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Redlands 2030 Community Plan - Points for Discussion - 2 May 09

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A paper discussing a vision of the Redlands, Queensland, Australia, for the year 2030.

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THE REDLANDS 2030 COMMUNITY PLAN Important Points for Discussion

Introduction Redlands 2030 aims to create a vision for what Redland City will be in the year 2030 and to set a course towards achieving that vision. The two principles of sustainability and strong communities will form the basis of the Plan.1 There are many facets to forming this Plan and all need to be developed with knowledge. Ideas based on wishful thinking, emotion, or sectional interests alone will not work. The probable impact of concepts must be known and understood. The economy draws inputs from the environment in the form of natural resources such as land, minerals, fish and water. Every extra person requires the available food, water, energy, mineral and other resources to be shared more sparsely; and the waste and pollution to be increased proportionately. Redland City, like all parts of Australia, can never be completely self-sufficient. It needs inputs of material and services from many external sources and needs to output goods and services likewise. Policies developed for Redland City must recognize and account for their impact on regions outside the City, including worldwide. This paper explores some of the concepts that have been raised by the community in discussions about the Plan. The arguments presented are sound and substantiated; albeit controversial for those people whose aims are development and material wealth at any expense.

Concepts Sustainability All Australian Governments require that development is ecologically sustainable. Importantly, the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development2, endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments, defines ecologically sustainable development as ‘using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased’. Significantly, the definition places maintenance of the ecological processes ahead of increasing the total quality of life, and nowhere does it mention wealth or prosperity. The Strategy specifies three core objectives for Australian governments to follow. These are: • to enhance individual and community well-being and welfare by following a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations. • to provide for equity within and between generations. • to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems. Redland City Council (RCC) is bound to apply these standards to all policy affecting Redland City. The Precautionary Principle The precautionary principle emerged in environmental discussions to overcome decisionā€maker paralysis in the face of uncertainty. The principle is defined in several ways, but all encapsulate the following3: • In giving effect to ecologically sustainable development, where there are threats of
1 2

Redland City Councildiscussion paper”Redlands 2030 –creating our future”, February 2009 http://www.environment.gov.au/esd/national/nsesd/strategy/intro.html#WIESD 3 http://www.law.uq.edu.au/articles/qlsr/mcgree-qlsr-2-1.pdf

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serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. RCC is obliged legally to adopt the precautionary principle in all of its considerations. Housing Density The State Government requires RCC to accommodate the growing population “through a combination of infill and redevelopment in existing urban areas, broadhectare development and limited rural living”, and states that “New broadhectare development should be … of at least15 dwellings per hectare net”. 4 Note that medium density developments usually allow up to 100 persons per hectare.5 A particular disadvantage of higher density developments is the heat island effect. A study into this effect has been done at Monash University, Melbourne. 6 The study concluded, in part, “that a move toward a more compact city with built-up activity centers ... would raise urban surface and within canopy temperatures, leading to unfavorable conditions, in particular for those with increased vulnerability to excess temperatures. ... A move toward a more compact city will extend the seasonal exposure to unfavorable climatic conditions, with warmer temperatures expected in the shoulder months on either side of summer.” There are many other disadvantages of higher density living7, all of which apply to Redland City: a. b. c. d. Attractive suburbs with flowers and foliage are being overrun by concrete and bitumen. Bewildered long-time residents find themselves in the shadows of unit blocks. Greenhouse gas emissions increase. Studies show that energy use in high density housing is about twice that for a detached house. The per-resident energy to construct high-rise is nearly five times that needed to build a house. Research in Melbourne shows people squeezed into newly converted dense areas did not use public transport to any greater extent and there was little or no change in their percentage of car use. There is not enough difference in the emissions of public versus private transport to counter the increased emissions of high-density living. For each kilometre CityRail carries a passenger, it emits 105 grams of greenhouse gases, while the average car emits 155, and modern fuel-efficient cars such as the Toyota Prius emit just 70. Increased congestion caused by high density damages health. Vehicle exhaust contains microparticles that kill 3 million people each year, the World Health Organisation says. High density is also bad for mental health. A study of more than 4 million Swedes showed the rate for psychosis was 70 per cent greater for dense areas, and there was a 16 per cent greater risk of depression. The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index shows the happiest electorates are those with lower population densities. Adding more people to existing infrastructure means overload. The standards of Sydney's roads, rail, water supply and electricity have all deteriorated from the imposition of high-density policies. The effect of high-density policies on the cost of housing has been devastating to our younger generation. By trying to force people into higher density on existing land, the supply of new land for housing has been cut. The cost of land now comprises 70 per cent of the cost of a home,

e.

f.

g.

h.

4 5

Draft South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009-2031, p.10 Draft Redlands Local Growth Management Strategy, July 2008 6 Impact of Increasing Urban Density on Local Climate: Spatial and Temporal Variations in the Surface Energy Balance in Melbourne, Australia by ANDREW M. COUTTS, JASON BERINGER, AND NIGEL J. TAPPER School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 28 April 2006 7 The Sydney Morning Herald, Rise of high-density living a new low for Sydney, January 14, 2009

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instead of 30 per cent as it used to. A new dwelling should cost about $210,000 but is closer to $500,000. i. Bureau of Statistics figures show 83 per cent of Australians prefer to live in a free-standing home, and we do object to draconian policies forcing us to live in bland high-rise units.

Increasing the population density does allow a more cost effective provision of services, and part of the demographic does prefer this style of living. However, overall, increasing the population density is not costeffective; the disadvantages significantly outweigh the benefits. The result of State Government and RCC policies will be more and more crowding, contrary to the desires of most people. This will create less healthy and less liveable communities. Business and Profit Businesses function to supply the market with goods that people need or can be encouraged to think they need; hence, the vast sums of money spent on advertising. Business people lobby Governments for an increasing population because it provides a larger customer base for their product. They reason that more people require more products and that the production of more products means more jobs. This is true, but the predominant reason for their argument is the benefit of more profit. Once the market for a product approaches saturation, business presents a newer version or a different product. And so, many shops are full of goods that people have been convinced they want but, in reality, do not need. Businesses make more profit, but at the expense of resources depletion and pollution increase. Then, once again, business calls for greater population growth, by whatever means. This is misnamed “progress”. So, round and round we go, on an upward spiral of population growth and a downward spiral of resources depletion; two vortices that will end as vortices do! Governments succumb to business demands for population growth because of the lure of more revenue through taxation and the belief that people’s standard of living, as it relates to materialism, must be improved whatever the real cost; and people have been lead to believe that materialism is a good and necessary aim for improving the quality of life. Governments, and many people, apparently fail to see the cyclic trap into which they are falling. The profit motive is not a sufficient reason for permitting population growth. But, how much profit is enough? In our society, there never seems to be enough profit; the more the better. Indeed, businesses are able to make the profits they do because most businesses do not have to pay for the social and ecological damage they, and compliant governments, cause. Water Redland City has water restrictions now, and these are likely to continue into the future to accommodate population growth. Water is an essential environmental resource upon which the economy draws. Within Australia, in the year ending June 2005, about 1% of the 256 surface water management areas which were assessed were 'overallocated' and a further 17% were developed to a 'high' level. About 5% of the 356 groundwater management units which were assessed were 'overallocated' and another 24% had a 'high' level of development.8 Redland City suffers in proportion. The present planning by the Queensland State Government to include recycled sewerage in our drinking water shows how desperate the population pressures have become. While “climate change” is popularly used to justify the need for recycling sewerage, this action would, or will, be needed eventually purely because of population growth and its concomitant need for more food. Climate variability will disguise the growing imbalance between population numbers and our water resource, but the mathematics of the equation is simple.

8

See, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/1383.0.55.001Feature%20Article22008%20(Edition%202)? opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=1383.0.55.001&issue=2008%20(Edition %202)&num=&view=#PARALINK3#PARALINK3

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The Liberal National Party, prior to the 2009 State Government election, stated that it would consider revoking the recent Commonwealth and States agreement, the National Water Initiative, if it saw that Queensland growers would be detrimentally affected; if it were in Government. This is the typical and expected position of a Government, or a people, when population pressures exceed resource availability; me first, and a fight for survival. Similar, desperate, actions to adjust to a wide range of depleting resources will become increasingly necessary, disguised as good management; getting on with the job. However, the imbalances are inevitability. Some people see desalination plants to be our salvation with regard to water supply. However, these plants are an expensive option, both in terms of direct cost and because of the environmental damage they can cause.9 In most of Australia, these plants will depend on coal-fired power stations for electricity. Mineral Resources Highly relevant is that almost no recognition is given to Commonwealth and State Government data that show the depletion rates for mineral resources. For example, the Commonwealth Government report by Geoscience Australia, entitled “Australia’s Identified Mineral Resources 2007”, states that, of the known ore bodies, Australia has about 440 years of brown coal left at 2006 production levels. The next most prolific mineral is nickel, but only 130 years of production are left. Everything else has a shorter production life, 90 years for bauxite, 75 years for uranium, 65 years for iron ore, and 20 years for gold are examples. Without major new discoveries, our mineral resources will be essentially exhausted, soon. Our increasing rate of consumption of resources of all types is unsustainable.10 And yet, companies scramble to extract Australia’s mineral resources as quickly as possible, with Government support. Infrastructure, like ports, rail and roads, needed to transport, export and process the extracted resources are enlarged and created apace. The main reason, again, is increased profit and revenue; NOW! But, NOW is not imperative except from the viewpoint of people for whom the accumulation of monetary wealth is paramount and urgent. The price of any commodity is subject to the rule of supply versus demand. Slowing the supply of a commodity will increase its price as demand increases. Mining companies would continue to make profits even if they reduced the rate of extraction significantly. This slowing of extraction would allow supply to last much longer, and would give people more time to recognize the dangers of uncontrolled population growth and adjust accordingly. And soon, too soon, Australia will be left with huge ports and other infrastructure with little purpose as its resource base declines. This mad scramble to extract resources is presented as good management, as necessary for the wellbeing of Australia and its people. In reality, it is crass commercialism. The Environment Urban and other developments continue at the expense of the environment. The much loved koala population in the Redlands is a case in point. Residential and other developments in the koala habitat areas are allowed, with token attempts made to protect the koalas; poles across fences and dogs restrained. The latest Council initiative (November 2008) to pay property owners a fee to protect koala habitat is another attempt to deflect attention from the real issue, that koalas and development are fundamentally incompatible; koalas cannot coexist with dogs, traffic, general disturbance, and loss of habitat. The Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland states, “Koala numbers in Redlands City have dropped by 27% since 2000. The current population is about 4600; a sustainable population should be 5000-6000 animals. Major causes of koala numbers decline are habitat loss, car strike, and dog attack. All of these impacts are worsened by urban development in koala habitat.” 11 And, while we are distracted by the high-profile koala, we overlook environmental issues that are more pressing. Commonwealth Government legislation, including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, requires RCC to protect:
9

http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1340461.htm http://www.ga.gov.au/minerals/exploration/resources_advice/AIMR2007.jsp 11 http://www.wildlife.org.au/i-koala.html
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a. b. c. d.

1 wetland of international significance, 1 threatened ecological community, 45 threatened species, and 46 migratory species

within the Redland City bailiwick. This includes the need to protect habitat.12 The Queensland Government Nature Conservation Act 1992 and its subordinate legislation require similar protection. Within Australia, between 2000 and 2007, the number of terrestrial bird and mammal species assessed as extinct, endangered or vulnerable rose from 153 to 174, an increase of 14%. This proportion of extinctions would apply to Redland City. While some change in biodiversity might be expected due to other causes, loss of native vegetation due to human activity such as land clearing has been identified as a key threat to Australia’s biodiversity.13 In 2005, the Redlands had only 30% of remnant vegetation left on the mainland.14 30% is accepted as the minimum amount for a functioning ecology. The Queensland Herbarium analysis15 states that, averaged across all regional ecosystems within the Redlands, in 2005, there was a total of 56% of remnant vegetation; including on the Islands. However, for the same period, the data shows that 7 of the 34 regional ecosystems within the Redlands had less than the 30% threshold of remnant vegetation. This data does not include what has been lost from 2005 until today. Note, also, that in 2005, the analysis found that the annual clearing rate within the Redlands was the sixth highest in the State, at 0.611%. In November 2007, the then Redland Shire Council recognized the problem in its Vegetation Enhancement Strategy16, stating “Significant fragmentation of landscapes in the area has occurred due to farming and development practices and has resulted in the loss of many species of plants and fauna across the Shire and contributes to climate change”. Fragmentation is a serious problem for survival of an ecosystem; small areas are less viable floristically, and fauna become isolated. RCC Policy 3070 of 28 May 2008 reiterates the problem, and RCC Biodiversity Strategy 2008-2012 proclaims the intention of council to protect and rehabilitate the environment, declaring “the extent of native vegetation remaining on the mainland to be at an ecologically functional crossroads (at 30 percent remnant vegetation cover)”. RCC must enforce its policies and plans to protect the ecology, not allow development to outweigh ecological considerations. Redlands 2030 must be cognizant of all such policies and plans. Economic Anomalies A major premise of the economy of Redland City is that an increasing population is necessary to achieve the desired growth in the economy. This should not be so. An increasing population certainly makes growth easier because it underpins, for example, the dwelling construction industry. Without population growth, no new dwellings would be needed other than to replace those demolished. Mostly, renovation work would be the employment available. This would affect the industry in Redland City by removing work for about 4,800 people (estimated from ABS data). Eliminating
12 13

http://www.environment.gov.au, and use the Protected Matters Search Tool Beeton RJS (Bob), Buckley Kristal I, Jones Gary J, Morgan Denise, Reichelt Russell E, Trewin Dennis (2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee), 2006, Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. 14 Council Minutes of General Meeting 19 December 2007, Item 10.2.11 15 Queensland Government, Environment Protection Agency, Queensland Herbarium, “Analysis of Remnant Vegetation 1997 to 2005” 16 Redland Shire Council – Vegetation Enhancement Strategy – November 2007

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immigration, other than for refugees, and retraining, would cope with employment for these workers. Similar coping mechanisms could be applied to all employment categories to adjust to a stable population. A policy that depends on the continuous consumption of non-renewable resources and an ever increasing workforce is flawed; it is unsustainable. An economic model must be implemented that can truly be maintained if Redland City is to stop its spiral towards the overcrowding of its living spaces, destruction of its environment, and depletion of its resources. Population Redlands 2030 adopts uncontrolled population growth, ignoring any consideration of a population cap for Redland City. It accepts the State Government policy that Redland City will need to accommodate at least another 50,000 people by 2030. Conventional wisdom is that an increasing population leads to a better standard of living and quality of life. Certainly, an increasing population causes an increasing production and consumption of goods and services within a community. Nevertheless, the nexus between increased consumption and a better quality of life is tenuous indeed. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that the population of SEQ is increasing at about 1.8 per cent per year; about 41% due to net overseas migration, 39% due to natural increase (the excess of births over deaths), and 20% attributable to net interstate migration17. The population of Redland City will be growing similarly. Based on ABS data, the population of Redland City is approximately 140,000 in 2009 and is to reach about 204,000 by 2030. This accords, generally, with the estimates contained in the Redlands 2030 briefing papers. Included in these statistics is that the number of births per year is about double the number of deaths. This means that the population of Redland City will increase by between 36% and 46% by 2030. Population growth is rampant! In 2009, Redland City is suffering from, or starting to experience, many of the population-induced pressures that afflict most places, including: a. increasing road congestion; b.increasing atmospheric and noise pollution; c. increasing pressure on medical and education resources; d.continuing shortages of water; e. reducing fish stocks; f. increasing habitat destruction, particularly by land clearing; g.rapid depletion of dwindling mineral and other resources;

h.

detrimental visual and lifestyle impacts from continuous building works throughout the region;

i. increasing transport problems with parking and public transport availability;

j.

increasing removal of green-space within the urban footprint, including the overall reduction of vegetation throughout the region because of Greenfield development and the rezoning within the urban footprint to allow medium density development, with the consequential impact on visual amenity and on native animal and bird life; and deteriorating social conditions, such as visual and acoustic privacy, adequacy of private open space, solar access, garage dominance, visitor parking and, importantly, the increase in opportunities for anti-

k.
17

See, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestProducts/3101.0Media%20Release1Sep%202008

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social behaviours and crimes due to increased population density, increased anonymity, higher concentration of different social mixes and potential frictions18. The expected population increase over the period will exacerbate these pressures seriously. To envisage that Redland City can increase its present population by about 40% without serious consequences is naive, at best. Not to limit population growth is to accept that our lifestyles and environment will be destroyed irrevocably and that our water, mineral and other resources will be depleted sooner rather than later. This is absurd from any planning perspective that considers infrastructure, services, the environment, and quality of life. This position can lead only to increasing and everlasting angst. Conclusion The economic foundation of society must change from one that depends on the ever-increasing consumption of resources and demand for manufactured goods to one that truly recognizes the limits of the ecosystem of which we form part. Government and RCC policies are creating a population “bubble” that must burst, soon or later, as has the present World “bubble” of spiralling financial debt. Responsible management does not allow “bubbles”. All incentives that result in population growth should cease; as should immigration, except for humanitarian reasons. In trying to keep pace with the demands of an ever increasing population, we are failing to see the cliff edge looming over which we shall rush to our demise. Indeed, we are teetering on the brink, now! Redland City is a special place. To keep it so, the population must be limited to allow all transport, environmental, servicing and infrastructure issues to be addressed and managed properly, in a timely fashion, for the benefit of present and future residents, and to protect our lifestyle. RCC must not accept that population growth is inevitable. RCC must ensure that all of its policies and planning, including the outcome of the Redlands 2030 discussions, reflect the need for a truly sustainable future.

Lindsay Hackett 16 Cotton Tree Avenue Macleay Island Qld 4184

02 May, 2009

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http://yourdevelopment.org/factsheet/view/id/58

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