At the elections of 15 March pro-developer councils were trounced in Redland City and on the Sunshine Coast, but this popular rejection of over-development means little to the State Labor Government of Anna Bligh and the property developers she serves.
On Thursday 5 June the Bligh Government announced its intention to push aside objections from the Redland and Sunshine Coast Councils in order to fast track developments in 17 South East Queensland sites purportedly to “improve housing affordability”. Of course, the obvious measure of selling land directly to the public in order to spare them the cost of extravagant developers' margins, as suggested by at least one correspondent to the Courier Mail recently, has not been taken up.
On 9 June Anna Bligh announced further measures to clear impediments to housing development in South East Queensland. The Courier Mail article Green Space Land Grab reported:
The Bligh Government is set to take the brakes off urban sprawl by making it easier for developers to build on South East Queensland's precious open green space.
Just three years after the Beattie government put protections in place to control rampant development in the region, a review of those controls is now flagging big changes.
Among them is a proposed expansion of the so-called “urban footprint” in a move that would allow new housing and commercial developments to sprawl beyond the existing boundaries.
Against previous undertakings to allow local communities plenty of chances to have their say on future planning, it was announced that discussion of the expansion of SEQ's urban footprint into surrounding green spaces would be kept secret until the release of a draft plan in December, supposedly because this knowledge is “commercially sensitive”.
The office of Urban Management, which was set up with the stated goal of keeping rampant development in check, has been abolished. (The link to www.oum.qld.gov.au returned with the Google search term "Office of Urban Management" is now redirected to www.dip.qld.gov.au/seq.)
This accelerated development is proceeding well ahead of infrastructure upgrades necessary to accommodate the extra population. Earlier on 5 June it was reported in the Bayside Bulletin story Transport projects “too far away” that Redland City Council had raised concerns over the long wait for public transport and road upgrades which could be 10 to 20 years away. On 2 June the Bayside Bulletin story Call to upgrade roads reported growing traffic congestion in the Redlands area and increasingly long travel times along the major routes to Brisbane.
On 5 June, on hearing of the new state Government mandated developments in the Redlands area, a local taxi driver in a post to the Bayside Bulletin wrote:
Our state government has learnt absolutely nothing about infrastructure being in place before known growth - pushing for SE Thornlands development 11 years before an upgrade of the Cleveland-Redland Bay Road in 2019 is absolute stupidity. Redlands voters will have much to remember, none of it good, at the next state election.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Bob Abbot said it was “madness” to turn big areas of land into housing estates when proper transport links had not been established.
The expansion of the urban footprint was made in spite of assurances only two years ago that there was already enough land within the existing urban footprint to acommodate growth.
Bligh claimed that the fast tracking of the review was prompted by the new population forecasts showing that the region was likely to be home to an extra 1.5 million people within 18 years.
The ‘new population forecasts’ undoubtedly were the direct result of Federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans' announcement on 14 May of a massive increase of the annual immigration to 300,000. Both the Queensland Government and the pro-population-growth Courier Mail have been curiously silent on the increased immigration rates. As one example, for a whole week following from Friday 16 May, when a single opinion piece in favour of Pacific Island guest workers was published, there was a news blackout in the Courier Mail as its pages were full of stories about the chaos caused by existing population growth. This was in marked contrast to the reporting in The Australian (the national newspaper) which, like the Courier Mail, is owned by US citizen Rupert Murdoch. All along The Australian has stridently pushed the pro-immigration barrow.
It's as if both the Queensland Government and the Courier Mail don't want the Queensland public to draw the link between high international immigration into Australia and the resultant inter-state immigration which Bligh insists makes her trampling over the rights of Queensland communities necessary.
See also: More chickens of population growth come home to roost in Queensland of 14 May 08, How to end the Queensland economy's addiction to population growth? of 26 Apr 08, Courier-Mail beats up on public for complaining about cost of 'progress' of 14 Apr 08, The Australian laments outcome of Queensland local government elections of 30 Mar 08.