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Expanded Gabba PDA

On 22 September 2023, the state government declared the new, vastly expanded Woolloongabba Priority Development Area (PDA). This is a huge 106 hectare area that takes in huge sections of Woolloongabba and East Brisbane. You can read the most recent Interim Land Use Plan, and the government's justification for this, here

This PDA was put in place by the state government so they could push through the $2.7 billion Gabba Stadium redevelopment with as little resistance as possible. But thanks to community pressure, the Gabba plans have been scrapped! But it's unclear what this means for the PDA. The government had said that consultation would start in April 2024 - but this has not yet happened.

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 hereThe Environmental Defenders Office have a useful fact sheet on PDAs that you can read 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 for new development applications
  • Local planning rules such as height limits can be overruled.
  • There are no third-party rights of appeal. 
  • Projects are often controversial, and face significant community opposition (I've included some examples below).

What's included in the Interim Land Use Plan?

As part of the PDA declaration, the government has published an ‘Interim Land Use Plan’, that acts like a temporary master plan, while the government prepare a ‘Development Scheme’ for the area. This breaks this PDA down into:

  • Precinct 1: The Gabba Stadium and Cross River Rail Station site
  • Precinct 2: The Morrison Hotel
  • Precinct 3: Neighbourhood Transition Precinct 

Here's an overview of what's in the Interim Land Use Plan:

  • Major urban densification: The government’s vision is for “major urban densification and precinct revitalisation” centred around the $2.7 billion Gabba Stadium.
  • $2.7 billion Gabba redevelopment: The Interim Land Use plan was designed around Labor's plan for rebuilding the Gabba Stadium for the 2032 Olympics. The community are pushing back against this huge waste of money (you can read more about this here) and the Gabba plans have been shelved! However, the government have not yet made any changes to the Interim Land Use Plan. 
  • Backflip on parkland: The government has backflipped on their promise to make 50% of the station site parkland. Instead, they have committed to 50% of Precinct 1 to be “open space”. 
  • Heigh limits: At this stage, while the Interim Land Use Plan is in place, BCC zoning still applies in Precinct 3. A height limit of 20 storeys applies in Precinct 2. HOWEVER, “development requirements” can be ignored if there is “sufficient grounds”, such as “superior design outcomes” or “overwhelming community need” (see page 14 of the ILUP). So essentially, developers have a huge loophole (as they already do under the Planning Act). The ILUP also does not stipulate height limits for developments within Precinct 1. 
  • Heritage: Heritage protects broadly apply across the whole area, but allows for “adaptive re-use and heritage sensitive design responses to buildings within and adjoining the PDA”. Note that East Brisbane State School is earmarked as “public realm”. 
  • Precinct 2: The Morrison Hotel: This precinct can have buildings up to 20 storeys. The ILUP includes no requirements for social/affordable housing in this precinct.
  • Precinct 3 - Neighbourhood transition precinct: Development within the broader area, referred to as the “Neighbourhood transition precinct”, must be in line with the existing BCC city plan. The ILUP includes no requirements for social/affordable housing in this precinct.
  • BCC Metro: The location of the BCC Metro Station is still not known.
  • Limited consultation: We’ve been told that the official consultation on this will take place in April 2024, and the Interim Land Use Plan lotes that public notice is required if developments exceed height limits, or impact on adjoining land. In May 2023, I wrote to the Deputy Premier, suggesting a much more in-depth consultation process, including a vote to co-incide with the BCC elections as to whether a PDA should go in this area at all. The state government have at this stage only committed to the formal submission period, a survey and 'meetings'. 
  • Privitisation: Much of Precinct 1, around the new Cross River Rail Station, is public land. If private developers are allowed to build here, this is a transfer of public land to private hands - privitisation by stealth. Labor like to criticise the LNP for privitisations, but on Labor’s watch, 10% of the Brisbane CBD, including public land, has been privitised for the Queens Wharf Casino, also via a Priority Development Area. 
  • Large private developments are planned: Back in April 2023, developers Trenert co-announced a large development with the Deputy Premier. Their plans include a 5-building complex with a hotel, commercial, residential, and some affordable housing, including a 40 storey tower. The Deputy Premier has said that this development is "in keeping with the kinds of developments that we would expect to see". Other developers are already seeing this as tacit approval for 40 storey towers across the neighbourhood - at least 20 storeys above the neighbourhood plan height limits. You can see pictures of the the plans they have developed below, and media coverage here


You can read the Interim Land Use Plan here

Ongoing issues with other PDAs

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

What correspondence has our office had with the government regarding the PDA?

  • My letter to the Deputy Premier: You can read my letter to the Deputy Premier, dated 25 May 2023, outlining my suggestions for consultation.
  • Question on notice: You can read the response from the Deputy Premier to my questions from 15 March 2023 here 
  • Estimates questions: During estimates hearings in August, I asked the Deputy Premier what prior information regarding the PDA had been shared with developer Trenert, who co-announced plans for a development in the PDA with the Deputy Premier in April. The Deputy Premier said that Trenert had no information beyond what was already public (noting that their announcement was made prior to the boundaries of the PDA being set). The Deputy Premier also said "I was careful not to express a view on the project that would jeopardise my ability to make decisions about it or the PDA or other proposed developments". You can read the full exchange here on page 15.
  • Letter from the Deputy Premier's Chief of Staff: Letter dated 14 August 2023 here.
  • Letter from the Deputy Premier: Letter dated 25 Septmeber 2023 here.
  • Email to the General Manager, Economic Development Queensland: This includes a swag of questions about what's currently included in the Interim Land Use Plan, and the proposed (very limited!) community consultation. Email dated 27 September 2023 here

Where to next?

We've been told that formal submissions on the PDA will be open in April 2024. However, this consultation has not yet started. 

Local consultation

We'll be doing our own consultation with the community in the meantime.

We held a community meeting on 7 September 2023, at the Morrison Hotel. You can see my presentation slides here

We'll be holding more community meetings, and getting more information out to the community, and get feedback on what kind of things we really need in this neighbourhood. Once consutlation starts, we'll be supporting local residents to make submissions.

You can join a local Facebook group, set up by a local resident, to discuss the PDA and share ideas - Woolloongabba Community Alliance

If you would like to be kept updated as we get more information, please sign up here