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Everything old is new again: Brisbane going back to the future for more liveable city


Brisbane City Council has delved back into the past to resurrect an approach to urban planning that has the purists and the developers equally excited, writes Craig Johnstone.

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It was a quiet yet deliberate addition to a city budget dominated by disaster recovery and rising cost pressures – a policy so much in its infancy that it didn’t even warrant a line item in the budget.

But Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner’s mention of a new council initiative of “urban renewal precincts” turned more than a few heads in Brisbane’s development and planning community.

While Schrinner was careful not to trumpet the new policy too much lest it touch off a new round of grumbling about high density in the suburbs, it is clear a lot of thinking has gone on in the council about new approaches to housing affordability.

And at least with this new policy, the council has found inspiration in the past – the work done in the 1990s by the late Trevor Reddacliff’s Urban Renewal Taskforce that helped transform New Farm, Teneriffe and Newstead from among of the ugliest parts of the city into its most celebrated residential precinct.

Schrinner’s suburban renewal plan is not nearly as grand as that, but it has similar aims, turning parts of the city whose zoning is no longer fit for purpose into places that can help overcome the city’s chronic housing shortage problem.

As an example he cited Brisbane car sales yards, big spaces that are not nearly as essential to consumers as they used to be, as one part of the city that could be transformed into something more suited to contemporary living.

“it’s about identifying new areas that can be unlocked to crate vibrant residential and mixed-use communities,” he said in his Budget speech.

“As part of this initiative, we will look at expanding the residential footprint of Brisbane into areas that may have previously had a commercial or light industry use.

“This approach has previously seen inner-city industrial areas such as South Brisbane, Woolloongabba, Newstead and Teneriffe transformed into some of the most sought-after places to live in Brisbane.”

The new policy also has the political attraction of focussing on the middle ring suburbs that could be forgiven for feeling left out in previous iterations of Brisbane’s urban planning vision.

Instead of yet more work on polishing already bright and shiny parts of the city, this would involve some hard thinking on what to do with problematic suburbs like Chermside and Moorooka, where the promise of more liveable, better connected suburbs has not matched the reality.

The Planning Institute of Australia’s Queensland president Shannon Batch is hopeful the council has found the solution to encouraging more residential development in existing parts of the city.

“This initiative can help address this challenge, but it will be important to ensure we see new housing prioritised in locations with good public transport and matched by community infrastructure like greenspace,” she said.

“It will also be critical to ensure sufficient industrial land is retained for jobs, as 15 per cent of new jobs in Brisbane over the next 10 years will be in the industrial sector.

“Just like we saw in places like Teneriffe and Newstead, Council will need to ensure careful planning and community engagement as change occurs.”

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