Residents make a strong case for moving canoe slalom events to Penrith for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
Their pleas, contained in submissions to a senate inquiry and a petition on the Queensland Parliament website, show concerns remain about how much the whitewater centre earmarked for Birkdale will cost to maintain and operate when it becomes Redland City Council’s responsibility.
As reported on the front page of Redland City News recently, and appropriately titled Battleground Birkdale for the ongoing tussle over the Birkdale Community Precinct (BCP) plans, opponents of the whitewater facility are pushing for the government to prevent Redlands being used as an Olympic venue in 2032.
They argue moving the canoe slalom events to the Penrith whitewater stadium in western Sydney is a more cost-effective option and will prove beneficial to Redlands ratepayers in the long run.
In submissions to a senate probe of Australia’s preparedness to host the Olympics and Paralympics, residents point out that whitewater venues in Athens and Beijing have been abandoned and warn that their fate should represent a major red flag for future hosts.
Principal petitioner and Community Alliance for Responsible Planning spokeswoman Lavinia Wood went a step further in her assessment of the project, saying “white elephant” Olympic venues are “crippling host cities”. She added that the International Olympic Committee’s New Norm policy recommends using existing infrastructure wherever possible – hence the push for Penrith.
While concerns about the Redlands whitewater venue are worthy of the column inches they receive – including in this paper – consideration must also be given to the potential benefits of hosting a once-in-a-lifetime event like the Olympics in our own backyard.
This is a golden opportunity for Redlands to finally receive the public transport upgrades it so desperately needs. There is simply no getting away from the fact that the Cleveland to Manly rail line has been neglected for several years and desperately needs to be duplicated. The city’s bus network also needs close attention, particularly in the rapidly-growing southern suburbs of Mount Cotton and Redland Bay.
Transport improvements are a non-negotiable for the government of the day if the Olympics are to run smoothly, and if regions outside of Brisbane are truly going to benefit from Queensland hosting the Games.
Turning the whitewater facility into a resilience training centre for emergency personnel has also been spruiked as a major legacy opportunity for the city, and this is something Mayor Karen Williams has raised on several occasions when the venue’s long-term viability has been questioned.
In a recent interview with Redland City News, Cr Williams said the whitewater venue was the “most likely place council could generate revenue” within the precinct, while at the same time brushing off suggestions that the facility would become a white elephant after the Games.
Plans to use the facility as a swiftwater training venue for our hard-working emergency services are admirable given the devastating floods that hit parts of Brisbane – and Redlands – just over a year ago. But council must ensure it listens to ratepayers and releases revenue projections showing the facility will be able to turn a profit through the legacy uses that have been proposed.
It is not enough to say that the premium precinct elements “can and will operate at a break even or profit generating level”, as was published in the BCP Master Plan. Residents deserve to see the figures that definitively prove this will be the case.
The BCP plan has potential, but it is high time council released more details to allay the public’s “white elephant” fears before the build begins.