Raby Bay canals highlight need for developers to pay for infrastructure

THE canals of Raby Bay are descending into what appears will become a never-ending burden for the ratepayers of Redland City. The 23km of canal walls are falling rapidly into disrepair, much to the astonishment of Raby Bay residents who have each invested millions of dollars into their prestige waterfront properties. They are outraged, and rightly so.

The Redland City Council levies these ratepayers an annual $2186 fee to help offset the ongoing costs of maintenance, but only six percent of the repair project has been undertaken. Canal property owners argue the levy is unfair and want the council to scrap the charge and fund maintenance from general revenue. That means the rest of the city’s ratepayer money would be used to fund the huge cost needed to repair the canals.

Canal property owners believe the charge should end because the Raby Bay precinct, with its entertainment, restaurants and harbour, brings in a wealth of money through tourism and visitors to the city. As well, they don’t own the canals which are deemed public property, just like our roads.

Yet for the rest of the city, ratepayers are adamant they should not have their funds used to prop up the “rich and famous” in this wealthy exclusive canal estate. They bought there – they pay, is the general attitude.

Yet, while antagonists on both sides will argue black and blue, the real issue is how this problem came about in the first place. Allegations are being made that the canal walls were not constructed to industry standards when they were built from 1983 to 1996. The council is being blamed for the current debacle where it is claimed engineering reports during construction had alerted the council to the problems, but little action was taken.

There are lessons to be learnt here that councillors should heed. Raby Bay was created with the enthusiasm of generating something special for Cleveland, perhaps without a full understanding of the engineering challenges.

Were there any short cuts taken, was there a full depth analysis of the engineering challenges and their consequences, and did the council of the time fully understand the need for strong, reliable infrastructure?

The canal debacle cannot be allowed to be repeated. With ongoing development across the Redlands, the council must ensure that everyone pays their way.

That means no infrastructure cost breaks for developers. Raby Bay has become a problem for the council and it must be vigilant to ensure that obligations on developers to meet roads, sewerage, water, lighting and other requirements are fully funded to ensure that when they walk away from the completed project, it does not become an ongoing burden for ratepayers.

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