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Volume 1 September 2011

The Brisbane River runs through our veins.

River brand revival Brisbane’s destructive summer flood seriously damaged our river’s ‘brand’, eroding so many positive images and experiences with its devastating torrent. Like our homes and infrastructure, our river brand must be rebuilt – higher, stronger and better than ever. Thanks to former Lord Mayors, Sallyanne Atkinson who kick-started the river renaissance in the 1980s, and Jim Soorley who saw the river vision and raised it, the Brisbane River is our city’s iconic brand. Over three decades, the image of the Brisbane River was elevated and enhanced. It became the focus of our city, our lifestyle centrepiece. We turned to face it and embrace it. Its reputation improved so dramatically, a Brisbane River address became the most prized. We became the “River City”. And we were proud to be so. Now, we feel slightly uncomfortable claiming that title, as though the words themselves are an unwelcome reminder. That must change.

to rebuild it better and stronger than ever. To that end, the pages of this report are filled with possibilities. Having had some spare time during my sabbatical from real estate practice, I put a few of my ideas down on paper and sent them off to Brisbane Marketing and the Brisbane City Council. I quickly received an enthusiastic personal phone call from Brisbane Marketing chairman, Ian Klug. But it seems I then hit a wall of bureaucracy. Subsequent letters from the administration of both the BCC and its subsidiary economic development agency, Brisbane Marketing, were filled with nothing other than reasons why the initiatives can’t be done. Read about the ideas here – a proposal to tell our epic story on the big screen, and one to turn a Brisbane landmark into one of its greatest river attractions. I’m sure you’ll agree, if there was a genuine will by council, the State Government and their tourism, events and economic development units – these promising ideas could be brought to fruition. 

I believe the river brand can, with a bit of creativity, commonsense and initiative, be quickly revived. We can embrace this post-flood period as an opportunity

Table of contents River brand revival . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 1 River market wash-up. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 2 Property owners need answers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 3 628 Coronation Drive, PO Box 792, Toowong Qld 4066 Ph 07 3870 2251 Fax 07 3870 5674 E info@dixonfamily.net.au

www.dixonfamily.net.au

Tourism gold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 4 Blockbuster idea. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 6 Reclaim river beauty. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 7 The Tradition Lives on. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 8


Wait to assess river market wash-up by Patrick Dixon

Nationwide, there is a heightened level of caution when it comes to spending. Economic confidence is fragile in volatile times. Add the impact of Brisbane’s summer of sorrow, and it’s no surprise the market for prestige real estate is in a holding pattern.

dramatic for many more than just those who were actually inundated.

When economists suggested the rebuilding after Queensland’s floods would provide a short-term economic boost, I was aghast. How could they think spending on repairs would come near to compensating for the huge hit we took?

They were later sold for $1.4m (-36%) and $2.7m (-25%) respectively. Another pre-flood contract at $1.85m for a Brisbane Corso, Fairfield house failed and the house later sold for $1.5m (-19%). These show an immediate average reduction in value of 26%.

Look at Brisbane’s CBD alone. Our professional and financial services precinct, the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ around Eagle Street, was knocked out for weeks and weeks. Major legal, accounting and stockbroking firms were crippled, unable to generate any billable hours because communication systems were down. Consider the impact of that massive loss of income, while they still had to bear all their usual overheads plus huge repair bills on top. The partners in these firms are in no mood for upgrading their homes or boosting their mortgages. They’ll be shell-shocked for at least 12 months. Some 3,000 businesses in Brisbane were directly affected by the flood. The impact then passes on to probably another 10,000 businesses that service or supply them. And so on down the food chain. The financial, not to mention emotional impact, is

There have been few sales of flood-affected riverfront homes. I know of two properties in Sutton Street, Chelmer that were under contract before the flood, one for $2.2m, the other for $3.6m. Both sales fell over.

At the same time, there has been a general downturn in the prestige residential market, seemingly unrelated to the flood and not limited to Brisbane. We have seen all the major top end markets receding, including the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.

If the level of Wivenhoe Dam is dropped to 75 per cent of its capacity, what level will the water rise to if we have another rainfall event of the magnitude we experienced in January 2011?

Now we are also hearing the dam operation manuals haven’t been updated since they were written in the seventies, despite all the new technology that must be available.

That’s one of the most basic questions people in floodaffected suburbs want answered.

Specific modelling must be done based on updated operational guidelines and the dam levels recommended when prolonged wet weather is predicted.

We know the scope of the flood inquiry is massive, covering half the state and looking into so many tragic aspects of a whole series of events. That’s vital.

The Joint Flood Taskforce reported in March this year that all of the peak flood levels recorded in January along the Brisbane River were higher than the existing Brisbane City Council’s Defined Flood Level and the Q100 (one in 100 year probability) scale. Significant work was required to review Brisbane’s Q100, the report said.

Number of Sales in Upmarket Suburbs Compared with River Sales

You have to wonder what modelling they used to calculate the flood level definition in the first place. Was it based on Wivenhoe Dam being at 75 per cent capacity, or 100 per cent, or 150 per cent?

Now all attention is on the $15m flood inquiry by Justice Catherine Homes. The interim report handed down on August 1 seemed to raise more questions than it answered. (see story opposite) Of course, this first report focused weather forecasting, warnings, disaster management and emergency response concerns, rather than property issues. The best outcome of the inquiry would be a finding that flood protection was poorly managed and, if done properly, we could be saved from a flood of this scale.

Initial recommendations included in the interim report would seem to suggest there is a great deal of room for improvement in the operations of Wivenhoe Dam, although Seqwater naturally claims otherwise.

A flooded riverfront home in Sutton St, Chelmer was under contract in 2010 for $2.2 million, contract crashed and re sold for $1.4 million in 2011.

I don’t think anyone will truly be able to confidently predict the potential effects of flood on river property until this commission hands down its final report, due in February next year. 

by Jack Dixon

can’t blame people for being confused.

That notwithstanding, the flood has had a real impact. It won’t be until 2012 that we’ll be able to gauge the real effect on the values of flooded properties. On the bright side, if your property didn’t go under, the market can be fairly sure it is unlikely to ever flood.

This would certainly give the owners and buyers of quality real estate more confidence that the flood of 2011 was an aberration unlikely to occur again.

page 2

Lots of questions – property owners need answers

But we also have to realise there are thousands of worried homeowners in suburb after suburb who just want some answers so they can get on with their lives. It is impossible to glean from the first flood inquiry report what impact implementing its recommendations will have on a particular piece of property. If the dam level is dropped to 75 per cent before a big wet, where would the water rise to in Leybourne Street, Chelmer? How high will it be along the Brisbane Corso at Fairfield or in Mill Street, Goodna? Owners, buyers and real estate agents need some clarity so the market can find a new level and people can make informed financial decisions for their future. When the 75 per cent figure is mentioned, plenty of people are wondering 75 per cent of what – of the water supply capacity or of the total capacity, including the flood compartment. On January 12, SEQ Water was quoted saying Wivenhoe was sitting at 190 per cent capacity, so you

If all these latest recommendations from the flood inquiry are implemented, what will be the effect in a different type of event, for example like 1974 when a low pressure system settled over the catchment and it rained for weeks on end? continued on page 8 

Snapshot - Riverfront Sales Year to Date Suburb

Locality

M2

2011

$.M

Bulimba

Quay St

616

Jan

2.37

Quay St

781

Mar

3.5

Chelmer

Laurel Av

2,254

Feb

5.5

Sutton St

1,752

Mar

2.7

Sutton St

1,214

Mar

1.4

Tennyson

109 King Arthur Tce

1,091

Jan

2

21 King Arthur Tce

572

Apr

2.75

Fairfield

Brisbane Corso

991

Mar

1.5

Fig Tree Pocket

Jesmond Rd

750

Apr

2.7

Moggill

Priors Pocket Rd

40,000

May

1.2

Kangaroo Point

Hamilton St

607

Jan

3.15

Highgate Hill

Fraser St

835

Jun

2.1 page 3


Tourism gold beneath Indooroopilly bridge When Walter Taylor sank a test hole for the Indooroopilly Toll Bridge, he struck “one of the richest gold lodes ever found in Australia”.1 There’s still gold – tourism gold – to be found beneath this 1930s landmark.

Accommodation in both towers

partnership. Such PPP models work very successfully at council’s St Lucia and Victoria Park golf courses. Another exciting prospect looms above, in the unique residential spaces. Imagine the pulling-power of oneof-a-kind accommodation units towering over the Brisbane River in a pylon of Australia’s longest span suspension bridge! Backpackers would flock to it or, better still, well-heeled local and international romantics, hungry for unique experiences. After all, who isn’t curious about the pylon flats and wouldn’t jump at the chance to see inside? It’s an attraction the likes of which no other city in the world can claim – unique, intriguing, rich in heritage value. We don’t need to build new icons, just use the ones we have.

Function Rooms

It is a ‘golden’ tourism opportunity Brisbane can’t ignore and, I believe, one of which Walter Taylor would approve.

Take a leaf out of Walter’s book

Kiosk

Abundant dining under voluminous arch

Realize Walter Taylor’s vision at no cost to ratepayers

The golden opportunity involves creating a new Brisbane tourist and leisure destination at the southern pylon of the Walter Taylor Bridge by returning it to its former glory as a recreation mecca. Queensland’s heritage register describes the bridge as significant for many reasons, not the least its unique incorporation of residential accommodation. The citation also says “the southern pylon also housed a kiosk and boathouse beneath road level, catering for summer visitors to the then popular Chelmer sands.” A licensed café, kiosk, boat launching facilities, reception centre and even the once sandy beach (decimated by river dredging) should be reinstated via a public-private page 4

In the title of the book detailing his achievements, Taylor is rightly described as “The Remarkable Walter Taylor”. Penned by his grandson, Noel Davis, and published by the Oxley-Chelmer History Group, the book profiles one of Brisbane’s most enterprising figures, a man of vision and drive who contributed enormously to our city’s development. Taylor built so many landmarks – the Sherwood and Graceville Methodist Churches and ornate Presbyterian Church on Wickham Terrace, Invicta House in Edward Street, buildings at Somerville House, Churchie, BBC and the Brisbane General Hospital. His “crowning achievement” though was the suspension bridge from Chelmer to Indooroopilly, integral to Brisbane’s progress and a vital link to Ipswich. Around 1925, Taylor submitted designs and sought approval. But, at the depth of the depression, the government had no money and deemed it a job for private enterprise. Undaunted, Taylor persevered. By 1931, he had an agreement with the government and, with fellow directors W.H. Green and W.T. Smilie, he registered Indooroopilly Toll Bridge Ltd and set about raising the vast capital needed. The gold discovery story is true. In 1932, while sinking the first test hole, gold ore was struck and assays

proved the content of roughly 70 grams to the tonne was richer than most of the nation’s operational gold mines. But Taylor wasn’t going to let a small thing like a fortune of gold stand in the way of his bridge. He simply secured a mining license (presumably to prevent others staking a claim) and used a considerable amount of the gold-laden stone in the pylon foundations! There are so many more fascinating bridge stories that could be told through themed displays in the new café and facilities.

The pre-flood pontoon replaced and spacious picnic style grounds re-established

Visitors can learn about the cables, the very ones that held the Sydney Harbour Bridge in place during construction. They can see historic photos of the 1936 bridge opening and glimpse the lives of tollkeepers whose descendents occupied the pylon apartments until just last year.

Tolls were charged until the bridge was handed over to the Brisbane City Council in 1965. The Chelmer side is bounded by a council park, including a pontoon. So the way is clear for council to usher in a new era for this landmark and realise the huge potential our Walter Taylor Bridge still has for social and economic benefit. 1 The Great Weekend,, February 8, 1986, Ken Blanch

The remarkable Walter Taylor On Valentine’s Day this year, to coincide with the diamond (75th) anniversary of the opening of the Walter Taylor Bridge, a book on the life its namesake was released. Written by Walter Taylor’s grandson, Noel Davis, The Remarkable Walter Taylor has been published by OxleyChelmer History Group Inc., with support from the Brisbane City Council and Sherwood Services Club. In officially launching the book, Queensland Governor Penny Wensley urged people to learn more about this “truly remarkable man” by reading what she described as “both a comprehensive historical record and an irresistibly charming account of (the author’s) grandfather’s life and works.” To obtain a copy of the book, call the Oxley-Chelmer History Group, 3379 1967. 

page 5


Blockbuster idea to put Brisbane on world map

Chance to reclaim river beauty

If Slumdog Millionaire can make Mumbai’s unsanitary Dharavi slum district one of the world’s ‘must do’ tourist destinations, imagine what the movies can do for Brisbane! Think Salzberg and Sound of Music, Florence and A Room with a View … Casablanca!

Readers of my previous reports will know I’ve pursued two major issues for years – the upstream invasion of saltwater mangroves, and the unnecessary proliferation of pontoons. I don’t give up! The flood has provided the ideal opportunity to finally fix both problems.

I’ve been trying to convince our tourism and destination-marketing leaders to urgently take steps towards the production of a film that will grab the international limelight.

This project has incredible potential to turbo-charge Brisbane tourism. We already have our very own story rivalling any of Hollywood’s most heroic legends. All we need is for our peak promotional bodies to sponsor a cracking screenplay to attract serious film industry attention and investment.

Here is a man who joined the Royal Navy as an 11-year-old boy. Barely 21, he commanded a voyage across the world to Van Diemen’s Land. In less than a decade, he rose to be Surveyor General of the Colonies. In 1823, his search for a suitable place for a penal settlement led him to Moreton Bay. This is where the story unfolds – John Oxley sailing our beautiful coastline and bay, the Gold Coast, Stradbroke Island. He finds shipwrecked former convicts Pamphlett and Finnegan (David Wenham? Redcliffe-born actor William McGuinness?) on Bribie Island. They make their way up the Brisbane River. What a showcase! And what a yarn!

Oxley was a larger-than-life risk taker. He was engaged to Elizabeth McArthur until her father discovered the extent of his debts. But there is plenty more lust and romance to fill the screen. He had two sons by Emma Norton, whom he married in 1821 (Cate Blanchett as the long-suffering wife?), but not before having three daughters by two other women! Our hero died at just 45 – a short but incredible life! What a brilliant movie it would make. And what a fantastic vehicle to showcase the spectacular, unique landscape we take for granted here in southeast Queensland. Kyoto may have been Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868, but those facts never attracted as many tourists as poured into the city after Memoirs of a Geisha.

Russell Crowe, the perfect John Oxley

Our hero is John Oxley, naval officer, surveyor, adventurer and explorer (a role for Russel Crowe, if ever there was one!). Our plot centres around his discovery of the Brisbane River. Typically, we Australians underplay the scale and excitement of our history. Hollywood wouldn’t hesitate to elevate Oxley and his exploits to deservedly epic proportions.

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New Zealand’s tourism industry was in the doldrums before Lord of the Rings sent it skyrocketing. Scotland never saw so many visitors as were lured by Braveheart. This is a serious proposal and I have offered every assistance I can to advance the idea. But all I get are bureaucratic brush-offs. Oh, they did kindly offer, when I get to pre-production stage, after I’ve stumped up for the screenplay, script, producer, etc., to help with “facilitation of locations …. given the benefit for the region.” 

A view on mangroves that will last Saltwater mangroves, which traditionally grew only as far up river as the Hamilton Reach, have crept all the way to Redbank, probably due to dredging, blocking river views. For many riverfront residents and users of riverside parks, there has been at least one positive flood outcome. Beloved views, long obscured, suddenly appeared when walls of mangroves, some 3-4 storeys high, were mown down by the torrent. I have always recognised and promoted the vital role mangroves play, helping stabilise banks and providing leaf litter for fish habitat. But they don’t need to be the size of a block of flats to do it! Apparently, we are paying the price for having a decent port. Because so many mangroves were removed to build the new port at the river mouth, Qld Fisheries bureaucrats zealously guard every tree elsewhere to balance the ledger – even as they rapidly obliterated views from public parks. Council negotiated with the DPI to allow them to trim and manage mangrove growth in public areas. But no such concession for riverfront owners. No-one, certainly not Council, is advocating the same commonsense approach be extended to private property. With much of the problem temporarily swept away by the flood, this issue may not get the traction it deserves. But the saltwater mangroves will rise again. Something must be done now so traditional views are not yet again blocked by this manmade phenomenon.

If pontoons don’t float your boat… While on the subject of manmade problems, here’s another rod council made for our backs. Unintentionally, maybe. But a problem that must be rectified. I know from speaking with riverfront owners, many installed a pontoon only because the Landing Code introduced by the Soorley council in 2000 meant that, if your neighbour installed one first, you may lose your right to do so. That Landing Code caused an avalanche of pontoon applications, many from owners only doing it to protect

Flood-affected mangroves reveal river view promise.

their riparian rights. Probably 80% of pontoons that clutter the river are never used. They can be visually unattractive and, in the flood, many proved dangerous. If you enjoy the use of a pontoon for recreation, that’s fantastic. We are all for people making the most of the beautiful riverfront environment. But if a pontoon isn’t integral to your lifestyle, you shouldn’t feel compelled to have one. Council still has the opportunity to amend this poorly conceived policy so hundreds of the pontoons washed down the river don’t need to be replaced. I wrote to them about this, but seem unable to make any headway. Finally they suggested my only avenue was to lodge a submission next time there is a town planning review.

I’d call that burying their heads in the sand! Why is it that commonsense can’t be applied in these areas of administration? In the wake of the flood, the State Government and BCC have had (and still have) the opportunity to take a fresh look at mangrove management, the Landing Code and alternative forms of river access, eg. slipways, jetties and hydraulic cranes. They can act to reclaim riverside amenity, rid our river of unnecessary and unsightly pylons, manage mangroves and, in doing so, achieve a balance of access, views and a sustainable riparian environment. Unless they do, this is a another opportunity lost.

 page 7


The tradition lives on

River book gift flows on

Dixon, a name long synonymous with quality Brisbane property, is once again at the forefront of real estate service.

In 2004, Patrick Dixon channelled his extensive knowledge of the Brisbane River into a lifegiving project. He wrote and published 150 Years of Brisbane River Housing, donating all proceeds to cancer research.

Patrick Dixon is one of the real estate industry’s most respected identities, highly regarded for his professionalism, integrity and business acumen. Prodigious market knowledge, attentive service and innovative marketing were the hallmarks of the independent agency he founded in 1987. Recognised with repeated peak industry awards, he has also been a passionate advocate for Brisbane and an avid campaigner on environment and lifestyle issues, particularly those relating to the river. This spirit shines through the pages of his book, 150 years of Brisbane River Housing, the proceeds of which benefit the Mater Medical Research Institute. Since selling his earlier agency business some years ago, Patrick has been in demand as a strategic business and property advisor. He now returns to the front line of real estate service, partnering with son Jack Dixon in Dixon Family Estate Agents. As a qualified solicitor, previously with HopgoodGanim Lawyers, Jack worked for a number of years in property law gaining exceptional grounding and experience. His professional focus, attention to detail and legal expertise add a unique and valuable dimension. The tradition of professionalism and performance – a tradition built on real service and know-how, vast experience, and innovative thinking – lives on here in this dynamic new family business. 

Patrick’s River book is a magnificent coffee table volume telling the story of Brisbane’s unique residential riverscape. All sales benefit the Mater Medical Research Institute (MMRI). It explores the influences, social economic and environmental, that shaped our unique riverfront architecture and development. Filled with fascinating tales and stunning images, River is a fine addition to any book collection and a memorable souvenir of our city.

The MMRI still has copies available. Telephone 3136 2555. Email bill.maddock@mmri.mater.org.au. continued from page 3

low pressure system settled over the catchment and it rained for weeks on end? People wondering whether to stay or go, sell or buy, repair or renovate are still searching for answers. We only hope the final report of the flood commission of inquiry, due next February, will provide more information for property owners. It is expected to look at issues of insurance and land use, including whether some homes will always flood in major rain events, regardless of mitigation efforts. 

When it comes to the Brisbane River, we wrote the book.

page 8


On the River "Volume 1"