15 Jul 2015 BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Although I wrote the potted history of protecting open space in south east Queensland in 2006, I doubt that much more land if any has been added to the paltry 16% in public ownership in the region nearly ten years ago. PS The 2015 figure is 17%.
PROTECTING OPEN SPACE IN SEQ
A POTTED HISTORY
Following the demise of the Regional Open Space System (ROSS), I represented the QueenslanConservation Council on the SEQ Open Space Review Committee from its inaugural meeting in 1996 and then on the Regional Landscape Strategy (RLS) Advisory Committee, until I resigned out of a sense of futility in 2000, after the State Budget yet again delivered no funding beyond the running costs of the Regional Landscape Unit (RLU). The committee was composed of landholder, farming, tourism, developer and conservation representatives plus state and local government officials.
The brief history of open space protection in SEQ can be stated thus:
Wayne Goss the ROSS backed by the premier and funded to allow land acquisition
Rob Borbidge the RLS failed attempt to kill off the RLS at birth,modest funding for RLU only
Peter Beattie the RLS no backing by Premier, slightly increased funding for RLU
Ultimately the reason why the ROSS failed was because of a scare campaign by landowner interests and a loss of nerve by Terry Mackenroth who, at the time, had care of the ROSS in his expanded portfolio. The landowners felt left out of and thus threatened by, the ROSS process, ie they feared they would lose control over their land. This was arrant, but pernicious nonsense.
The RLS was initially an unenthusiastic response by the Borbidge government to the need to deal with the open space aspect of the SEQ 2001 Regional Plan. The hope was that the landowners would be unwilling to pursue the matter post ROSS. The goverment could not have been more wrong. Lacking real political backing throughout, the Regional Landscape Strategy Review Committee and then the Advisory Committee were able to achieve the consensus that the ROSS lacked. The updated history now reads:
ROSS – political, therefore financial backing but no stakeholder consensus = failure.
RLS – no political, therefore no financial backing, but stakeholder consensus = failure.
There is, I think, a salutary tale about the objectives of the ROSS and the RLS. My take on the ROSS objective: To provide an accessible regional open space system which is integrated with the future settlement pattern is that it is ideal for protecting the ROSS from the judgement of history. Mindful of this I was instrumental in giving the RLS a far more transparent objective, viz To protect, through equitable processes, the regionally significant open space of SEQ for present and future generations. From this it is abundantly clear that the RLS failed and that its objective had no coercive force at all.
SEQ Regional Plan – legislated changes to Integrated Planning Act to stop the urbanisation of SEQ’s open space.
To protect…the regionally significant open space of SEQ requires more than imposing a 100ha minimum lot size in SEQ’s broad acres as per the SEQ Regional Plan. The term the regionally significant open space of SEQ refers to areas of special value to the region, in other words, areas worthy of being in public ownership.
During the various attempts by different State Governments to produce a regional plan for SEQ, one telling fact is the amount of open space in public ownership, which stands at a paltry 16% or so compared with 42% in Sydney and 33% in Melbourne. The internationally accepted benchmark figure for major conurbations is 25%. The ROSS did little to increase the percentage in SEQ. Publicly owned open space is the surest means to protect biodiversity from habitat loss and incompatible land use and to provide land for a broad range of outdoor recreation.
Peter Kuttner June 2006