West End residents take development opposition to the streets

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri leads the ‘occupation’ of the West Village development site. Photo: Cameron Atfield Protesters march down Boundary Street to protest against the West Village development. Photo: Cameron Atfield
Nanjing Night Net

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri has led what he described as “civil disobedience” in a march through West End and a “creative occupation” of the site of a proposed controversial development in the suburb.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad last month announced she was considering calling in the Brisbane City Council-approved plans for the two-hectare Absoe site in the heart of West End.

Should she decide to call in the development, Ms Trad – and not the council – would become the project’s assessment manager.

About 150 people took to the streets of the suburb on Sunday morning to protest the West Village development and present an alternative vision for the site.

Cr Sri said the movement was about more than just the height of buildings.

“It’s about community and it’s about culture and that’s what motivates me to organise these events and take an interest in this issue,” he said.

“Right now, I’m feeling that slipping away in the inner-city; that diverse, vibrant, connected community is fracturing and fragmenting.

“I’m seeing musicians and artists being priced out of the area and, as Uncle Sam (Watson) said, Aboriginal families are no longer able to afford to live in the area.”

Cr Sri said, if it came to pass Ms Trad’s call-in would be a “huge win” for the community.

The councillor for The Gabba urged Ms Trad to do just that.

“They have really broad discretion to decide what happens on that site and our demand is that we engage a community design process, a participatory design process, where no one person calls the shots,” he said.

“Where the developers don’t call the shots, but where we as local residents, in conversations with architects and town planners, we make the decisions for the future of that site.

“We deserve a say in how our neighbourhoods evolve.”

Sam Watson said Aboriginal people had already been “progressively moved out” of the West End area and he feared developments such as West Village would further alienate the community.

“Right here and now, in 2016, I do not know a single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who actually owns their own house or apartment, unit or flat in this general area,” he said.

“That is appalling, that our mob who stayed here for many decades have had to move out to places like Ipswich, Gailes, Inala, Logan and all due respect to those places, our mob did have that connection and bond to this place, to this community.

“They have been priced out of the market.”

West End resident Tennille Roache presented an alternative plan for the site, which she encouraged people to distribute to Ms Trad and other decision-makers.

“It’s just an example of what you can do when you mobilise the community and get enough feedback to communicate to the people that matter what we would like to see,” she said.

“It’s easy, it’s not difficult, and it  can be done for any kind of issue.”

Ms Roache said the community wanted more open space and a return of the night markets to the site, among other things.

“We’d like to see Aboriginal culture represented on that site – why is it not?” she said.

“Why can’t we have something there that encourages that historic connection to the site?

“We’d like to see creative arts represented there, we’d like to see start-ups, we’d like to see business back into West End.

“Who’s going to buy our coffees during the week if we’re all leaving West End to go to work?”

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the proposed call-in jeopardised confidence in the construction industry and 3340 jobs generated by this project.

“This lack of certainty is a major concern,” he said.

“The minister was supportive of council’s earlier approval for two 15-storey residential dwellings, but now she has a different view for the remainder of the site.

“South Brisbane and West End are specifically named in the state government’s South East Queensland Regional Plan as key suburbs for higher density residential projects to meet the state’s growth targets of 156,000 new dwellings by 2031.

“Council’s decision meets the requirements of the Regional Plan in that the redevelopment of this large infill brownfield site will achieve the plan’s regional vision.”

Cr Quirk said the Deputy Premier had an earlier opportunity to outline concerns during the council’s assessment process.

“The only comment the state government had to make about the West Village development was general advice about the location of a bus stop,” he said.

“Council’s decision was made in accordance with the state government’s planning laws, under which local residents have appeal rights, but a Ministerial call-in would remove those rights.

“Council stands by its decision to approve the master plan for the site and will lodge a submission supporting our earlier decision.”

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

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