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on the river

Volume 5 October 2013

The Brisbane River runs through our veins.

River finally gains attention it deserves For river home owners, there are now plenty of reasons for optimism, if not a little excitement. The Brisbane River is finally getting the attention it deserves, and you can look forward to plenty of ‘flow-on’ benefits. This issue is devoted entirely to the plans and initiatives being put in place to make our river and the precincts along its banks better for everyone, more accessible, more inviting and more rewarding. We have looked closely at council’s new River’s Edge Strategy and concluded it can and should be a real game-changer for Brisbane. Read our thorough analysis, which while noting some potential for missed opportunities and urging caution in places, is by and large very positive. We explain how every step to build a better river ‘brand’ will be positive for

the real estate market. It’s all about creating new recreational and social opportunities – more reasons to live on, use and enjoy the river. Our coverage focuses strongly on infrastructure and transport, because these are the most critical. History tells us that these two factors are what contribute most to building communities. They drive employment, business and retail growth, expand social benefits, and ultimately increase property values. While the River’s Edge Strategy includes many transport and infrastructure initiatives, we have singled out two for individual attention – water taxis and the Howard Smith Wharves precinct.

site, we urge Howard Smith Wharves planners to come up with something truly worthy. The stewardship of our river – the lifeblood that runs through Brisbane’s veins - will take determination, wisdom and skill. We round off this issue with another call for strong centralised leadership. And, of course, we bring you our usual mid-year market wrap, a progress report on how the river market is travelling. You’ll find our assessment on page two. We really value your feedback on the issues raised in on the river. So let us know what you think, and suggest topics you would like to see covered in future issues, at www.dixonfamily. net.au/river-blog.

If you’ll pardon the pun, we ‘hail’ the taxi idea. But our story on water taxis really highlights just how easy it is to have 20-20 vision in hindsight. And, for such a prominent CBD riverfront

In this edition 628 Coronation Drive, Toowong Qld 4066 PHONE 07 3870 2251 FAX 07 3870 5674 info@dixonfamily.net.au www.dixonfamily.net.au

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The precursors to a market lift are in play Valuable course finally charted for river realm Back to the future on water taxis New promise for historic wharf precinct Plan highlights need for leadership


Article by Patrick Dixon

The precursors to a market lift are in play A number of factors have conspired to keep Brisbane’s top-end real estate market, both on and off the river, subdued in 2013. The good news is the clouds are clearing and many of the precursors to growth are coming into play. At this time, we always take a look at how riverfront sales are progressing year to date. The tally so far (see table) is tracking at similar levels to 2012. The bright side is that trophy hunters are still out there, as evidenced by the $5 m+ sales in Tennyson, Hawthorne and New Farm. Still, on the steady climb back from earlier economic and nature-inflicted setbacks, we might have hoped for better. I think it’s safe to say most Queenslanders involved in the real estate, construction and development-related industries will be pleased to put 2013 behind us. Activity has been hampered by a range of circumstances – the continued absorption by our economy of the impact of the 2011 big wet, weakness in some of Queensland’s key economic drivers,

unstable Federal leadership, and an election being called nine months before it would actually happen.

an upturn in agricultural production, and the rebound of tourism on the back of a weaker Aussie dollar.

But we are confident the now clichéd ‘green shoots’ have definitely sprung, and several circumstances are lining up to positively influence the prestige residential and river real estate market.

Looking specifically at the property sector, auction clearance rates, whilst still low in Brisbane, are very high in Sydney and Melbourne, a strong precursor to positive market movement here.

After three years of a minority Federal government, Queenslanders and indeed all Australians are looking forward to some certainty in Canberra, to positive leadership and the implementation of economy-strengthening policies.

Traditionally Brisbane lags the southern markets, so the southern markets, and the healthy performance south of the border is another strong indicator of better times ahead.

It’s probably fair to say top end real estate buyers are more likely to be buoyed by the election result than an alternative outcome. So confidence will spike. In fact, on many measures, it has already. At the same time, we are primed for a market lift. The real estate sector has been subdued now for over five years and, in a traditional seven-year cycle, must be nearing the growth phase. But fundamentals, not just sentiment, must improve for this to happen. Here too, the prospects are positive. Already Queensland is seeing the benefits of the burgeoning coal seam gas industry,

We are already seeing encouraging improvements in demand and activity in the quality mid-market up to $1 million. This will trickle up. Property watchers will also have noted with great interest Sunland Group’s purchase of the prime 1.5ha former ABC site on the river at Toowong for $20 million. Their plan for an upmarket project sends another strong signal the market is headed for growth. So, as memories of 2011 subside, and with the forthcoming implementation of our city’s promising new Brisbane River strategy, the future once again looks bright for riverfront home owners.

2013 Riverfront Sales To Date Settled January February March May

June

July

Suburb Karana Downs Chelmer Corinda Norman Park Bulimba Bulimba Hawthorne Kenmore Westlake Yeronga Chelmer Bulimba Yeronga Westlake Fig Tree Pocket Bulimba Toowong New Farm

Address Atkinson Drive Longman Terrace Dewar Terrace Wendell Street Addison Avenue Addison Avenue (dev. site) Gordon Street Kingfisher Place Westlake Drive Brisbane Corso Sutton Street Waterline Crescent Brisbane Corso Westlake Drive Jesmond Road Waterline Crescent Glen Road Griffith Street

Land Size (m2) 2,002 1,037 1,210 888 536 6,839 442 894 1,465 903 1,752 475 1,014 1,224 750 384 658 962

Sale Price $475,000 $1,150,000 $1,400,000 $3,900,000 $1,150,000 $6,370,000 $3,100,000 $1,580,000 $1,700,000 $1,400,000 $1,875,000 $2,400,000 $1,475,000 $1,435,000 $1,590,000 $2,475,000 $1,300,000 $5,200,000

Kholo

Skyline Drive

28,500

$660,000

Hawthorne Chelmer Tennyson Indooroopilly

Virginia Avenue Queenscroft Street King Arthur Terrace Bridge Street

1,467 1,255 1,915 1,303

$5,010,000 $1,920,000 $5,000,000 $1,517,500

August September

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Valuable course finally charted for river realm Our city at last has a River’s Edge Strategy, an agreed framework to guide plans to enhance the Brisbane River’s recreational and economic development over the next 10 years. A thorough process of consultation and review has delivered guidelines that also promise river-dwellers valuable social and residential benefits. Brisbane City Council’s River’s Edge Strategy began with an invitation to residents, businesses and river users to present ideas for the future of our river. Thousands of responses and ongoing feedback have been distilled into a thorough document that identifies 12 key outcomes aimed at improving access and activity along the river. Under four themes – Place, Play, Connect and Enable – a suite of potential projects is suggested to encourage residents, commercial enterprises and tourists to make better use of the Brisbane River and its edges.

Worth the wait As outspoken advocates for the

Brisbane River and its riverside neighbourhoods for many years, we believe such a strategy has been long overdue. Thankfully, this comprehensive document was worth the wait. We congratulate Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, Neighbourhood Planning and Development Assessment Committee chair Amanda Cooper, and the River’s Edge team for a very thorough and innovative plan. The critical thing now will be to enact it successfully, with strong and decisive leadership and authority. The River’s Edge Strategy should certainly be successful in achieving council’s objectives of further establishing and promoting a distinctive river ‘brand’ for Brisbane, which is crucial, and opening the door for new river-related opportunities. As the document so rightly states: “Brisbane is the River City. Our river is a defining element of our city’s identity.”

almost every initiative. Building on the well-recognised RiverWalk identity, we will have RiverRest and RiverStop places, a RiverParks programme, RiverConnect, RiverLink, RiverLoops, and perhaps even RiverHub, a consolidated public marina and tourism boat terminal. River, River, River! This is worthwhile for so many reasons – tourism marketing and civic pride chief among them. From a residential property perspective, growing the river brand will also have a very positive market impact. As is the case for all products, better brand = better prices. The River’s Edge Strategy is set to facilitate new recreational and social opportunities on and around the river. This too is great news for the river property market. The more reasons to live on the river, the greater demand will be for river property. More demand = better prices.

Brand adds value

Reaches on the outer

Creating and reinforcing the river’s identity helps promote the value of the river, and increase awareness of it.

Our only disappointment with the strategy (as foreshadowed in our last report) is it only applies to the inner reaches from St Lucia and Dutton Park to Hamilton and Bulimba.

This strategy leads by example proposing a number of new river labels, branding

cont...page 4

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Benefits of river brand to flow

continued from page 3

All the excellent consultation and creativity, with little more cost or effort, could easily have been extended to encompass the entire river. We understand why the central reaches are vital in the quest for tourism appeal but, for Brisbane residents, the inner circle is only part of the river. In two previous editions of on the river, we lamented the fact middle and outer suburbs are missing out on social infrastructure while the inner suburbs always reap the benefits of government attention. Residents and river users in the Centenary suburbs, Fig Tree Pocket, Indooroopilly, Eagle Farm and Colmslie pay rates too. Enough said. While the inner reaches are the focus, the benefits of an enhanced river brand will flow much more widely. So let’s look at some of the positive opportunities presented by our new River’s Edge Strategy.

Project potential It identifies a range of potential projects and labels them as either short-term (up to 2 years to realise), medium-term (2-5 years) or long-term (6-10 year) possibilities. Most people will appreciate that major infrastructure projects may have to wait until governments at all levels loosen the reins on expenditure. But, as identified, there are many “immediate opportunities” that can

community hotspots, adding muchneeded revenue for amateur sporting organisations.

In our February 2013 edition, we pointed to the wealth of ideal infrastructure available in community recreation lease areas, assets that sit idle waiting for bureaucratic chains to be released.

There is so much cause for optimism in the River’s Edge Strategy, including a second chance to find the right solution for the landmark Howard Smith Wharves precinct, and the recognition at long last that Brisbane needs water taxi services for ondemand passenger transport (see separate stories in this issue).

Sailing clubs at South Brisbane’s Orleigh Park and Bulimba, and the rowing sheds at West End, St Lucia and East Brisbane could quickly be converted to become local

Major attractions

One very exciting idea that has our enthusiastic support is to expand

Kangaroo Point’s growing adventure precinct by establishing a cross-river flying fox (zip line) from the cliffs to the City Botanic Gardens. This would indeed be a unique tourist attraction for our city with a definite ‘wow!’ factor. It surely would be a “transformative project”. So, good on council for its new commitment to enhancing Brisbane River recreation and economic development opportunities and, in doing so, also improving its residential and lifestyle amenity and value. The full document can be viewed at www. brisbane.qld.gov.au.

The strategy recommends more lighting of major riverside paths and parks.

be instigated now at little or no cost to the ratepayer. These include more riverside eating and drinking establishments, removal of regulatory barriers and red tape, providing comprehensive river-related information and mapping, lighting of major riverside parks and paths, and RiverStop places for public access to and interaction with the river.

Tread carefully Other projects, like the proposed network of landings for non-motorised watercraft and short-term mooring sites for recreational vehicles, will require much more thought, planning and money. Here council will need to balance its desire for the Brisbane River to be a transport corridor with their goal for it to also be a sporting and recreation hub. Rowing crews and kayaks already find it very difficult to

4 // on the river

We are also delighted to see ideas previously advanced in on the river have been adopted in the strategy, particularly regards providing more eating and drinking precincts along its banks.

contend with the size, speed and wake of the CityCats. Perhaps aspirations for more non-motorised watercraft facilities should be moved upstream.

Don’t mention the mangroves!

And, when it comes to short-term berths for pleasure boats, strong tidal flow, tidal height differentials, and the need to ensure facilities are floodproof make this a big challenge.

Dare we address the elephant in the room … that old chestnut … mangroves, the mention of which is conspicuous by its absence from Brisbane City Council’s River’s Edge Strategy?

The proposed extension of the RiverWalk pedestrian and cycle network has widespread public support. But it will require sensitive design. Extending RiverWalk along the East Brisbane stretch in particular will need to be addressed very carefully to ensure hard concrete surfaces on both sides of the river don’t give it the appearance of a giant drain.

Great ideas The suggestion of more pedestrian/ cycle bridges, mooted for highdemand areas in the CBD and at West End-St Lucia, is an excellent initiative. It effectively doubles the number of people who can easily access infrastructure on each side of the river, broadening people’s housing and lifestyle options with access to both the banks.

The document is completely silent on the subject of mangroves. We can only hope this indicates council may finally be willing to balance other vital interests with that of a plant which historically did not grow along our city and suburban reaches. While fully supportive of the vital role mangroves play in helping to stablise the banks and provide fish habitat, we have always been very outspoken on the need for their effective management. For years we have lobbied for a commonsense approach to allow residents to trim rampant and encroaching trees. The flood temporary alleviated the problem by killing large tracts. But, they remain as invasive as ever. Rapid growth has already started, so it won’t be long before views from riverside parks are obliterated again.

The State Government clearly acknowledges the problem because it has given tenants of its own complex at South Bank Parklands the right to trim and manage mangroves to maintain view lines.

This opportunity should be extended equally to all businesses and residents, with predetermined guidelines laid down in the strategy.

on the river // 5


Article by Patrick Dixon

Article by Jack Dixon

Back to the future on water taxis

New promise for historic wharf precinct

It’s been said ‘everything old is new again’, and the phrase certainly applies to one ‘transformative project’ encouraged by council’s new River’s Edge Strategy. Brisbane had water taxis 14 years ago. Council shut them down, and now we want them back.

Historic Howard Smith Wharves, on the north bank under the Story Bridge, have been off limits since the 2011 flood. Now plans for this landmark site have been reactivated, holding out the promise of an even better riverside recreation and tourism asset.

In an excellent move, council has signaled its intention to “facilitate the establishment of water taxi services for on-demand passenger transport across and along the river.” This will be done, it says, by acting to “enable pickup/drop off access to selected ferry terminals, where this does not interfere with ferry operations.” If only this vision had their support in the past. I wrote about water taxis on the Brisbane River more than 14 years ago. In 1999, we reported on “an enterprising chap whose fledgling Brisbane River Taxis business was gaining a growing customer base among tourists and locals wanting

river transport on call.” Sadly, four years later and almost exactly a decade ago, I published another story headlined “Authorities Miss the Boat on Water Taxis”. That operator had been forced to abandon his operation because he was denied access to public ferry facilities for landing and boarding. In August 2003, I wrote: “In recent decades, our city leaders have promoted a revitalisation of the river – encouraged appealing residential, leisure and business developments along its banks – and we celebrate its success. Yet they apparently discourage those who would make the most of its opportunities.” How refreshing to see that blinkered view reversed. After all, Sydney and Melbourne commuters and visitors have had the benefit of a range of on-water cab services for years. It is an opportunity and a service we have been missing for far too long. As we contended so long ago, water taxis will add an extra dimension

to our city, and to its tourism and hospitality industries. They will also be a tremendous lifestyle attraction for the Brisbane community and riverside residents. Of course, authorities will need to ensure licensed vessels meet a high safety standard, have no negative environmental impact, and that vessel design ensures minimum disturbance to the river bank and other river users. But it can be done. So let’s make it happen sooner rather than later. The River’s Edge Strategy lists the introduction of water taxis as a ‘transformative project’ but is unclear on the expected timeframe for delivery. Surely, if there are any savvy operators out there ready to grab this opportunity, it could happen quite quickly. Water taxis will certainly be a convenient and highly appealing way for residents and visitors to see the sights and access the extensive riverside facilities that are increasingly adding life to our city.

Redevelopment of the prime 3.4 hectare Howard Smith Wharves site had been on council’s agenda since 2009. Their first proposal for the site was rejected by the community, and a later scaled-back version ended up being blocked by the former Labor state government following the site’s inundation in 2011. Cynics among us might suggest their scuttling of council’s plan was more for political than good planning reasons. But we hope the outcome will nevertheless be positive, resulting in a design that is more sensitively drawn for both flood resilience and heritage regard. With support from their now LNP state colleagues, Brisbane City Council has invited new proposals from developers to revitalise the

precinct as “a world-class riverfront destination”, on the proviso at least 80 per cent of the site is kept as open space. Proposals, which may include a boutique hotel, restaurants, shops, offices and community facilities, will be accepted until October 16. The Howard Smith Wharves were constructed in the 1930s in conjunction with the Story Bridge, and provided a bustling cargo facility until the 1960s. In 1941-42, five air-raid shelters were built below the cliff face. They remain Brisbane’s most intact group of shelters. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has promised the heritage value of the site (listed on the Queensland Heritage Register) will be protected, with the current sheds, buildings, air-raid shelters and wharves to be preserved. It will also provide a new public riverside parkland and reinstate a missing link in the pedestrian and cycle path connecting the city with the new $72 million RiverWalk to New Farm (due to be finished mid-2014). No timeframe has been yet set for the parkland component, as it depends on the outcome of the ‘Request for Proposals’ process.

It is also worth noting, the Howard Smith Wharves site is further identified by council in the new River’s Edge Strategy as a possible location for a future “RiverHub” public marina and boat terminal. Some wharf and site rehabilitation has already gone ahead. In 2010, the cliffs surrounding the wharves underwent stabilisation for public safety, and to protect the air-raid shelters, which had at times been damaged by falling rocks. Minor repairs to two heritage buildings were completed in February 2011, but the other wharf buildings remain derelict. A new 170-metre long timber wharf was completed beneath the Story Bridge in March this year. The draft local plan for the precinct (amendments to the New Farm and Teneriffe Hill Local Plans needed to facilitate the redevelopment) has been endorsed by Council and sent to the state government for review. We agree with Cr Quirk that this site is just too important to Brisbane to be left derelict by the river. As he says, we have an opportunity to create a great new outdoor space integrated with commercial facilities that will bring more tourists and enhance our lifestyle. Let us just hope our designers and developers put forward some truly innovative and distinctive proposals worthy of one of our city’s most significant and prominent river sites.

Water taxis have been a convenient service on Sydney’s waterways for years.

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Artist impressions of the Howard Smith Wharves parklands. Brisbane City Council / Foter.

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Plan highlights need for leadership What the River’s Edge Strategy really highlights is the need for leadership. Now all three levels of government – council, state and federal – are singing from the same political song sheet, the matter of who’s in charge of the river must be resolved once and for all. Readers may recall we last year called for a single Brisbane River authority to be established – one to take charge of all things to do with the river.

We now contend the Brisbane City Council has demonstrated by its actions, particularly the repair of the river zone after the flood, it is the most eminently qualified body to take the helm. Its authority should cover everything from the low water mark to the riparian boundary. This would include fishing, boating, transport, environmental matters, riparian amenity, pontoon approvals, and all riverside parks and infrastructure, as well as council’s traditional roles of building approvals, drainage, and the like. The River’s Edge Strategy recommends, as a ‘transformative project’ it “continues the Brisbane River Working Group, a cross-government and major stakeholder working group to develop policy initiatives along the river and provide strategic advice for implementation of this strategy.” It further proposes that, in the short to medium term, the regulatory framework be to “ensure that appropriate proposals on the river proceed in an efficient timeframe.” Let’s apply this across the board, not just to the existing council bureaucracy.

Brisbane City Council's river vision

The River’s Edge Strategy does not exist in isolation. In fact the document itself lists a plethora of other plans that come into play – the Brisbane Economic Development Plan, Long Term Infrastructure Plan,

Cr. Amanda Cooper, as Chair of BCC's Neighbourhood Planning and Development Assessment Committee, has joined Lord Mayor Graham Quirk in playing a strong leadership role to deliver the strategy.

City Plan, FloodSmart Future Strategy, WaterSmart Strategy, Transport Plan and Active Transport Strategy … and that’s just at the local level! As we have also previously advocated, now that we have this excellent plan, it needs someone with the ability and authority to be personally responsible for its implementation, someone who can drive it, cut through red tape, and get results.

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


On the River “Volume 5″