A community campaign against planned changes to a beloved inner-Brisbane park has been labelled “scaremongering” by the local councillor overseeing the project.
But residents say they are simply asking to be part of a community-led masterplan for New Farm Park in the face of rapid population growth and high demand for green space.
One of Brisbane’s most popular public spaces and known for its rose gardens, New Farm Park sits next to the Brisbane Powerhouse and borders the Brisbane River.
During the pandemic lockdown it became a haven for residents unable to leave the city, and its ring road is regularly filled with double-parked cars on weekends.
Last year Brisbane City Council began a development process to open a closed access road between the park’s ring road and the Powerhouse carpark in a bid to improve traffic management in the busy area.
The council also planned to close the Powerhouse’s Lamington Street entrance, reopen the park’s original driveway off Brunswick Street, and add Uber and taxi zones near the Powerhouse.
The unexpected proposals sparked strong community backlash from residents concerned the already busy park would have far more vehicles driving through it to access the Powerhouse.
Central Ward Councillor Vicki Howard, in whose ward the park sits, in November agreed not to support the plan to open the two-way access route and the closure of the Powerhouse’s Lamington Street entrance.
But other alterations to the park are continuing, including converting the original Brunswick Street entrance to a pedestrian and cyclist entry, adding pedestrian crossing points to the ring road, and pick-up points near the Powerhouse, and a campaign for community involvement in the changes is still ongoing.
“The works we are delivering in New Farm Park this year are all about making the park more pedestrian friendly and more accessible to everyone in Brisbane,” Howard said.
“There are no plans to increase traffic, or bring trucks or buses, into New Farm Park as the Facebook scaremongering suggests.”
A sustained campaign on social media and in the community, coordinated by New Farm residents, calling for public consultation about proposed changes to New Farm Park was described by Howard as “misinformation being spread in the community” in a “scaremongering campaign”.
A change.org petition launched last year has more than 4000 signatures and campaign coordinator and New Farm resident Genevieve Fraser said the frustration among residents was real and not misinformation.
Howard said the state-heritage-listed park was protected by the council’s City Plan legislation as a local heritage asset and a conservation management plan and residents were “misinformed” about the planned changes.
Fraser said the council’s own traffic data, collated for the original development proposal last year, had projected an additional 200 cars through the precinct per hour.
She said the community was struggling to understand the need for the council’s planned changes and the council had not held community consultation or public notification as promised.
“If you live in Brisbane, in most suburbs 70-80 per cent of the dwellings are houses, so if you want to go and sit in a garden or a greenspace, you’re more than likely going to sit in your own garden,” Fraser said.
“In New Farm, 89 per cent of dwellings are apartments, and in areas like [Fortitude Valley] that’s as high as 95 per cent.
“So applying the principles of city planning to Central Ward that you would apply to a suburban area doesn’t work.
“The reason we need our own [masterplan] is we are a very different, dense, intensely populated part of the city, and our population is due to go from 46,000 in 2014 to 88,000 in 20 years.”
Fraser said the council documents for the original development applications lodged last year had been removed from its planning website and “the best way for Cr Howard to allay people’s fears about the works planned is to be transparent and tell the community what is going on”.
“We would be very happy to be fully informed rather than misinformed, but the information has been removed from the website and the reimagined plan which was promised to us in December last year has never been given a public airing,” she said.
Howard said she would work with residents on a “community visioning project” for the park in the next financial year, which would include consultation on the site of a new amenities block.
“We have asked three times for when the community consultation will happen – no response,” Fraser said.
“A community vision for a toilet block in 2021 is not what we’re expecting.”
Howard said she would update the community on more details about the upgrades in coming months “prior to works commencing mid-2021”.
– ABC / Lucy StoneJump to next article