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
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)