Historian Janet Spillman wrote this submission to the Natural Resources Minster Dr. Antony Lynham regarding the Draft Land Management Plan for the ziplines proposal in Mt Coot-tha Forest and the Botanic Gardens.
Mt Coot-tha Zip line
Dear Minister Lynham,
I am writing to you to express my opposition to Brisbane City Council’s proposed change of use for Mt Coot-tha. This forest reserve was given to the people of Brisbane as a recreation reserve and for no other purpose whatsoever, under the terms of the Queensland government’s deed of trust of 1880. As the historian of Mt Coot-tha I have researched and written about the attempts by state governments and council, over the years, to subvert the terms of this deed of trust. The quarry, the Western Freeway, and the television towers have, in my opinion, been inexcusable violations of that deed of trust, and now it seems that Brisbane City Council is determined to privatise our invaluable natural asset with the creation of a commercially owned zip line.
Brisbane and south east Queensland are undergoing rapid development. Unlike the great cities of the world, Brisbane does not have extensive park lands. London has its royal parks, and smaller local parks, New York has Central Park and many other smaller parks. Paris enjoys the Bois de Boulogne. Brisbane used to have its parks, but these have over the years been sold off to developers or given away to sport clubs (and later, sold off to developers). Brisbane used to have houses set in gardens, but those gardens are disappearing as subdivisions for housing. Moreover, ever-larger houses are rebuilt in the house plots. We are fast losing the vegetation that made Brisbane a liveable city. We are now losing the iconic Mt Coot-tha that the Council referred us to when we complained about our loss of green space. All this at a time when Brisbane City Council promotes itself as a green heart city smartcouncil.
The effects of climate change will make us rethink the green spaces we have lost. Will we replace the vegetation once found on Mt Coot-tha with garden walls on our sky scrapers? Will we have to resort to roof gardens on our high rises? How will we deal with the heat island effect of a city like Brisbane which is covering an ever larger area of concrete and bitumen where once we had vegetation? How will we manage the run-off from these man made surfaces into the creeks and rivers, come the next flood? Where is the long term planning to deal with these issues?
Council’s planning for this privatisation has not included real engagement with the Indigenous owners.
Mt Coot-tha, on Council’s own Brisbane City Plan of 2015, as with the SEQ Regional Plan, provides a regional wildlife corridor linking the d’Aguilar Range with the Brisbane River. It provides habitat that ensures the biodiversity of plants and wildlife. Most notably, it provides habitat for the threatened powerful owl; slight changes to the flight path of the zip line and canopy walk will not save the birds and sugar gliders of Mt Coot-tha. The proposals are not compliant with either the SEQ Regional Plan or The Brisbane City Plan (2014).
I am a member of the Wandering Weeders Bush care group, weeding, planting and watering a section of the forest near Chapel Hill and Kenmore. Our group of up to ten people are part of the Habitat Brisbane programme, volunteering every Wednesday morning for this work. We are delighted to see the regeneration that happens once weeds are removed, and know that the many walkers who pass us are aware of the value of our work, and of the forest that we are improving. We have worked very hard at this, over many years, so Council’s destruction of 600 hectares of bush land, 37.5% of the Greater Mt Coot-tha Forest, is a slap in the face.
The proposal will alienate 15.6246 hectares of public parkland for strictly commercial purposes. A much greater area than stated will need to be cleared for fire management and disaster management purposes, scarring the face of a much loved Brisbane icon and removing publicly owned space from the public. Privatisation of a public amenity is further aggravated by the knowledge that Council has granted over a million dollars of rate payers’ money to start this commercial exercise. If the story of Mt Coot-tha’s Planetarium is any predictor of commercial success, the tax payers and rate payers will be giving an annual subsidy to keep the zip line going. We will have to keep paying for our lost forest. We will see parking spaces at the lookout given away to commercial enterprise, we will see the peace and quiet of the Botanic gardens destroyed. We will lose the visual amenity of the area.
No I don’t trust the architects’ drawings of the minimised towers. Brisbane is becoming an ugly unpleasant place. What tourist would come here to look at the same concrete they have back home?
Brisbane City Council has not carried out a cost benefit analysis for this project. We hear about jobs and growth, but of course no quantifiable analysis has been done.
Brisbane City Council has not provided adequate community consultation feedback sessions. Council has spent a lot of energy minimising opportunities for the public to receive information about the project, and to shut down response times. This is a negation of our democratic rights. Our right to know, and our right to protest. We have not been properly consulted about the draft LMP. This draft LMP is incomplete, a first draft that does not adequately address the likely impacts on the whole mountain. It does not offer information about the relevant engineering and safety standards. A second draft should be referred to us, the rate payers and tax payers, for a true consultation process that meets the statutory planning standards. Despite the rushed consultation process, 95.9% of the total 1256 submissions uploaded during the public notification period are opposed to this development. Only 4.1% were in favour of the development. We, the citizens of Brisbane, deserve better.
In view of these facts, I respectfully recommend that the draft Land Management Plan be not accepted, and that no permission be given to the Applicant BCC for a lease to any commercial operator, including Zipline Australia Pty Ltd.
Rainfall in Mt Coot-tha Forest Feb 2018 Image: Mike Robertson
Article Brisbane's breathing space: Mt Coot-tha by well known Brisbane historian, Janet Spillman BA, MPhil.
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Brisbane people know Mt Coot-tha as the place to go for a walk, or to look for birds and other native animals. It has been a favourite picnic spot, and the Lookout gives visitors and locals alike the chance to look across the city to the Scenic Rim. The history of the much-loved recreation area a story of politicians, managers, writers, artists and photographers who protected and interpreted Mt Coot-tha Forest Reserve. A book by Janet Spillman.