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Housing Affordability - the latest excuse to destroy the environment of South East Queensland

by Sheila Davis, Secretary, Sustainable Population Australia - South East Queensland Branch

The Queensland Government's so-called "affordable housing strategy", signed in July with no community consultation, establishes an Urban Land Development Authority with sweeping powers, including the power to amalgamate land, to acquire land in its own right, and to on-sell their land with development rights to particular private developers.

The justification provided for such sweeping powers being given to the new authority is to speed up approvals. It has long been a complaint of industry that the approval process for development is slow and therefore costly resulting in higher prices to home buyers. The enabling legislation pushed through Parliament, again without any consultation and with unseemly haste, of course strips away some current protections.

Under the new legislation, the Minister can declare areas of land for urban development or as major development areas. In these areas, the Act removes the community's right to appeal approvals, overrides provisions in local government planning schemes that protect steep slopes, floodplains and waterways and removes restrictions in state legislation designed to protect endangered vegetation and waterways from destruction. It also removes the requirements for assessment with regard to contaminated land, heritage places and many other values.

With these policies, "ecological sustainability" has been abandoned in favour of "growth at any cost" development. Premier Beattie, once seen as a bit of a champion of environmental protection and community participation in the planning process, has, after removing the hard-won environmental gains of his nine years as Premier with this legislation, now handed over the reins to an eager new Premier Anna Bligh.

In response to media earlier this year calling for a population cap, Ms Bligh said that we need more growth "in order to create demand to maintain the jobs of people currently employed in construction." At the same time, the state government also claims that we need more skilled migrants to build the infrastructure needed to cope with the demands caused by Queensland?s population growth (also, no doubt, more taxpayers to pay for these major infrastructure projects). In other words, we have no choice but to grow our population in order to deal with problems caused by past population growth!

Housing affordability is an issue for all of the community and there are many ways to make housing more affordable, not the least of which is to lower the demand. The declaration of land as urban without any regard for the views of existing residents, the costs of infrastructure, the provision of open space or the local constraints to development is a betrayal of everything the Beattie government said that it represented. Now it seems they believe they have no choice but to continue to grow the population. It appears the Queensland government has fallen for the growth lobby's arguments hook, line and sinker.

Comments

The Queensland government should be stripped of its powers for allowing the property developers to destroy the beauty of Queensland and to overwhelm natural resources like water. How much are Queenslanders expected to put up with? What gives any elected person the right to dispossess their electors and our children so that a few horrible people might dominate shameful empires of bricks and sand? We only have one Queensland; we only have one planet and it is being stripped and murdered.

What is wrong with the Australian public? Why do they allow this to happen? Our leaders should go on trial, not to the election!

PFascogale

I can see the problems with the growth argument. However, the housing affordability crisis is a problem all across Australia. The only way to limit demand is to limit immigration to replacement levels only. As the population growth estimate calculated from data in the CIA world Factbook is 165,000, and the immigration level last year was 131,000, you can see that immigration will need to be lowered to 131000 - 165000 = -34000. Yes, minus 34000. So basically, we'd have to start by stopping all immigration to Australia. Even refugees. And then we'd have to find a way of coping with the growth anyway.

I don't mean by this to justify the sale of the land to large developers (I'd rather see people buy blocks of land and tell a developer what they want on it), but it does indicate the need for some way of coping with the situation. At least they're doing something, unlike some other states I could mention.

The ULDA is progressing development in the northside Brisbane suburb of Fitzgibbon.
A community group has formed and share the concerns expressed in this article.
www.frag4018.org