South-east Queensland’s population is predicted to surge by more than 2 million people within the next two decades and residents living between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast are already feeling the escalating housing pressures.
- Research finds Moreton Bay would need to build another 88,000 homes to accommodate a population surge
- The growth is sparking concerns about a lack of infrastructure and damage to the natural environment
- Experts say there needs to be a greater focus on community involvement in the planning stages
The Moreton Bay region is one of the fastest growing in south-east Queensland, according to a Queensland government research paper.
It is home to 470,000 residents, making it the third largest council in Australia.
The trend has no sign of slowing with the ShapingSEQ report forecasting an additional 240,000 residents will call the Moreton Bay region home by 2036.
The research found Moreton Bay would need to build another 88,000 homes to accommodate the population surge.
Critical infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals, along with the natural environment, have already felt the strain of population growth, with community groups reporting much of it is already at capacity.
The surge has sparked growing anxiety among the region’s long term residents, who fear proposed nearby, high-density developments could threaten their lifestyle and place further pressure on already overwhelmed infrastructure.
Planning experts said part of the solution might lie in ensuring developers’ infrastructure contributions were better targeted.
‘Horrendous’ traffic a sign of growing pains
The Presley family live at The Hideaway — a quiet, semi-rural housing estate in Burpengary East — where blocks average about 2,000 square metres in size.
Rebecca Presley said for the past 15 years the family had enjoyed the freedom of a semi-rural lifestyle, while still living close to amenities.
“We love the bush,” she said.
“We love the trees, and that we have a bit of space to live in rather than just a tiny block of land.”
Her two sons attend the local primary school less than 4 kilometres away.
It is a drive that should take five minutes, but it can sometimes take 15.
She and other local residents fear the nightmare could be about to get worse, with two small lot developments planned across the road.
The proposed estate will have 326 homes, with block sizes ranging from 400 to 600sqm.
“Where are these people going to shop, where are these people going to go to school?” Ms Presley said.
“There’s been no discussion on how they’re going to fix all the traffic bottlenecks in the area.”
Leah Campbell also lives at The Hideaway estate and has spearheaded a local action group opposing the development, arguing it was inappropriate for the area.
“To go from half an acre to 400sqm is just ridiculous,” Ms Campbell said.
“We’re obviously concerned about the increased density, potential for increased crime, the impact it’s going to have on our schools, the impact on the roads.”
Concerns for vulnerable wildlife
Ms Campbell said she also had grave concerns for the local wildlife.
While the developments have been approved by the Moreton Bay Regional Council, the area is a known koala habitat and still requires the Queensland government’s tick of approval.
The Powerful Owl — listed as vulnerable by Birdlife Australia — also nests in nearby trees and has increasingly been recorded in suburban areas.
Ms Campbell fears tree clearing to make way for new developments will force the birds out of their habitat.
“They feed on the possums and all those types of animals and if they’re pushed out of the area, there’ll be less of a food source for the Powerful Owl,” Ms Campbell said.
But the area’s proximity to public transport, schools and shops means it is ripe for future urban development.
Moreton Bay Regional Council Mayor, Councillor Peter Flannery, said the area has been “on the path” to urbanisation for some time.
“It’s just the process of addressing the concerns of residents who have lived there for many years,” he said.
“[We’re] trying to work on those buffers where their existing properties back on to this and how that interaction occurs.
“We’re working through council officers with the developer and I think we’ve had some good wins with vegetation to remain on the front of those streets … and property access is also going to change.”
Cr Flannery said the council had begun work on a strategic plan “so residents can see what the big picture will look like at the end”.
“There’ll be improvements to the amenities and protection of green corridors and koala habitat that may not be seen in that particular application,” he said.
88,000 homes needed in population surge
There has been growing disquiet among residents right across the region about planning decisions.
Ms Campbell said since she started campaigning against developments in the region a year ago, she had been inundated with complaints from residents in other areas.
“On our Facebook site we have so many people who have joined from other areas of Burpengary, Narangba and Caboolture who say the same thing is happening to them,” she said.
While local councils are largely responsible for development applications, the Queensland government’s ShapingSEQ plan has provided the framework for managing growth and keeping urban sprawl in check.
The plan revealed the Moreton Bay region would need another 88,000 homes to accommodate the population surge, which could be built on a 6,600 hectare area, west of Caboolture.
That would deliver homes for 70,000 people, which Cr Flannery said was “three times the size of [the Moreton Bay suburb of] North Lakes”.
“We’re getting to the stage now where people are putting applications in and developers have sewn up a lot of that land,” he said.
But it will take both levels of government to ensure the infrastructure that is needed is delivered.
“It’s no good having 20,000 people out there in the first stage without public transport, so these connections back to Caboolture are very important,” Cr Flannery said.
Involving community in planning
Urban planning expert Dr Mark Limb said directing developer infrastructure contributions into affected communities could help.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t a connection between the payment of those monies and the location from which it is paid,” he said.
“So that those monies can be spent anywhere with the local government area.”
Dr Limb said timing the delivery of infrastructure was complex.
“The idea of providing a full highway long before there’s real demand for that affects the balance sheet,” he said.
“If it’s to be fully resolved, it requires governments to step up and pay for the excess, and maybe deliver things ahead of what might normally be demanded.”
Dr Limb also said a greater focus on community involvement in the planning stages would help alleviate residents concerns.
“For many members of the community, they have had little to do with the planning system until it directly affects them,” he said.
“I think governments could put more effort into ensuring the process is widely understood by the community.”
Finding the balance will be a challenge, but getting it right will be important for generations to come.
Article Source: www.abc.net.au