Plans for retirement village in Brisbane area at ‘high likelihood’ of flooding spark disbelief

·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Peter Wallis/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Peter Wallis/Getty Images

Plans to build a retirement village in a flood-prone area of Brisbane have sparked disbelief after a nearby aged care facility was inundated during the February floods.

Philip Usher Constructions plans to build a retirement village off Birdwood Road in Holland Park West, despite council mapping showing up to 50% of the site is at “high likelihood” of flooding.

Federal Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather said he was “alarmed” by the plans to build the retirement village, given the recent flash flooding in the area.

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“We shouldn’t be putting vulnerable residents in harm’s way especially as these floods become more and more frequent,” Chandler-Mather told Guardian Australia.

“The site entirely bisected by Norman Creek and a significant amount of the site is within a floodplain. As far as we can tell the only access point to the site is a bridge that went underwater in the recent floods.”

Independent Brisbane councillor for Tennyson Ward, Nicole Johnston, is also worried about history repeating itself.

The site, in Holland Park West, is a 10-minute drive from the Yeronga retirement village and Regis Aged Care facility, which were hit by flooding in February.

Some of the home’s bedridden patients were left in rooms for more than 24 hours without electricity before they could be evacuated, ABC News reported.

“The site flooded in 2011, it flooded in 2022 and council allowed them to build on this land,” Johnston said.

“I’ve got over 400 elderly and frail people [in my ward] who now live in an area that floods … the Regis retirement village, those residents were out for nearly four months.”

A Philip Usher Constructions spokesperson said: “The retirement and aged care community remains subject of development approval.”

“We are continuing to work through detailed design however due to current challenges in the construction market we have not established a target start date,” the spokesperson said.

“Flooding and flood impacts were thoroughly investigated and designed for through the development assessment process to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the future residents of the community will be maintained.”

The spokesperson said the project would provide “much-needed” aged care housing supply in close proximity to major infrastructure, including health services.

Chandler-Mather is also opposing another development slated for a 20-hectare site in Brisbane’s inner-north that’s even closer to the Brisbane river.

The Bulimba Barracks was sold by the department of defence in 2020 to developers Shayher Group who are planning to build 855 homes on the site, along with a green space along the riverfront.

Chandler-Mather said he was concerned about plans to build carparks below ground level.

“Almost the entire site is in within council mapped floodplains,” Chandler-Mather said.

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“It’s alarming … because what we saw with the latest floods in West End was apartment basement car parks flooding … houses losing power and mobility-impaired residents not being able to use the stairs and literally just being trapped.”

The developers have asked council to vary an existing masterplan to raise the entire site above flood level. But Johnston and Chandler-Mather said elevating sites could result in unintended consequences like runoff issues and problems with drainage.

Johnston was also concerned about a June announcement by Brisbane’s mayor, Adrian Schrinner, that industrial land could be repurposed for other uses may include floodplains.

She accused the council of being “addicted to the revenue from development” and “failing to properly assess the risk levels of building in flood-prone parts of the city”.

In a statement to Guardian Australia, a spokesperson for the mayor said “silly claims by politicians who aren’t trained on these matters don’t help anybody”.

“As respected former governor, the Hon Paul de Jersey, found in the Brisbane city council 2022 flood review, ‘council embraced the recommendations’ of independent flood inquiries and ‘council’s approach has served the people of Brisbane very well’,” they said.

Shayher Group was contacted for comment.