Council has ‘conflict of interest’ in Toowong development approval: Labor

Brisbane City Council oversaw a development application for this proposed unit block in which it had invested close to $25 million. Photo: Brisbane City Council Labor MP Steven Miles said the issue called into question the credibility of the council’s approval. Photo: Chris Hyde
Nanjing Night Net

Councillor Julian Simmonds: “If Minister Miles was genuinely worried, he would get off his soapbox and change Labor’s state planning laws and the SEQ Regional Plan.” Photo: Glenn Hunt

Brisbane City Council should appoint a third party to assess a development application for a block of units in which it had invested almost $25 million, the council’s Labor opposition has demanded.

Earlier in the week, the opposition called for Lord Mayor Graham Quirk to resign over the approval of the 90-unit complex, to allow him to pursue a career in property development after the units were approved last October.

However, the council-owned City of Brisbane Investment Corporation lodged a subsequent application this month for minor amendments to the approval, including a reduction in three-bedroom units and the addition of two residents’ parking spaces.

Opposition leader Peter Cumming said the council needed to excuse itself from the approval process, otherwise it could be seen as a case of Caesar judging Caesar.

“Council has a clear conflict of interest and they should be putting the assessment out to private town planners who can assess it in accordance with the plan,” he said.

“Then, the perception of a conflict of interest would be avoided.”

Cr Cumming said even if the approval was above board, there needed to be an appearance of impartiality on the part of council officers.

“It’s been done in the past in Brisbane and it’s quite common interstate, if there’s a council-owned block of land in a DA,” he said.

“You really should put it out to a panel and get a list of firms that would be appropriate.”

The local state government MP, Labor minister Steven Miles, also weighed in on the issue and demanded a third-party assessment.

“This calls into question the credibility of the council approval,” he said.

“I’m told that in the past such assessments have been conducted by independent third parties, but in this case the council has made a decision and now stands to profit from it.

“I know many residents are concerned about increased levels of high-density development in Toowong and surrounding suburbs, its impact on traffic and parking.

“I’m sure these revelations will only heighten the community’s concern.”

Council city planning chairman Julian Simmonds hit back by saying Mr Miles was “hypocritical and misguided” in his criticism of the council’s assessment process.

“Development applications to council are independently assessed by officers against the City Plan in accordance with state planning laws,” he said.

“Hypocritically, Minister Miles and his state Labor government colleagues have acted as land owners, developers and assessors of their own development applications for key state government projects including Queens Wharf, Hamilton Northshore, Fitzgibbon and Bowen Hills – and removed legal appeal rights for the community in the process.

“These projects have then returned a profit to the government.”

Cr Simmonds said Toowong had been identified in the state government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan as a major activity centre, to help the wider region accommodate 156,000 additional dwellings by 2031.

“So Minister Miles’ suggestion that these types of applications should be assessed by a third party and not council is hypocritical and simply does not stack up,” he said.

“If Minister Miles was genuinely worried about the process, he would get off his soapbox and walk into the cabinet room to change Labor’s state planning laws and the SEQ Regional Plan.”

Cr Simmonds also took aim at Cr Cumming, who he said was “quite happy to help officially open and make use of the Wynnum Library, a project which was delivered at no cost to Brisbane ratepayers, as part of a CBIC project”.

Cr Cumming said of that development: “It probably should have been dealt with in the same manner.”

“I guess the assessment about whether a library is appropriate or not isn’t a commercial assessment like a unit block or whatever,” he said.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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