Howard Smith Wharves parkland must stay in the public estate

Principal Petitioner David Reeve, Chapel Hill
Date Closed Wed, 10 Jun 2015 This epetition has ended
No. of signatures 325 signatures

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At the Council Meeting of 21 October 2014, a majority of Councillors voted for Council to enter into a project agreement with HSW Nominees Pty Ltd for the Howard Smith Wharves Revitalisation Project. The primary effect of this agreement is to transfer Council-owned land at the Howard Smith Wharves to a private company by means of a 99-year lease. The idea is to create a mixed commercial and parkland precinct which will be controlled and managed by the private sector, thereby reducing the cost to Council. The intention to transfer land from the public to the private sector needs to be considered against public opinion which, during earlier consultation cycles, has shown a consistent desire for the establishment of parkland.

During question time, the Lord Mayor promised that 80 per cent of the site will be parkland and public open space. The document that was tabled to inform the vote makes no mention of the proportion of the site to be allocated to parkland or how such a lease is to be constructed so that public access is preserved into perpetuity. The Consolidated Form of Lease, a document that could shed some light on the matter, is not in the public domain, and was not tabled at the Council meeting. Thus we have a situation where 18 Councillors voted to transfer public estate into private hands, at a time when there was insufficient information on the table to determine if they were indeed best "representing the current and future interests of the residents of Brisbane".

There are two unique elements of the Howard Smith Wharves precinct that are not being properly valued by Council. The first is the value of the cliffs to the recreational climbing community, and the second is the value of the location as a link in the riverside cycle path. These two elements cannot be duplicated elsewhere, and therefore the precinct will need to service tens of thousands of recreational visitors per annum.

Vague hand waving on the part of the developers with respect to maintaining both access for rock climbing, and efficient connectivity for cyclists, does little to convince us that the outdoor recreation component looms large in the thoughts of those driving this commercial enterprise. The concern for both climbers and cyclists is that, once the deal is done, there will be no mechanism other than the weasel words of a single lease document to distinguish between parkland for public recreation, and "parkland" as a device to ring the cash registers of a private enterprise; an arrangement that will be locked-in for what is essentially perpetuity. By this act, Council will relinquish the rights of the climbing and cycling community to free and fair access.

We hereby petition the Council to reconsider the wisdom of entering into a 99-year lease agreement with HSW Nominees Pty Ltd, at least in so much as it concerns the sequestering of public space. We request that Council act to ensure that future generations of climbers cannot be alienated from the unique recreational features of the Howard Smith Wharves Precinct. In particular, access to the cliff areas, including a setback of 10 metres from the base, needs to be recorded as an indefeasible public right in all transactions Council might make on behalf of the residents of Brisbane. We request that Council act to ensure that future generations of cyclists are not alienated from such public space as is required for a dedicated high-speed path through the precinct. Such a through-way needs to be recorded as an indefeasible public right in all transactions Council might make on behalf of the residents of Brisbane. If Council and its officers believe a 99-year lease can be written that protects the access rights of the public, we request Council to show how such rights are indefeasible in the face of:

a) successional events within HSW Nominees Pty Ltd, e.g. acquisition of the company by another entity

b) corporate collapse of HSW Nominees Ltd, e.g. actions and responsibilities of an administrator

c) activation of a charge over the assets and undertakings of HSW Nominees Pty Ltd by a senior financial investor.

Council response

Dear Petitioners,

Your petition has been investigated and it was considered by Council at its meeting held on 14 June 2016. It was decided that the petitioners be advised of the information below.

Council has already entered into the 99-year lease agreement and that Council retains ownership of the site.