The Gold Coast is running out of greenfield land to house its growing population, with community opposition seeing proposals for higher-density development within the city’s existing footprint rejected.
Key points: Gold Coast city leaders welcome a State Government population taskforce as housing demand grows and land options shrink Norwell’s cane fields have been raised as a potential residential growth area but a town planner says they are not the solution Council is faced with limited space for urban sprawl and community opposition to high-density development
But with its almost 640,000-strong population expected to reach 1 million in the next two decades, 6,500 new dwellings a year will need to be built somewhere.
The alternative is a housing affordability crisis surpassing what has already become a “phenomenal” property squeeze.
This week, the State Government announced a specialist taskforce to examine population growth across South East Queensland and support planning for new development areas.
But with developers warning that the Gold Coast has less than five years’ worth of land for new housing estates, town planners are running out of wriggle room.
Can cane alleviate the strain?
Even before the pandemic-fuelled jump in housing demand, the Gold Coast’s northern suburbs were among the fastest growing in the state, with the area’s population increasing by 31 per cent to more than 74,000 between 2011 and 2016.
The proposed development site in Norwell is twice the size of Springfield in Ipswich.(Supplied: Canford Property Group)
At the end of January this year, there were 46,409 voters in the Coomera electorate alone — 27 per cent higher than the state average.
About 6,000 hectares of cane fields in the northern suburb of Norwell have been offered for development in the past, but local area councillor Mark Hammel said it was unlikely to fix housing supply issues.
“We might see a mix of some industrial expansion, some pockets of residential,” he said.
Cr Hammel said Norwell was a low-lying area prone to flooding.
The majority of the cane fields, if not under sugarcane, would have to go back to natural waterways, environmental zones and conservation zones because of the hydrology issues and because of how environmentally sensitive that area is to southern
Moreton Bay. Mayor favours vertical living options
While welcoming the State Government’s population taskforce, Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said extending the city’s urban footprint further north, presented serious financial concerns.
High-density developments on the Gold Coast often face community opposition.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)
“The affordability for State Government and council to build infrastructure to have that converted to residential, that’s going to be a fine line,” Cr Tate said.
He said while developers would cover some of the costs, council would likely be left to foot the bill for sewerage, water mains and road infrastructure.
“I’m still favouring that we go upwards instead of spreading right out,” he said.
The Gold Coast City Council plans to target the southern suburbs of
Kirra, Palm Beach, Bilinga and Coolangatta for more high-density development.
Council’s aim to boost population growth targets in the inner suburbs of Biggera Waters, Southport and Labrador were met with community opposition, forcing council to reduce the targets by 41 per cent last month.
Meanwhile, some residential developments further south have been marketed towards the high-end market, raising concerns over gentrification and
first-home buyers getting priced out. End of sprawling housing estates?
Cr Hammel said debate over the development of Norwell’s cane fields had “been around for 20 years”.
Housing estates around Coomera have been developing in recent years but developers warn greenfield land will run out.(ABC Gold Coast: Dominic Cansdale)
“The main constraint has always been that demand just hasn’t been there,” he said.
But he said $300 million worth of infrastructure needed to be built around Pimpama and Ormeau first.
In February, the $1.5 billion Skyridge housing estate in Worongary was launched, which developer Lyle Kenny said would be “potentially the last masterplanned residential community in the central
Gold Coast area.
While Skyridge promises 3,500 new dwellings, it will take at least 15 years to complete the 342-hectare estate.
At the time, local area councillor Glenn Tozer said house prices in neighbouring Mudgeeraba had jumped by 12.5 per cent, and that it was “unrealistic” to expect any downward pressure on prices.
“What we are trying to do is make sure there’s sufficient supply to meet the demand.”
Property Council eyes ‘open urban areas’
The State Government taskforce is expected to identify a pilot growth area site by the end of March.
“The pilot site identified will be an example of how local and state governments and the private sector can work together to plan for better communities,” Minister for Planning Steven Miles said.
The Property Council of Australia’s Matt Schneider said the Gold Coast needed 6,500 new dwellings each year, but that the focus must be on existing “open urban areas”.
“It’s a very important part of the region and we need to take our time and work through an evidence base and see what this district can do for us.”
According to Master Builders Queensland, dwelling approvals on the Gold Coast fell by 21.3 per cent to 3,802 properties in the 12 months up to December 2020.
But the Gold Coast Council’s Planning Committee chair Cameron Caldwell said development applications for the last quarter of 2020 increased by 10 per cent compared to the same period in the year prior.
“But the really good news for jobs in the local economy is that there are real construction activity out there on the ground.”‘