To Zip or Not to Zip?

The current Brisbane City Council Mt Coot-tha zipline proposal raises some important questions.

Should taxpayers and ratepayers fund an application for a project that will be privately-run for profit? Should council really be applying to itself for approval of something it already actively supports? And, more broadly, does Brisbane ultimately see itself as a tourist town for thrill-seekers?

What’s it worth to us?

Last week, the Development Application for the Mt Coot-tha zipline was lodged. Brisbane City Council (BCC) and Zipline Australia plan a three-stage attraction to include:

  • a 1.5km single zipline treetop canopy run between platforms, starting from just west of the Summit lookout and finished to the west of JC Slaughter Falls,
  • six parallel ziplines traversing 1.1km from the lookout to the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens plus a second 340m span across the gardens’ Melaleuca Lake, and
  • a guided Indigenous ‘cultural heritage tour’ with a 349m suspended bridge walk above JC Slaughter Falls.

An arrival, admin and operations centre will occupy the former Legacy Way workforce car park on Sir Samuel Griffith Drive at the Scenic Drive intersection. A shuttle bus is proposed to run on a continuous circuit from here to the Summit, the gardens and the start of the treetop canopy tour.

The project is within the Mt Coot-tha Trust Lands, a public park held in trust by BCC for the people of Brisbane. Search ‘Mt Coot-tha zipline’ on council’s website for more detailed information.

We’ve been giving this careful thought – weighing up potential positives (generating tourism, an exciting experience showcasing one of our great assets) with likely unwelcome aspects, including environmental impact, increased noise and traffic, exclusion of the public from areas like the Summit Track.

Local residents, who stand to be most affected, are concerned. As a Greens Member, Maiwar MP Michael Berkman may naturally be expected to take issue with this. But he has taken a fair and measured approach, and been proactive in helping the community have their say.

Key concerns raised include the commercialisation of public space ($100+ tickets mean this is mostly for tourists, yet the Deeds of Grant in Trust say this land is for the public), inadequate community consultation, and conflicts of interest, given BCC is both proponent and assessment manager.

He also queried a lack of independent environmental assessment, and impacts on local residents, saying no traffic management plan had been done. Noise and and visual amenity also need to be considered.

Council says it’s “confident the zipline will be built and run in a way that is sensitive to Mt Coot-tha, while providing a range of environmental, social, cultural, learning and economic benefits for the precinct.

“The zipline is a commitment of Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and forms part of Council’s ‘Our Share Vision for Mt Coot-tha 2030, which aims to reinforce Mt Coot-tha as the premier destination for ecotourism, as one of Brisbane’s iconic tourist attractions and to solidify Brisbane’s global reputation as Australia’s New World City.”

Which brings us back to our more fundamental question, does Brisbane want to be a tourist town known for theme park-like attractions, or is this something best left to places like the Gold Coast?

Council’s own website says the project will “provide $232 million worth of economic benefits to SEQ over 30 years by encouraging international and domestic tourism.” Over 30 years! That’s about $775,000 a year, which sounds like a drop in the bucket for a Council presiding over an annual budget worth $3 billion.

Think about great city destinations – Paris, New York, London, Florence, St Petersburg. We go there because of the immense historic, social, cultural, artistic and architectural value that is part of the fabric. Should we perhaps be focusing instead those aspects of Brisbane, while protecting our natural assets and lifestyle?

We’ll leave it to you to ponder. Watch out for public notifications and community consultation on the application and land management plan required by the State Government, and have your say.

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To Zip or Not to Zip?