What is so extraordinary about the Infrastructure Agreement?

Normally, signing an infrastructure agreement is nothing extraordinary. Infrastructure agreements are used so Council can place conditions on development applications when they are approved. This will normally occur after public consultation has occurred on a development application already received.

If an infrastructure agreement is entered into before an application is received, it would be made to implement the city plan and the local plan already in force for the site.

This is not what has occurred.

The legally binding infrastructure agreement made between council and the original land owner for this site was not the subject of any public consultation or public announcement. It was made before a development application was lodged and went against the City Plan 2000, City Plan 2014 and the Ferny Grove – Upper Kedron Local Plan. This is what makes it so extraordinary.

A copy of the Infrastructure Agreement for Institutional Investments for land at Upper Kedron can be downloaded here.

Council’s view about the impacts of this infrastructure agreement is made clear in the pre-lodgement meeting: “The intent of the IA is to clearly define the land Council now considers to be the significant ecological corridor through the site and the significant waterway corridors…” This reduces the area of protected green space from 160 hectares to 90 hectares. The 90 hectares also aligns very closely with the gullies required to manage the significant stormwater management issues of the site - or in other words the parts of the site a developer could not build on.

At this pre-lodgement meeting Council also expresses the view that:  “The IA clearly implies that the balance of the site has potential for development.” This is in complete conflict with the Local Plan for the site.

A copy of the minutes of that pre-lodgement meeting can be downloaded here <Minutes of the pre-lodgement meeting.pdf>.

Despite these comments being made in the pre-lodgement meeting to the developer, the Lord Mayor has recently confirmed in a letter to Save The Gap that the agreement does not “permit or convey any development rights for the site.”  This is welcomed news and supports Save The Gap’s submission to Council that council officers erred when making those comments in the pre-lodgement meeting.  

Despite the Lord Mayor’s assurances, the infrastructure agreement is a legally binding document. However it is confined to the identification of “Community Purpose Infrastructure”.

Community Purpose Infrastructure is defined in the agreement and relates to public parks, and for the purposes of the Infrastructure Agreement, major water way corridors required by the developer.  Habitat essential for the survival of the Koala, environmental values or land for conservation (including their potential future values) or land zoned for Environmental Protection are not the same as the provision of public parks.  Indeed the agreement does not even mention these issues. Asides from consideration of Community Purpose Infrastructure, the infrastructure agreement does not override other planning documents, including the Local Plan.

How far the infrastructure agreement is allowed to override our Local Plan is at the discretion of Brisbane City Council – they are the decision makers.

What is clear however is that the developer did not purchase this land until this infrastructure agreement was signed. This legally binding agreement undoubtedly increased the land’s value for development and the price the developer was willing to pay. Without the infrastructure agreement it is likely a development application of this size would never have been made, and any future development application would more likely have conformed to the Local Plan.

To date, Brisbane City Council has not explained why it reduced the green space for the site to less than what was provided in the City Plan or why this was not the subject of public consultation as part of the 2014 City Plan.  In addition, it is unclear who asked for the infrastructure agreement in the first place.  What new information (if any) was presented to Brisbane City Council for them to change their mind? For these reasons people are calling this infrastructure agreement a “secret backroom deal”.

To get to the bottom of these important questions and in the interests of transparency and accountability, Save The Gap has written to the Lord Mayor requesting Council release all documentation relied upon by council officers to reduce the green space and environmental protections on the site. Why where these issues not part of the City Plan 2014 process?

A copy of the Lord Mayor’s response can be downloaded here <LM letter.pdf>

Unfortunately the Lord Mayor is refusing to release documentation that it used to support the development of the infrastructure agreement.  Exactly where is Brisbane City Council’s own independent environmental assessment of the site that they must have undertaken before signing that agreement? The Lord Mayor has refused to release this information. The Lord Mayor is trying to keep this information from the public who have a right to know how and why the Council entered into this Agreement.

A Right to Information Request for this information was made on 31 October 2014.

We will keep the community informed of any response received.

The Infrastructure Agreement