For a Better Brisbane

Archive for July 2010

Milton Tennis Centre…. Park?

Match point: The milton tennis courts site. Image credit: CC-BY-SA Nearmaps, click for URL

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has announced plans to acquire the former Milton Tennis Centre site for parklands, as reported in the Brisbanetimes and again today. Details are sketchy and nothing seems to be confirmed yet. Comments on the Brisbanetimes website indicate that some people would welcome new parkland areas, while others are opposed on the grounds that the opportunity for higher density transit-oriented development would be passed over, possibly shifting development pressures to other inner city suburbs such as West End. This blog visited the site earlier this year, photographs are available here.

The BrisUrbane Blog observes many debates about “what land use goes where” often implicitly assumes that development and parkland uses are incompatible, mutually-exclusive things. But this isn’t necessarily true. As a third alternative, a low-car or no-car transit oriented development plus parkland might one idea to look at. There are two precedents for this in Brisbane; South Bank Parklands and Roma Street Parklands, are both examples which incorporate high density living or commercial uses on the edges of, or embedded in, major parkland areas.

Indeed, both of these two parks are very popular, and the surrounding parkland environment makes an attractive environment in which to live. One would also think that living close to park land and the Bicentenial bikeway would also encourage people to take recreation activities and live healthy active lifestyles.


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July 28, 2010 at 9:54 am

Cross River Rail 1: Fly through Albert street station

Queensland premier Anna Bligh has announced that downtown Brisbane will get an underground, metro-style rail station as part of the $8.2 billion dollar Cross River Rail Project.

In peak hour, trains from Cleveland, the Gold Coast, Beenleigh and some from the Ipswich Line must cross the Merivale Railway Bridge. The bridge was constructed in 1978 by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen government, and will reach maximum capacity around 2016. Without this project a bottleneck in the core section of the rail network will occur, meaning more trains to suburban destinations cannot be put on.

Interestingly, in the 1970’s there was a plan for a railway bridge from Woolloongabba through to the City Botanic Gardens, however only the Merivale Bridge was built.

The Cross River Rail project proposes to increase capacity taking trains from the Gold Coast and Beenleigh lines into a tunnel under the Brisbane CBD with metro-style stations proposed at:

  • Park Road
  • Woolloongabba
  • Albert Street
  • Roma Street
  • Exhibition

This project, if funded, will act as a powerful development catalyst for urban renewal at Woolloongabba and The Exhibition, and give a large scope for Transit Oriented Development. Railway stations are well known to change local land use by stimulating and supporting surrounding development.

Acknowledgement: The BrisUrbane Blog wishes to acknowledge the Cross River Rail project team for permissions to reproduce copyright material here. To participate in ongoing community consultation or find out more, visit their website at

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July 25, 2010 at 3:16 pm

A visit to the loyal opposition

Video: One Tampa Bay (US) commuter describes their commute.

Believe it or not, some people believe that public transport is simply a waste of money and that everybody should just get cars. There are anti-transport advocates out there. They exist, and it is worth having a look at what they have to say and why. This blog has its opinions and others have theirs.

Common points often are:

  • People would rather drive a car. They choose do do it. Lets just forget about public transport.
  • Public transport is costly both to subsidise and build, and are inherently less “flexible” when compared with the car. Cars are simply cheaper & more convenient.
  • It is impossible in low density cities to supply quality public transport

An example of literature of this type was Alan Moran’s piece titled The Public Transport Myth (here) which was published at On-line opinion in October 2006. Wendell Cox’s Demographia is also another site of this type (here).

Of course, if the only option to get around is by car and there are no or poor alternatives, then surprise, surprise cars are going to be popular are they not? Nor are cars necessarily more “flexible” when stuck in peak hour traffic jams, indeed the very inflexibility of rail and busway systems allows them to have traffic light priority and exclusive rights-of-ways (tracks/busways/priority lanes) all of which bypass congestion, and finally, it is possible to supply quality public transport in dispersed cities.

These themes will be elaborated in future posts.

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July 9, 2010 at 12:21 am

The value of trees & green spaces 2

Trees are a valuable part of the urban landscape. The above video explains some of the benefits in urban areas. Firstly trees remove pollution from the air and improve air quality. Pollutants removed include Ozone, fine airborne particulate matter (PM10), Nitrogen dioxide, Sulfur dioxide and Carbon monoxide. (1) Secondly, through transpiration they can make a more pleasant urban environment and dampen the ‘heat island effect’, and thirdly the shade cast by trees can mean that nearby buildings don’t have to spend so much money on air conditioning (which in turn means less emissions at the power plant). There is also some evidence that trees can increase the life of road asphalt.(2)

In 1994, trees in New York City removed an estimated 1,821 metric tons of air pollution at an estimated value to society of $9.5 million. Air pollution removal by urban forests in New York was greater than in Atlanta (1,196 t; $6.5 million) and Baltimore (499 t; $2.7 million), but pollution removal per m2 of canopy cover was fairly similar among these cities (New York: 13.7 g/m2/yr; Baltimore: 12.2 g/m2/yr; Atlanta: 10.6 g/m2/yr)

– The effects of urban trees on air quality, D.J. Nowak, USDA Forest Service, paper here

Not just any tree will do, as some species of tree actually seem to emit pollution (volatile organic compounds) into the air. See here.

Trees also have a positive impact on the market sale price of properties. Research done at QUT looked at a lower-middle class suburb in Christchurch, New Zealand, and using sales records from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, compared sales of properties on main roads, poor streetscapes and good streetscapes. In the study’s conclusion:

If all other purchase criteria are equal, such as age of the house, size, construction and
location and there are no external features such as views of parks, water, mountains or
rural landscapes, then simple factors such as tree plantings in a street can have a
significant impact on house prices.

In poorer socio-economic areas houses in streets with a good street appeal based on
tree plantings will sell for a higher price on average and also show a higher average
annual capital return at a lower level of risk compared to all other houses in the same

Assessing the impacts of streetscape on residential property in lower to middle socio-economic areas, Eves, C (See ref. 3)

This blog isn’t arguing that every tree is untouchable. They are not. Nor is this necessarily an argument that developments cannot take place in or near parklands (future posts will visit some examples).

Rather, we don’t seem to realise just how valuable trees and green spaces are. Now that there are methods of putting a price on trees, where a tree has to be removed, compensation or in-kind remediation should follow. Many city councils such as the City of Sydney have now established databases and registers of their significant trees, along with dollar valuations of the the trees to ensure their ongoing protection.

More information:
Centre for Urban Forest Research

1. Air pollution removal by urban trees and shrubs in the United States, D.J. Nowak, D.E. Crane & J.C. Stevens, Urban Forestry and Urban Greening (2006), 4, p115 link here

2. Effects of street tree shade on asphalt concrete pavement performance, E.G. McPherson & J. Muchnick, Journal of Arboriculture (2005), 31 (6), p303 link here

3. Assessing the impacts of streetscape on residential property in lower to middle socio-economic areas, Eves, C., 16th Annual European Real Estate Society Conference, 24-27th June 2009, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (unpublished) link here

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July 7, 2010 at 7:33 pm

The value of trees & green spaces 1

If the cost to save this fig tree is at least $1.6 million, this would suggest that there is at least $36.8 million worth of tree in Orleigh Park (see notes and disclaimer).

The people of Brisbane value their parks and green spaces. They like the feeling of open space, the greenery, the enjoyment that comes from relaxing or having a weekend BBQ in one. A large part of this is to do with trees in parks, their shade and beauty. These values are qualitative, in the sense that they can’t really answer questions like:

  • How much money should someone be fined if they cut down or poison a tree?
  • If a tree needs to be removed, how much should be spent on new trees or compensation?
  • How much should be spent on saving a tree, or would it be better to just get new ones?

This post is timely. Yesterday, an article coincidentally appeared in the Brisbanetimes about the removal of sixteen trees from the riverside park at West End. This isn’t the first time large, leafy, established trees have been cut down. A 200-year old Crow’s Ash tree at Lutwyche had to be cut down in July 2010 due to the Airport Link Road tunnel project; The Courier Mail reported that this resulted in a $100 000 compensation paid to the Brisbane City Council. The Gap Creek road widening also resulted in the cutting down of trees (reportedly to be replaced).

Trees are valued by the community, and are therefore community assets. It’s well known that people value leafy green suburbs over barren concrete ones. This line of thought also applies to park lands, green spaces and areas with heritage homes, and sets a foundation for the ongoing protection of these assets or compensation where they are removed.

A number of valuation methods are in use:

  • The “CLTA Method”
  • Revised burnley method (Developed in Melbourne, Australia)
  • Amenity valuation of trees and woodlands method
  • STEM: Standard Tree Evaluation Method (NZ)
  • Norma Granada (Spain)

These methods all take different approaches, and each is popular in different countries, but they generally all rely on what species the tree is, what the condition, age, trunk size and other special features are (such as historical or cultural significance). A more detailed explanation and valuation formulate is here. Valuations should be done by a professional, a good place to start is the National Arborists Association of Australia.

Armed with better, justified and quantifiable, information about the economic, environmental and urban development values of trees and green spaces, hopefully more people will realise how these natural assets should be protected, how their presence improves the urban environment and nearby housing, and just how much compensation or value of remedial action the community should ask for when trees are cut down or removed in their local area.

Notes and disclaimer:
Valuations should always be done by a professional. The BrisUrbane blog’s caption comment is based on the Brisbane City Council forking out $1.6 million to buy a house in order to save the fig tree(s) pictured as part of the construction of a bus turning circle for the CityGlider high frequency bus service, and the principle that something can be valued by seeing how much someone will pay to save it. The BrisUrbane Blog’s strictly non-professional estimate is based on 23 similar fig trees present in Orleigh park.

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July 3, 2010 at 12:30 am

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