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Plans for the Woolloongabba Priority Development Area

The Woolloongabba Priority Development Area (PDA) is a huge 106 hectare area across Woolloongabba, East Brisbane and Kangaroo Point. The area centres around the Gabba Stadium, and the new Cross River Rail station. In this area, the PDA now overrides local planning rules, and the state government will be the key decision-maker for any developments in the area. 

How can I make a submission?

The PDA is now open for public submissions until 5 July 2024. After this, only a few elements of the plan will require any further consultation. To make a submission:

What is planned for the Woolloongabba PDA?

The plan sets out new planning rules for the area. The area includes the Gabba Stadium, new Cross River Rail station, East Brisbane State School and the Mater Hospital. The Cross River Rail Station block is around 5 hectares, and is publicly owned. The plans involve:

  • Significant upzoning across the neighbourhood, with building heights up to 75 storeys.
  • Upgrades to the Gabba Stadium, which the government have said might threaten East Brisbane State School.
  • Some additional "open space" - in the new plan, the government have included targets for "open space", which can include roads, walkways and public buildings. There is a 'Central Park' area in the plans, but if you look at the details, this Central Park is defined as "open space". I think what we need is a guarantee that we'll get additional parkland. 
  • No binding requirements for public and affordable housing. There is a target for 20% social OR affordable housing. But the government's definition of "affordable" is absurd - $750 a week in rent or $800,000 to buy today.
  • Public land will be developed - the publicly-owned land around the Cross River Rail station will have a combination of buildings up to 75 storeys, and open space. The government have not guaranteed that this public land won't be privatised. 

There is very limited community consultation. The community are able to make submissions until 5 July 2024 (). There will also be some in-person sessions that you can attend. The government have said that a final plan will be finalised in September 2024.

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Click here to see larger version of map.

The state government released the Proposed Development Scheme for the Woolloongabba PDA in May 2024. This Development Scheme sets out what the government would like to see in different sections of the neighbourhood, like a overarching master plan. You can see the map above, where we've marked some of the key elements of this plan. 

Overall, the Woolloongabba PDA aims to:

  • Significantly upzone sections of Woolloongabba and East Brisbane, with height limits of up to 75 storeys in some areas. 
  • An additional 14,000 dwellings, to house an additional 24,000 people. For context, Woolloongabba is currently home to around 8,600 people, and Kangaroo Point is home to 11,400 people. 
  • Plans to upgrade the Gabba Stadium, to host events for the 2032 Olympics.
  • Some additional parkland.
  • Plans for improved active transport.
  • Targets for social and affordable housing, but no binding requirements, and the government definition of 'affordable' is still very expensive.

This new plan incorporates some things that the community have been calling for: 

  • Open space/parkland: 50% of the Woolloongabba Cross River Rail site is planned to become ‘Central Park’, which is fantastic. Our neighbourhood sorely needs more greenspace, particularly if more people in apartments will be moving to the area. However, plan doesn’t specify how much of this ‘Central Park’ will actually be green space – rather this area is referred to as “open space” - open space can include plazas, walkways and public buildings. 
  • Community library: There’s plans for a community hub/library in the Central Park area on the Woolloongabba CRR site – something our community really needs!
  • The future of East Brisbane State School: East Brisbane State School in its current location is mentioned and considered in the plans – which are long-term plans for the area. The state government still hasn't confirmed what impacts the smaller Gabba Stadium upgrade will have on the school, but I think that it’s a very good sign that the government is talking about the school in these plans.
  • Less concrete (maybe!): The previous plan for this area (that was developed when the Labor government was pushing using the Gabba for the Olympics) included 2 hectares of ‘hard stand’ (concrete) between the station and the Gabba. This area is now listed as the Central Park area. This move away from ‘hard stand’ has only happened because of the huge community campaign, meaning the government were forced to ditch their plans for the Gabba Stadium rebuild.
  • (Some) sustainability requirements: For most of the area, buildings require a minimum 5-star Green Star Building rating or similar. However, the public land around the Station is exempt from these sustainability requirements - meaning there could be very unsustainable 75-storey buildings on this section of public land. 

There are a lot of parks of this plan that we have questions about, and need work:

  • Public land could be handed to developers: The government are planning on opening up more than 2.5 hectares of publicly-owned, inner-city land to private developers to build up to 75 storeys on. The developers won’t even be required to provide any social or public housing in their developments on this publicly owned land.
  • There is no guarantee of housing that is actually affordable: The plan stipulates a goal of 20% of new apartments in the area to be affordable OR social housing – ‘OR’ being a very key word here. As for the “affordable” housing, if you dig into the fine print what they define as “affordable” would be around $750 a week in rent or $800,000 to buy today. In what world is an apartment that’s $750 a week affordable? In the middle of a housing crisis, this is an unacceptable use of public land. Private developers will walk away with massive profits and all we’ll get is unaffordable luxury towers on the site.
  • No guarantee for much of the parklands and active transport: The other part of the plan I want to see more details on is the other new parks, bikeways and pedestrian zones listed in government’s documents. There is an exciting list of new parks, pedestrian zones and bikeways for the area listed in the document – but they seem to be contingent on the Development Charges and Offset Plan (DCOP) which hasn’t been released yet. The DCOP essentially will list out what infrastructure charges developers will have to pay to build in the PDA area – the general trend from both Labor and the LNP is to lower developer charges at the moment, but if they do this, how will they fund all these pieces of crucial public infrastructure listed in this plan? So I’ll be watching this closely and trying to get more detail on this.
  • No plans for new schools: If an additional 24,000 people move to the area, we will likely need multiple new schools. Without a guarantee that East Brisbane State School is protected, and no plans for new schools, where will all these new kids go?
  • The Central Park will be blocked from the sun by surrounding buildings: The Development Scheme says that there should be "4 hours of direct sunlight at the winter solstice over at least 50% of the Central Park". For the rest of the day, the park will be in the shade. Without enough sunlight, to help plants and greenery grow, it will be a pretty dismal park. 
  • Traffic impacts: The plans don't have any details about what kind of traffic impacts the PDA will have. Where will these additional 24,000 people be parking their cars, and how will they get to work and school?
  • Open space isn't parkland: Plans include a 'Central Park' next to the Cross River Rail Station, but if you dig into the detail, this area is defined as "open space" rather than parkland. The definition of "open space" includes plazas, walkways and public buildings. The proposed new library is in the Central Park area, so the amount of actual green space is already reduced. 

What new parkland will we get?

The Woolloongabba Priority Development Area plan includes plans for what the government describe as "open space". For the publicly-owned land around the Cross River Rail station, the government will be "targeting 50% of this area to be allocated for open space purposes". a number of new mini parks that are described as "privately owned, publicly accessible open space". The plan points out areas where developers will be able to get additional height limits, in exchange for providing privately owned, publicly accessible open space.
There is an important distinction between parkland and open space. Open space is defined as "Green space and public realm", with public realm defined as "Any publicly accessible streets, pathways, cross-block links, arcades, plazas, parks, open spaces, key civic spaces and any public and civic buildings and facilities". So when the plan talks about open space, this can include buildings, paved areas, roads and pathways. By this definition, developers will be able to get taller buildings - and bigger profit - by providing a concrete plaza or pathways.
What does private open space look like in practice?  
While public parks are open to the public round the clock and maintained by council, privately owned spaces can be fenced off, or monitored by security to move people on. The PDA plan says that "appropriate tenure arrangements" will help ensure public access...but we've seen how this plays out in practice. When West Village was approved, the ground-level green space was meant to be publicly accessible 24 hours a day. But instead, much of this green space is regularly fenced off, or in poor shape.
We will be pushing for genuine, publicly owned parkland that can't be fenced off. While the government are making plans for privately-owned walkways and plazas, this fast-growing neighbourhood needs genuine parkland where people can relax, excercise or let their kids play.

What do we really need in this neighbourhood?

The PDA plans will transform the neighbourhood significantly. From conversations with the community, we will be pushing for: 

  • A large beautiful new public park, with shade, seating and a playground. The current plans include a 'Central Park', but if you look at the detail, the government are describing the Central Park area as "open space", which can include public buildings, roads and plazas.
  • A new library for Woolloongabba. Thankfully, the plans include a community library, situated within the 'Central Park' area.  
  • Hundreds of new homes that people can actually afford, built by the government. While the current plans include a target of 20% social and affordable housing, there are no binding requirements. The government's definition of 'affordable' would be around $750 a week in rent or $800,000 to buy today. In what world is an apartment that’s $750 a week affordable?
  • A guarantee that East Brisbane State School will remain. The current plans include upgrades to the Gabba Stadium, and the government have said that these upgrades might mean that East Brisbane State School will still be forced to close. 

How has this plan been developed?

The current PDA plans are a new iteration of plans that have been in development for over a decade. 

  • 2010: A 10 hectare Woolloongabba PDA was declared in 2010.
  • 2020: A 21-hecare plan was developed, to facilitate the construction of the Woolloongabba Cross River Rail station. 
  • 2023: A 106-hectare plan was developed, centred around the Labor government's plans to rebuild the Gabba Stadium, for the 2032 Olympic Games. This faced huge community opposition.
  • 2024: The 2023 plans were revised, after the Labor shelved their plans for the Gabba Stadium rebuild.

The community now have until 5 July 2024 to make submissions on the plans. After this, the government will develop a final Development Scheme, that will guide planning going forward. Developers will then be able to make applications to the government for any new buildings in the area. 

You can read more about EDQs plans for the PDA here. You can also see the overview I gave for a community meeting in Woolloongabba in May 2024. 

What is a Priority Development Area?

‘Priority Development Areas’ (PDAs) are a planning tool that this government has developed to help them manage large, often controversial, development projects. PDAs are developed under the Economic Development Act 2012, and are meant to "facilitate economic development and development for community purposes". 

Economic Development Queensland say that “Priority Development Areas (PDAs) are parcels of land within Queensland identified for land development to deliver significant benefits to the community”....“A PDA helps to resolve complex planning and development matters that unlock value and community benefits”

The Environmental Defenders Office write that “ PDAs are areas of land within Queensland where development is prioritised by the Minister for Economic Development Queensland because the project is expected to deliver significant economic or community benefit”.

Once a PDA is declared by the government, existing, council-based planning rules no longer apply - rather, planning decisions sit nearly entirely with the state government. 

We have been critical of Priority Development areas for the following reasons:

  • Community consultation is extremely limited. There is an initial period of consultation on the draft development scheme. Once a broad ‘development scheme’ is approved, development can occur over many years, with no additional requirements for community consultation for new development applications
  • There is limited transparency on how decisions about PDAs are made
  • Requirements for infrastructure charges (money that developers have to pay to the council to invest in crucial public infrastructure) are often much lower than usual developments, meaning locals might miss out on important local infrastructure
  • Local planning rules can be overruled, such as height limits or heritage requirements. 
  • There are no third-party rights of appeal
  • PDA projects are often controversial, and face significant community opposition.

The Environmental Defenders Office have a useful fact sheet on PDAs that you can read here.

Are there other PDAs in Queensland?

Many ‘Priority Development Area’ projects have been controversial and are facing ongoing community opposition, including:

  • The Queens Wharf Casino, which has seen 10% of public land in the CBD privatised for a mega casino and hotel project. The developers have been involved in a corruption scandal. 
  • Toondah Harbour, which included plans to build thousands of apartments on a protected, UN-listed wetland near Cleveland, which were approved by the state Labor government. After a huge community campaign, in April 2024, the Federal government finally rejected these plans, a huge win for the community!
  • Deebing Creek, where a huge development would clear koala habitat and sites sacred to local First Nations people.  
  • Roma Street, which will see a reduction in parkland. A petition in opposition gathered over 30,000 signatures. 
  • Boggo Road, which will see no meaningful expansion in greenspace, and towers overlooking the neighbouring primary school. 

What are the details for making a submission?

You can borrow any points from our template to use in your own submission. You can find the template here, or read my submission here.  

Your submission will be more impactful if you can add your own ideas and reflections. 

Will you sign?

Sign up to get updates from us about the plans for the Woolloogabba PDA. We will share details about the plan, upcoming events, and opportunities to give your feedback.