Updated June 2nd 2023
Queensland Government Releases
"Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy"
After over a year of silence, the Queensland State Government this week released its "Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy". This is based on the draft strategy that was put out for public consultation early in 2022.
So what does it really say? Have they listened? And is it really any different to what the Sunshine Coast Regional Council (SCRC) put out in their Options Analysis in 2021 which favoured light rail and high rise along our coastal corridor? Have we advanced at all since 2021?
Our summation of the Strategy:
Not a lot has changed.
The bigger picture is the same as what was outlined in the SCRC Options Analysis in 2021.
High rise development along the coastal corridor is still at the heart of the strategy document.
Whilst light rail along the coastal corridor is not specifically mentioned, it is also not ruled out.
Electric buses are specifically mentioned and identified for use on the "Key Connectors" (mostly East/West routes).
Reference to "staging" the execution of the strategy is made but no indication of what this staging looks like is given.
Heavy/passenger rail along the CAMCOS corridor is identified in the strategy but no commitment to delivering it is made. It also indicates it too would be delivered in stages.
At the end of the day the report states it will come down to the findings of the two business cases currently underway to determine what does or does not go ahead.(($6million Sunshine Coast Direct Line Business Case (heavy/passenger rail) due for completion this year and the $15 million Sunshine Coast Public Transport Project Detailed Business Case (Coastal Corridor Maroochydore to Birtinya) not due for completion until 2025)).
So whilst we now have a definite "strategy" provided by the Queensland Government, we still have no idea of the timing or commitment to delivering it nor what mode of transport we are likely to get along our coastal corridor.
Key Highlights of the Strategy:
Looks out to 2041.
Says it is a "package of public transport initiatives" that will be delivered in stages over time.
Concentrates on 4 key areas:
Centre Corridor (CAMCOS)
Coastal Corridor (Maroochydore to Caloundra)
Says it does “not specify a preferred public transport mode (i.e. rail, bus or light rail) on corridors, nor does it plan specific services".
The western corridor is an inter-regional freight and passenger line, connecting coastal Queensland between Brisbane and Cairns. Rail is identified as the mode of transport.
The centre corridor (previously called CAMCOS) is to enable medium and longer distance trips connecting the economic centres of the Sunshine Coast and delivers a fast, reliable and direct link to the western corridor at Beerwah. Passenger rail is identified as the mode of transport. Its implementation is to be "staged".
The coastal corridor will enable local, intra-regional travel with access to key coastal tourism, health and business precincts and to the centre corridor. No mode of transport is identified other than it is to be "Rapid Service High frequency with partially separated priority". Its implementation is to be "staged" commencing with improved public transport between Maroochydore and Birtinya.
The key connectors include trips to and between major centres and areas of strategic importance that are not directly connected by the western, centre or coastal corridors. The key mode of transport is identified as predominantly electric buses.
Other things of note:
No strategy for the Northern sections of the Sunshine Coast is identified. TMR says the Southern Section was chosen because it is "home to the majority of the Coast's population and employment".
Light rails is not specifically identified as a solution for the Coastal Corridor but it is not ruled out either.
The report states that by 2041 almost all buses on the Sunshine Coast will be zero emissions.
The report specifically says that " more infill development will be inevitable and bring change" . It also says "infill development can be encouraged through the provision of high-quality public transport and enabled and managed by local planning controls".
High-rise along our beach corridor is still part of the plan
Community Reference Group .
On 21 November 2022, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) announced they were setting up a Community Reference Group (CRG) to help guide the Detailed Business Case (DBC) (the 3rd and final stage) for the Mass Transit Project. (now renamed by TMR to the Sunshine Coast Public Transport (SCPT) project).
We were told by TMR, 114 applications were received. Despite this the Community Reference Group has never been established. The reason why is unknown. This is disappointing.
Where are we in the Mass Transit Process?
On 20 October 2021, the Sunshine Coast Regional Council (SCRC) voted to endorse the Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Options Analysis Report and to have the CEO advance it to the State Government (TMR) for the preparation of the third and final stage, the Detailed Business Case (DBC). The DBC was budgeted to cost $15million which was to be jointly funded by SCRC and TMR. It was estimated it would be completed by mid to end of 2023.
Since then the following has occurred:
$5m of funding has been provided by the Federal Government reducing SCRC and TMR's commitment to $5million each.
No Memorandum of Understanding between TMR and the SCRC has been signed.
TMR has expanded the project and renamed it "Sunshine Coast Public Transport" (SCPT) Project
TMR conducted their own public consultation on their 'Draft Southern Sunshine Coast Public Transport Strategy", in March 2022. The results are to be discussed by the Community Reference Group and incorporated into the SCPT Detailed Business Case.
TMR are simultaneously running a $6million study looking at the Camcos Corridor, Beewah to Maroochydore (B2M), expected to be complete early 2023.
TMR has issued two tenders on SCPT project:
a) "Project Management Services Sunshine Coast Public Transport Detailed Business Case 27 May 2022, and
b) Business Case Management Services for the Sunshine Coast Public Transport Project Oct 2022.
Despite having already spent over $12 million on the project and committed a further $5million on funding for the DBC, the SCRC has gone silent on the project, with minimal updates to the Council's website and no Community updates given.
Requests for updates to TMR have received non committal answers.
MTAG has been advised that the SCPT project is now running well behind the timing the SCRC originally proposed. Estimated completion of the Detailed Business Case (orginally mid to late 2022) is now estimated to be in 2025. Implementation timing after that is unknown.
The non creation of the Community Reference Group on the SCPT Project by TMR was disappointing
Sunshine Coast New 2024 Planning Scheme
Preliminary Public consultation on the SCRC new Planning Scheme for the region occurred in March 2022.
Results were finally released in September 2022. Council said this was their "largest and most successful engagement project.”
Over 8000 people provided feedback. In particular there were over 6,000 surveys completed and a further 375 written submissions. The feedback report makes it clear, the community did not support Council’s proposed densification along the Mass Transit Corridor.
There was a very clear message delivered to Council re concerns about building heights, increasing densities, parking and maintaining the character and feel of what exists today.
In their report, SCRC state:
“Issues and concerns raised will be carefully considered in drafting the local plan area provisions, allocating zones and nominating maximum allowable building heights in different localities, particularly in relation to:
• potential increases in density or height along key corridors and urban villages (or nodes) in the Kawana Waters and Mooloolaba–Alexandra Headland local plan areas.
• possible areas for additional low-medium density residential development in Beerwah – Landsborough, Coolum – Peregian, Mooloolaba – Alexandra Headland, Mooloolah Valley and North Shore local plan areas."
MTAG would like to congratulate everyone who participated in this consultation. It is an example of how collectively we can effectively deliver a clear message to Council and hopefully have Council reflect this thinking in the planning for our future.
Summary of Feedback
Top five planning priorities:
-Protecting the natural environment and green spaces
-Maintaining building heights within set limits
-Improving our region’s resilience to climate change
-Retaining local character
-Providing parks and open space.
Top eight community concerns:
-Potential increases in density or building height along key transport corridors in the coastal corridor between Maroochydore and Caloundra, particularly in the Kawana Waters and Mooloolaba – Alexandra Headland local plan areas
-Potential areas for additional low-medium density residential development (duplexes and town houses) within some existing suburbs
-Conversion of some rural residential or rural land to urban residential uses
-Resilience to flooding
-Improving design outcomes
-Preserving the character and identity of each of our local communities
-Maintaining existing larger urban and rural residential lot sizes to preserve local character
-Traffic congestion and parking associated with growth and change.
What’s Next in Council's Process?
Council is currently at Step 3 in the process as shown below.
Council was not obligated to undertake this initial consultation (step 2) so it is even more encouraging to see such a large number of people respond and take the opportunity to have input at this early stage.
The messages were clear. Hopefully Council will listen and modify their thinking to reflect what they have been told when preparing the draft new scheme.
The next time we will get to have a say is in Step 5 which is anticipated to be sometime in 2023.
MTAG will continue to monitor the progress and let people know when and how they can participate in the future