One of the most significant parcels of land in Birkdale has an uncertain future.
250 acres of Commonwealth owned property, adjoining the 150 year old 'Willard' homestead, was once part of an entire pastoral acreage estate.
I first heard a rumour about some changes on 16th January 2015. So, I asked all councillors & the mayor via email if they knew anything.
One said they had not heard any news. Another suggested I call Federal Member for Bowman, Andrew Laming's office, then they rang me to say Andrew's receptionist 'knew nothing'.
On January 19, this article appeared in the Redland City Bulletin, to my surprise.
Since this article appeared in a public forum, and since I had not been informed, despite asking my peers, I wrote an open letter to the three leaders: Mayor, Capalaba MP & Federal Member on Facebook, (which caused a degree of consternation).
Some time after January 21, Wendy Boglary posted a timeline of the previous actions relating to the Birkdale site. There are many reports on the site that RCC have done over many years.
By January 28, Council voted to investigate buying the land from the Commonwealth Government. I kept insisting to officers and councillors that Heritage Issues were a significant feature of the site, since the whole area had remained under single ownership for the majority of the past 150 years, and there was much history on the site. Unfortunately, without a Heritage Policy, Strategy or any professional heritage experts on staff, this was a challenge.
Things remained rather interesting as plans were developed by RCC Officers, with myself as Divisional Councillor requesting a phase of public participation in the form of an 'Enquiry By Design' strategy session. It was my hope that various groups, stakeholders, designers, land use planners & future strategists could consider opportunities & limitations for the site, which could later be taken to the community as a range of 'preferred land use options'.
This was delayed by a few issues and it was ultimately planned to occur in October, when I was planning to attend a Resilient Community Conference in Canada.
Anyway, I was keen to seek community feedback on the site, as mentioned in my July Newsletter.
Then, I heard that new owners had applied for a 'Reconfiguration of Lot' Development Application, which applied for 12 lots to be approved on the site where these historic dwellings have been situated since the 1860's.
Since RCC had no Heritage Listing for the property, Officers were unable to assess the 'Reconfiguration of Lot' request on Heritage grounds. It looked like the house would be razed.
The only opportunity was to apply to the Qld Heritage Council via the State Department of Environment & Heritage Planning. This application process was undertaken by Birkdale Progress Association.
I lobbied the Heritage Department & State MP for Capalaba Don Brown for a Stop Order, which was signed on 16 July, 2015. The Minister's Press Release on July 18, informed residents of their opportunity to make a submission within the statutory time-frame.
The subsequent process of 'Local Community Action' then began in earnest, with an interview on 4BC on August 3. (Here is the 4BC Link).
Redland City Bulletin realised the community sentiment was rising with their article on August 4.
By the time submissions closed, there were many powerful accounts of the heritage value of this land, provided by many local people. There was also a resounding endorsement by the Chief Executive of the Department, supporting the 'Listing' of the property for State Significance.
After several weeks, the Qld Heritage Council arranged a special meeting at which a number of stakeholders & individuals made presentations, including myself.
Surprisingly, instead of listing, the QHC negotiated a 6 month period during which the owner/developers agreed not to demolish the house, on the proviso that the Mayor would work with local stakeholder groups to see if the dwellings could be relocated.
Then in October, a flabbergasting change to the Divisional 10 boundary was instituted, after a number of Redland residents all seemingly agreed on a bizarre reason for taking the Birkdale land out of the jurisdiction of the councillor for Div 10 and placing it within the Capalaba Division 9 boundary... There is an interesting article on the boundary change documented here.
Anyway, I have continued to ask questions about the future of the properties, the land use and the proposed development, however I am aware that as a non-divisional councillor, I do not need to be informed of discussions, conversations, directions or proposals relating to the land (due to state LGOLA Bill changes to legislation in November 2012 [Clause 125, 170A Requests for Assistance or Information by councillors])
In any case, just before Christmas, 2015, Councillors gave a confidential direction to RCC Officers. In February, RCC Officers negotiated the purchase of the Willard Farm in a 7/3 Vote. Cllrs Bishop, Boglary, Elliott, Hardman, Hewlett & Beard were supportive; Cllrs Gleeson, Talty & Williams Against the purchase.
The next council will decide the fate of the farm house.
Council has not yet negotiated the purchase of the Commonwealth Land from ACMA (Australian Communication & Media Authority) &/or (Air Services Australia).
For Residents interested in the heritage & history of Birkdale & Thorneside, you may like www.BirkdaleCommunityHistoryProject.org