Huge backlash to zipline project

As many as 5000 people have lodged submissions on a controversial Mt Coot-tha zipline, and the overwhelming majority hate the idea.

Resident Phil Best said Brisbane City Council’s development application (DA) lodgement office confirmed more than 3600 submissions had been made by the December 13 deadline.

“They said approximately 10 per cent were in favour of the zipline and approximately 90 per cent were against.

“Even though the closure date has passed some people are still sending in submissions.

“These are counted, but are not legally admissible.’’

Retired ecological consultant David Hassall, who spent years as an expert witness before the Planning and Environment Court, said his detailed analysis showed there could be as many as 5000 submissions, possibly even more.

“It is possible the 3600 figure is just those the DA lodgement office has had a chance to read so far,’’ Mr Hassall said.

“I have personally looked at 1779, which I estimate to be about 35 per cent of the total.

“Of those, 95-96 per cent are against and 4 per cent are in favour.

“About 90 per cent of those in favour have come via the (project proponent) Zipline Australia website.

“That is perfectly legitimate for them to ask people to make submissions in favour and most have a mobile phone number or address.’’

Artist’s impression of the Mt Coot-tha Skywalk suspension bridge.

Council last year selected West End-based Zipline Australia as its preferred tenderer to build a six-abreast fast “mega zip’’ from near the mountain summit to the Australian Native Plant Zone within Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.

It will also build a slower treetop canopy tour ending at J.C. Slaughter Falls and a 300m-long suspension bridge.

Council says the project will inject up to $4 million a year into the Brisbane economy, despite suggestions tickets could cost up to $100 a head, and would involve clearing of only 200 large trees with 1600 more replanted.

Opponents claim the tourism impact is overstated, rare plants in the gardens will be destroyed, an ecological desert 60-80m wide will be created along the zipline routes because all vegetation up to 2m would be cleared, and wildlife including a pair of rare powerful owls will be disturbed by lights and noise.

Council has been contacted for comment.

Mr Hassall conceded that in cases such as this it was usually only those people strongly against something who made submissions.

But he said it was misleading of Lord Mayor to have claimed last December that there was a “silent majority’’ in favour.

“There could be a silent majority against it. The only way to test that would be to ask people walking down the Queen St Mall, for instance,’’ he said.

The deadline for submissions was not extended despite Council’s DA online portal, pdonline, melting down in the final few days because of the vast number of people using it.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk says the number of submissions made against the zipline does not matter, just their substance. Picture: AAP/Richard Waugh

Cr Quirk was also criticised for conducting consultation in the final weeks of the school year and as residents were preparing to go on summer holidays.

Cr Quirk told media outlets at the time that the number of submissions was irrelevant and that it was the substance of the submissions that counted.

Mr Best claimed the number would have been even higher had Council held its public consultation at a less busy time of year when people were not distracted by school breakups and looming holidays.

Phil Best says Council might need to put on more resources to analyse submissions on the Mt Coot-tha zipline. Picture: Stuart Quinn

Public drop-in information sessions were also held at inconvenient times, including one at J.C. Slaughter Falls picnic area at 8-10am on a Tuesday.

“We believe that the DA lodgement and Land Management Plan expiry dates were deliberately chosen to coincide with the Christmas Rush and holiday period,’’ Mr Best said.

“We are also concerned that (the DA lodgement office) will need to use additional BCC employees to read all the submissions.’’

 

Brendan O'Malley, Westside News, 4 January 2019

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