Battle for Pooh Corner at Wacol

” There needs to be proper policies put into place where the community gets consulted about the sale of these lands before they actually go ahead and sell them off.” – Simon Birrell

“But the Jezzine Barracks in Townsville and Pooh Corner here in Wacol raise an interesting question how many other defence sites might come on the market? The (Defence) Department is one of the biggest landholders in the country with more than 2.5 million hectares of property land on the book. At this stage nothing in Queensland’s on the market. But the Department says when surplus land is sold public consultation is not mandated.” – ABC 7.30 report

Bushland at Pooh Corner Wacol

MATT WORDSWORTH: It was the campaign that secured peace for a parcel of defence land on the outskirts of Brisbane. The battle for Pooh Corner as it became known raged for weeks with locals determined to save the block from industrial development. Ten years on it’s a nature reserve and both people and animals are finally welcome. But as Courtney Wilson reports it’s not the only such victory for people power.

(FOOTAGE OF BUSY ROADS AND BIG INDUSTRY)

COURTNEY WILSON: A neighbourhood dominated by big industry and busy roadways is not where you’d expect to find a patch of urban peace.

(FOOTAGE OF AREA AND SOUNDS OF BIRDS)

COURTNEY WILSON: And its name ‘Pooh corner’ is equally unexpected.

ED PARKER, FRIENDS OF POOH CORNER: Pooh Corner was the name that the Defence Department attached to this piece of land.

COURTNEY WILSON: The nickname has stuck from the days before Brisbane was sewered when there was a night soil dump nearby.

ED PARKER: The Ipswich locals on the train would proclaim ‘shut the windows, we’re coming up to pooh corner.’

(FOOTAGE OF CYCLISTS RIDING)

COURTNEY WILSON: But today pooh has turned a corner.

POOH CORNER VISITOR: I’ve been down the creek and it looks pristine, it’s really really good. It’s really good to see something like that so close to the city that’s in such good condition.

(FOOTAGE OF BIRDS AND EASTERN GREY KANGAROO)

ED PARKER: It’s home to over 120 bird species and I guess, one popular aspect is the eastern grey kangaroo.

(FOOTAGE OF KANGAROOS)

COURTNEY WILSON: Hundreds of roos live in or around the nature reserve. It’s thought to be one of the biggest urban populations of eastern grey kangaroos in the country. But despite its ecological significance, the surplus defence land almost became another industrial estate.

FOOTAGE OF TV NEWS FOOTAGE)

REPORTER: “A political stink has erupted over plans to sell off a large parcel of Brisbane bushland

NIKKI PARKER, FRIENDS OF POOH CORNER: “This is significant, the people of Brisbane not only should be angry but they are angry”.

COURTNEY WILSON: In 2005 the Federal Government put Pooh Corner on the open market.

NIKKI PARKER: In the case of pooh corner, there was absolutely no community consultation.

COURTNEY WILSON: A small, but vocal group of activists plotted their campaign. Pointing out Federal plans and State legislation to protect the site were on a collision course.

SIMON BIRRELL, FRIENDS OF POOH CORNER: It was a case of local people power basically standing up against the Federal Government. Without the actions of the local community they would have sold it all off.

(FOOTAGE OF CAMPBELL NEWMAN AND TERESA GAMBARO SHAKING HANDS ON TV NEWS OVER DEAL OF POOH CORNER)

COURTNEY WILSON Instead a deal was struck with Brisbane’s then Lord Mayor Campbell Newman who bought Pooh Corner for just one dollar.

(MORE FOOTAGE OF POOH CORNER DEAL)

CAMPBELL NEWMAN: I might be able to make the down payment now.

TERESA GAMBARO, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY: It’s effectively a gift to the city of Brisbane but it’s called a concessional sale.

COURTNEY WILSON: Almost a decade on the reserve is finally ready. While the now Premier says protecting other corners of the State remains a priority.

CAMPBELL NEWMAN, PREMIER: This is a very clear example of how the State Government and Local Government in terms of their planning policies can make sure that these areas are set aside.

(FOOTAGE OF JEZZINE BARRACKS)

COURTNEY WILSON: In Townsville the former Jezzine Barracks were also almost lost to developers.

JOHN BEARNE, JEZZINE BARRACKS COMMUNITY TRUST: High density housing, commercial, retail etc. I’m pretty sure that’s what would have happened and what was planned for the site.

COURTNEY WILSON: Again a passionate public campaign convinced the Federal Government to retreat.

JOHN BEARNE: Eventually the Government came back with a proposal that it would give the land back to the community, and it also would give back towards the community some money, some financial incentives to develop the land.

COURTNEY WILSON: Seven years, and 40 million taxpayer dollars later, those who fought to save it describe the redeveloped site as a triumph.

JOHN BEARNE: You will see mum’s walking through here all day every day you will see at the weekends it’s just full of people having picnics and barbeques.

VISITOR: It’s a must see I reckon, you know after seeing what was here before it’s just fantastic. The forethought and the design of it’s just great. Someone’s done really well I reckon.

VISITOR 2: I came up before they even did it, and now what they’ve done is just amazing.

VISITOR 3: I think they’ve done a beautiful job I really do. It’s perfect on a day like this, look at the views.

VISITOR 4: Not many places you get a view like this and 360 as well so that’s good.

COURTNEY WILSON: But the Jezzine Barracks in Townsville and Pooh Corner here in Wacol raise an interesting question how many other defence sites might come on the market? The Department is one of the biggest landholders in the country with more than 2.5 million hectares of property land on the book. At this stage nothing in Queensland’s on the market. But the Department says when surplus land is sold public consultation is not mandated.

SIMON BIRRELL: There needs to be proper policies put into place where basically the community gets consulted about the sale of these lands before they actually go ahead and sell them off.

JOHN BEARNE: It’s not until alternatives are put in front of Governments for them to consider that they’ll see the incentives for them and the reasons why they should review their position.

(FOOTAGE OF NIKKI PARKER AND COURTNEY WILSON WALKING THROUGH POOH CORNER)

COURTNEY WILSON: For Nikki Parker the lasting lesson of the battle for Pooh Corner is clear the price of peace is eternal vigilance.

NIKKI PARKER: Places like this are silent; they can’t speak for themselves, so I guess it needs people in the community to stand up.

ABC 7 30 Qld Report on Pooh Corner see http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-29/people-power-secures-defence-land-for-public/5707358

Thnx Simon! See http://www.poohcorner.info/

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