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Unlocking Brisbane River

I had plans to save the planet
but they got washed down a stormwater drain
it’s all too big, it’s all too hard
dropped my guard, and i missed the last train
compass needle spinning
now i’m lost inside my head

– Rivermouth

Sallyanne Atkinson

In the 1980s Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson announced that Brisbane (Meanjin) is a river city.

Ever since, the wealthy have been locking-up the waterfront for themselves, be it in high rise city buildings, apartment skyscrapers or mansions on the Humbug Reach. So it is a breath of fresh air to hear at least two BCC Councillors announce that they wish to open up the Brisbane river.

Before John Oxley claimed the river for the colony it was an open place with mangroves and paperbark trees along the foreshore. It had no mouth being blocked by sand flat as the estuary sent fresh water into Quandamooka (Moreton Bay). Creeks that feed into the river are tidal and often flood from the back-up of king tides and flood waters in the river.

Recently a 30 minute downpour on the Southside caused Norman Creek to flood all the way up to Greenslopes at Hanlon and Jones Parks. Thompson estate was awash, lashed by horizontal rain and driving winds. The Stones Corner Bridge nearly went under. These parks contain an open concrete drain and the waters rush down them flood the banks on the way. This needs to be changed. Modest attempts to plant native trees along the banks of the creek near Wembley Park have stopped amidst confusion of what changes are to be made. Council has not consulted residents properly.

High rise now dominates reaches of the river from St Lucia to Breakfast Creek. Council appears to have no plan, or if it has they are swept aside on demand from developers. No attempt has been made to lessen the impact of big floods. Both government and developers have been happy to rebuild after each new flood.

Building should not be permitted on the foreshore and each reach of the river should have public access through a system of parks, bikeways, ferries and footpaths. The shores should become a human space as it was before colonisation.

From Kangaroo Point to Norman Park on the southside bikeways and access to the river is, at best, fragmented. The bikeway between Mowbray Park and Kangaroo Point ends abruptly at Shaftston College. Now developers are getting their teeth into Morningside fully back by the Liberal council. The weird thing is council has just spent $300 million plus ironing out a corner on Lytton Road, resuming 90 houses belonging to battlers and putting in a beautiful bike lane that comes to a dead end at the Shaftson Hotel, I kid you not. Traffic is still intense, peak hour pile ups, the lot and 90 households lost their homes. For what? So that rich people on the river can race into town when they feel like it.

Local government elections are coming up on Saturday 28 March 2020. We recommend people query councillors seeking re-election on what plans they have for the river.

Orleigh Park, Hill End

Do tell, one look at this shot of Crs. Cook and Sri and you’d think young people are running the city. Well they’re not, not yet anyway.

Ian Curr
14 Jan 2020

[The author lived on MV Careel from 1972 – 1975 on the St Lucia reach of the Brisbane River. He was on the MV Careel during the 1974 floods. He opposed the building of high rise on the St Lucia reach of the river taking up a petition to defeat an 8 storey block of flats on Standford Street, St Lucia. An application to limit the development was successful in the Land Court.]

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