The government in February 2023 announced a significant expansion to the Woolloongabba 'Priority Development Area'.
You can see the expanded map in vague purple here and below. The Deputy Premier has said that a finalised map won't be ready until November 2023, leaving residents and businessness in the dark in the meantime.
What is a Priority Development Area?
‘Priority Development Areas’ are a planning tool that this government has developed to help them manage large, often controversial, development projects. You can read the government's overview here.
I have been critical of Priority Development areas for the following reasons:
- Community consultation requirements are extremely limited
- 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
- Once a broad ‘planning scheme’ is approved, development can occur over many years, with no additional requirements for community consultation
- Local planning rules such as height limits can be overruled.
- Projects are often controversial, and face community opposition (I've included a few examples below).
- The Environmental Defenders Office have a useful fact sheet on PDAs that you can read here.
What we know about the Woolloongabba PDA at this stage
Unfortunately, we have very little information at this stage about what the government is planning for the expanded Priority Development Area. You can read the government’s press release here, and general information here. You can read the response from the Deputy Premier to my questions from 26 April 2023 here.
What we do know so far:
- No clarity on the boundaries of the PDA: A finalised map likely won't be ready until November 2023. Community consultation will start after that. This is ridiculous, given that the extended PDA was announced back in February.
- $2.7 billion Gabba redevelopment: The government plans to demolish and rebuild the Gabba at a cost of $2.7 Billion, despite signifcant community opposition. They also intend to close East Brisbane State School and force students into schools outside of the current catchment, despite strong opposition from the community. The community are pushing back against this huge waste of money - you can read more about this here.
- No clarity on the provision of parkland: In 2020, the government committed to 50% of the Gabba Cross River Rail station site being parkland. They seem to be walking back from this. The Government said that the PDA will include 50% "open space" within the Woolloongabba Cross River Rail precinct. Note that "open space" is distinct from parkland - King George Square, for example, a fully paved thoroughfare, is considered "open space".
- No clarity on the provision of public housing: The government have given no clear indication of how much public housing or 'affordable' housing will be included, and have no clear definition for what 'affordable' means.
- Privitisation is still on the table: The government has given no guarantee that publicly owned land won’t be privatized. Given the devastation of the Newman Government years, where significant public buildings and public land were sold off, I feel we need a clear guarantee that public land will not be privitised.
Ongoing issues with other PDAs
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 includes plans to build thousands of apartments on a protected, UN-listed wetland near Cleveland. There has been ongoing opposition from local residents and the Environmental Defenders Office has been helping in the fight to protect the wetlands.
- Deebing Creek, where a huge development would clear koala habitat and sites sacred to local First Nations people. You can read recent news coverage of protests here.
- 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. Some coverage on this here.
- Recent coverage on issues associated with Priority Development Areas here.
Where to next?
We are doing our best to get more information about what is planned for the expanded Gabba PDA, and what this might mean for your home, business, church or venue.
If you would like to be kept updated as we get more information, please sign up here.
I'd also encourage anyone whose home, business or church might fall within the expanded PDA to email the Deputy Premier, and demand to know what their plans are for the Gabba area: [email protected]