From the Bin: Fighting City Hall

We begin a new series of articles, From the Bin, which look at past struggles and helps us see what happened in the aftermath. Progressive forces are fighting on many fronts, one issue at a time, in an uncertain world that began at 9/11 and has continued with over 20 years of imperialist wars, pandemics, bankruptcy of nation states and climate change. The following article discusses how a group of residents and community activists fought city hall in Meanjin (Brisbane) and lost during the Lytton Road is wide enough campaign. [Meanjin means spiky and refers to the mangrove roots sticking up on the muddy banks of Brisbane River]. – Editor.

Community defends homes
I attended a picket this morning to hear residents saying that Lytton Road, East Brisbane is wide enough.

The group that organised the picket challenged Councillor Quirk at a ‘civic cabinet’ meeting at the Russian Club hall on Wednesday night (30 Aug 2017). Their concerns were rebuked by the Lord Mayor claiming to have the support of ‘the silent majority’ through a survey which local residents say is a fraud. Belinda from East Brisbane challenged the Lord Mayor’s reliance on a BCC survey of forty thousand residents of the Wynnum corridor.

Photo: Squatters occupy resumed houses 3 Sept 2017, they went on to form the Anti-Poverty Network to build resistance against house demolition, centrelink , the cashless welfare card, prisions and poverty. They held their first conference in October 2018.

Lord Mayor’s response to loss of homes in East Bribane claiming a silent majority supports widening the road.

Residents and supporters are welcome to join the picket that is being held each morning from 7am till 9am on the corner of Lytton Road and Walter Avenue, East Brisbane AND to support the occupation of heritage homes up for demolition.

This morning four people turned up. Bernadette, Joy, M. and myself. Picketers gave me a thorough account of the widening of a 600 metre stretch of road currently underway. Council is removing houses it has resumed and paid owners one third the replacement value of their properties. Cars carrying only the driver pass by in single file to the city. High rise development, river views and gentrification follows. Who will benefit most? Developers and the incumbents at City Hall who depend upon them for their jobs. Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Quirk and Infrastructure Chairperson Amanda Cooper top the list of beneficiaries at city hall.

They say you can’t fight City Hall
So it is inspiring to see even a few people in the community who still believe it’s possible to fight and win. They named the blackhearts in council Graham Quirk & Amanda Cooper who couldn’t care less. Banners reading ‘Save our Homes’ and ‘Save our Heritage’ adorn the building sites opposite. Bus drivers toot in support, some car drivers give us the thumbs up when they read the sign ‘widening will not relieve traffic congestion’. Living opposite is a 95 year old woman all shut up in her house fearful of being kicked out.

Brisbane Town Hall 1959

Councillor Jonathan Sri (The Gabba) questioned council why processes had not been followed to approve demolition of homes before the contractors moved in.

Joy, a veteran of the last campaign in the 1980s, hands me some questions for Quirky:

  1. Why has the Lord Mayor refused to meet residents?
  2. Why has there not been a Heritage order on these properties [some of the homes are pre-1911]?
  3. Why did the Lord Mayor and the infrastructure committee ignore the independent report finding that the best cost benefit option was to retain 4 lanes with intersection upgrades?
  4. Why is the acquired land to be offered to developers and not back to the people who have been ‘thrown off’ their properties?
  5. Is this a revenue making exercise?
  6. Who are the developers? Gina Reinhart? Sarina Russo?
  7. Are they the same ones who missed out on the Croquet Club land (referring to attempts to sell off the croquet club in Mowbray Park)?
  8. Who are the removalists?
  9. Why have East Brisbane residents been sidelined?
  10. Who are the people you (Quirk) say you have consulted?
  11. Exactly how many minutes does council expect that motorists will save on this 600 metre stretch for a cost of $115M
  12. What consideration has there been regarding the impact this will have on the significant Churchie (queensland’s wealthier school) traffic and it’s effects on residents?
  13. Why has there not been soundproofing from noise pollution? adds Bernadette

No due process, no health & safety – why?

Asbestos removal of one of the houses to be demolished on Lytton Road – LACK OF ADEQUATE PROTECTION.

So many questions, so few answers. Due process ignored. No approval from the Minister. Will Anthony Lynham, Queensland Minister for State Development, call in the unsafe demolition of asbestos riddled houses at 142, 144 & 150 Lytton Road?

In the maze of local government corruption and kickbacks being tabled regularly in Queensland parliament by independent Rob Pyne when will the Crime and Corruption Commission start to investigate the Brisbane City Council? Or is this beyond the CCC and into the realm of direct action?

Civic Cabinet
On Wednesday 30 August 2017 at the Brisbane City Council Civic Cabinet meeting there was an exchange between the two main political parties – Mark Bailey (ALP) on one side, Graham Quirk and Julian Simmonds (LNP) on the other. Bailey said that council had weighted development above community. Quirk told the meeting that ‘we can go back to the old ways’. Quirk claimed a silent majority wants the widening of Lytton Road. Belinda from Lytton Road is Wide Enough said the survey is a lie because only 2,900 people responded (about 6% of those polled) because council was not asking them what they wanted just putting up a proposal that they had already decided upon.

Simmonds replied to Bailey’s criticism claiming that when Deputy Premier Jackie Trad called in the West Village developments she increased the high rise from 16 to 24 stories and departed from the neighbourhood plan in doing so.

Ian Curr
30 Aug 2017

Move forward to 2021

The road is widened, congestion is further up the road as predicted, Gina has moved out and the highrise has begun. Property prices are up, the real estate agents commissions are fat. There is a real danger of riding a bike down through the section which is the subject of this road closure application (pictured) which looks like it’s part of the existing residents fence boundary and perhaps a bungled mistake with the original plot … the surface is uneven, the boundaries irregular and there is always the possibility of a car darting in or out to get onto or off Wynnum Road. Buildings should not be permitted on the foreshore of the river, but the horse has bolted on that one.

Left arrow point to Gina Rineharts old house on Lytton Road and right arrow points to a rich person’s application for a change to their boundary fence.
Further Widening?

Reference
To hear recordings from the BCC Civic Cabinet go to https://soundcloud.com/ian-curr

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