepayers should each pay a $100 per year levy to fund a bridge to Russell and North Stradbroke islands.

Issues related to island transport were examined in an Integrated Local Transport Plan published in 2002. This plan stated: A water based transport system will continue to service the islands. There is no State or Local Government support for a bridge between the mainland and Russell Island.

In 2011 Redland City Council published a review of the 2002 plan, undertaken by consultants Aurecon. The Southern Moreton Bay Islands, Integrated Local Transport Plan Review, 2011. This report noted that the population of the southern Moreton Bay Islands was currently 5,500 but was “projected to increase to an ultimate population of 22,000” (page 10). The report did not address any strategies for dealing with this level of population growth other than to note the need for collaboration with other levels of government and the private sector (page 8).

In 2014 the idea of a bridge to Russell Island attracted support from the local State and Federal members. Council wrote to the State Government asking for a bridge to be included in the State Infrastructure Plan.

The current situation

According to Council’s Southern Moreton Bay Islands Integrated Local Transport Plan Review of 2011, the combined islands’ population was approximately 5,500 permanent residents. But there are many undeveloped blocks of land on the islands.

There are 11,141 registered ratepayers on the southern Moreton Bay islands. The details for the individual islands are:

  • Russell 6,759
  • Macleay 3,495
  • Lamb 680
  • Karragarra 243

The current service struggles to meet the needs of people traveling to and between the southern Moreton Bay islands. There are frequent reports of ferries being overcrowded or so full that some people are unable to embark and get left behind.

How is the current water-based transport supposed to cope with a steady increase up to 22,000 island residents?


This post was contributed by

Ursula Helmy (Russell Island) and Ursula Ebber (Lamb Island)

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5 thoughts on “Russell Island Bridge past and present

  1. The extremely important Bridge will save Marine life and provide easy normal access for services.
    ie Police /fire brigade/Ambulance in an emergency .Sewerage pipes could be fitted under Bridge as normal in such a situation .The REDLAND CITY SUBURB of Russell Island could then catch up with all the other suburbs with normal access and not feel so extremely ISOLATED.

  2. Well said Ant Rid. SMBI has been a cash cow for decades. Maybe it is time to break away from the Redlands Council. We could have volunteer councilors, like Brisbane City used to be, and the rates spent in and on the Islands.

  3. The council is now debt free due to the cruel and criminally high rates extorted from the vacant land owners on the SMBI…some of which the previous council sort to bankrupt and force from their retirement dreams by charging the highest rates in Australia per land value …including all sorts of injustices of declaring homes to be built even though no one would live in them and then to be rented out on a collapsed market to some very undesirable renters at greatly reduced rents just to meet forced mortgages. ….The amount of damage done by the vindictive measures taken out on a community to arrest development and maximize rates and so called levy has truly seen some harrowing stories ,inflicted by a bloated hugely growing behemoth of a council wage bill and from over serviced RCC divisions taking a disproportionate lean on rates revenue ……For those haves sitting in their SMBI infrastructure paid for low rates suburbs ,please have the decency to hold your vitriol and put down about ÿou chose to live there “and consider this ….your infrastructure ,amenities and services were paid for by the SMBI ratepayers , your community debts and low rates have been paid for by the Vacant owners of the SMBI and you are now debt free from 2yrs ago’s $77 million debt by the deliberately witholding not only our access, infrastructure and services but by continually denying our rights as Redlanders to fair and just rates distribution …..Russell island needs a bridge ,the other islands need cable barge connections to that bridge and we need support from the rest of the RCC to see that happen ….

    • Sadly Sam and other SMBI residents or land owners.
      Land speculation is land speculation and has “business ” risks , no matter what guise it takes.
      Sometimes you win and sometime you don’t.
      Back in the 70’s I was treated to the ‘islands’ pitch and even offered an all expense return flight from Melbourne “to choose my block” on the islands.
      Wisely it seems, I was suspicious, cynical …. and didn’t buy in…… when something seems too good to be true it usually is. In other words buy what exists not promises least of all from entrepreneurial developers.
      It isn’t the responsibility of governments at any level to ensure profits on promises made by private entrepreneurs. There is no doubt the history of the island’s development is mired in changing times, broken promises etc. that is the past and throwing good effort into a losing argument is simply flogging a dead horse.
      The hard reality is regardless of lamentable history SMBI population is a 10/12% and shrinking minority in in the Redlands and as such the chances of a bridge is remote.
      The SMBI has one councillor whose duties are to look after the whole of Div 5. He is one of 11 elected officials each with their own constituency (read first priority). then comes their responsibility to all the residents of the Redlands. Ask yourself why should a struggling family in say Capalaba or Redland Bay etc be lumbered with the debt (increase in rates?) for a bridge that doesn’t advantage them?
      Likewise despite the emotive hype of the soon to be ex-member for the Redlands he too has to consider the benefit of all of the resident in the electorate first. Also he is one of how many members in the state government all with their own agendas and constituencies? Ergo the hyped up emotive rhetoric by the state member is in total exactly that ( hot air to gain your votes) and has no real LNP/ state government support. He has to toe the party line gain more seats to maintain government.
      Common sense should tell you that under this LNP government that is hell bent on cutting, why would they spend disproportionate money for no substantial gain to the state in a seat that’s not going to define the government? In short they’re not.
      Most public flurries/ expeditions in to other levels of government’s authority are simply profile raising and like wooden eggs will never hatch anything.
      I think it’s time for SMBI residents to choose a strategy or cause that might work rather than banging the same ruptured drum pointlessly.

      • Why should struggling families in Capalaba, or Redland Bay etc be lumbered with the debt (increase in rates) you ask. The reason why is because the SMBI is part of Redlands City Council. The rates are on the islands are higher, yep higher, than paid by the rest of Redlands. For the privilege of supporting the rest of Redlands we get no sewer, no paved roads and very little else that SMBI rates have contributed to for the rest of Redlands. If you don’t like it, leave is like when your taken for granted sewer needs upgrading, would you like it if the council said to you ‘you chose to live there, we are not upgrading, if you don’t like it leave;. That kind of argument is a stupid argument. Fine, don’t build a bridge, just give us sewerage, paved roads and the infrastructure the rest of Redlands enjoy. The problem is, that will not happen without a bridge. If all your rates money went to the SMBI and none for the rest of the council areas, apart from a couple of park upgrades, you would not be impressed. We on the SMBI are not impressed.

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