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The Olympics and overdevelopment

8 September 2023
In the last few months, you may have seen a raft of development applications that are seriously pushing the limits of the neighbourhood plans and what our neighbourhoods can handle.
Earlier this week, developer Delta Australia Holdings put in a DA for a 30-storey building at 26 Cairns St, Kangaroo Point. At 30 storeys, this is 15 storeys above the neighbourhood plan. The developers argue that:
"The development comprises a maximum building height of 30 storeys, which exceed the intended height limit envisaged for the site under the zone. However, the existing pattern of development in the inner-city area and in the high density residential zone supports development of greater height".
A few months ago, Deputy Premier Steven Miles co-launched a proposed development on the Chalk Hotel, which includes a 40-storey tower - 20 storeys over the neighbourhood plan.
Trenert intends to push this development through as part of the expanded Gabba Priority Development Area (more on this here) and have developed pretty detailed plans. However, this is all before the boundaries or details of the Gabba Priority Development Area have been made public and before any community consultation has taken place (a requirement for PDAs). When I asked the Deputy Premier how this was possible - given that it seems as though the developer Trenert has access to information that the rest of the community does not yet have access to - the Deputy Premier's reply was:
"I attended the launch of that developer's project at their invitation. 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. I simply expressed the view that it was in keeping with the kinds of developments that we would expect to see" (see page 15 of hansard here). 
You can see here the Deputy Premier proudly smiling with the developer and a photo of the planned development. Very impartial!
And now we see that this tacit endorsement is also encouraging other luxury developers. A few weeks ago, there was a proposal for a 41-storey tower on Logan Rd from developers Belmonde Property Group, who have said:
"...the Deputy Premier's support for a 40 storey development outcome (20 storeys greater than the current planning scheme) provides an indication of the State Government's intent for development outcomes in the locality and alters the expectations of the community".
Belmonde Property Group have also argued that the Olympics means they should be allowed to ignore neighbourhood plans, saying:
"Dwelling supply and housing affordability issues, major transport infrastructure, Priority Development Areas and investment associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Games have featured heavily in news reports recently and signal that big changes are coming. These circumstances change the planning intent for our city as well as the community's expectations of what the city will look like in the next decade".
We should all be very concerned about how the Olympics are encouraging luxury property developers to push the limits of what our neighbourhoods can handle. We risk Woolloongabba, East Brisbane and South Brisbane becoming as soulless as places like Melbourne's Dockside - rampant, developer-driven highrise pockets that deliver nothing in terms of community, liveability or sustainability. One of the reasons I have been so critical of Queensland hosting the Olympics is that the trend from nearly every host city is that Olympic Games fuel unaffordable development, drive up the cost of land, drive up the cost of housing and rents, and push working people out of their neighborhoods.
The core business of the Olympics isn't sport - it's media deals and property development.
The Greens are regularly accused of "opposing housing" when we don't line up to lick the boots of every property developer who wants to make a buck out of our neighbourhoods.
These luxury development proposals have nothing to do with delivering for the local community, housing affordability or 'community expectation'. Instead, this is all about making a profit. We know that developers will not bring on new supply if it brings down prices and would rather sit on approved DAs until conditions are right, or they can push for even bigger developers. 26 Cairns St, for example, already had a DA approved in 2017 for 400 new apartments. But the developers did nothing.
Labor wrote the Planning Act the same year they took over $270,000 in donations from property developers. Labor took money from property developers and returned the favour. We have a planning system written by developers for developers, and the local community's needs are a far and distant last.
And with Council announcing last week that they will be giving developers discounts on infrastructure charges - the money that Council needs to invest in parks, transport, and community facilities - the question is, will our neighbours be livable?