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Our community campaign to take down the Paddington billboard and fix our broken planning laws

The snap protest against LED Billboards in Paddington was an immense display of community power; a heartening testimony to the strength of this people-powered, local campaign.

About 40 residents from Paddington and across Brisbane city attended with less than two days’ notice, bearing handmade signs and t-shirts. We called for an end to inappropriate, unpopular, potentially hazardous developments on our streets—

During the protest, two local residents shared their stories of being hit by cars; one on their bicycle, and one while walking. Putting a billboard at such a risk-prone intersection on Latrobe Terrace is purely irresponsible.

However, local and state government planning laws allow for the construction of such projects without a shred of community consultation. As these laws currently stand, the community has no rights for consultation, and no grounds to appeal a dodgy, unwanted development, such as that just constructed in our own neighbourhood.

This campaign has only just begun. Cr Matic has openly acknowledged that community consultation processes are inadequate for all private billboard developments. By that logic, the LED Billboard in Paddington must be taken down—it should never have gained approval in the first place.

We are powerful, and our community is already effecting change. Our vocal opposition has already secured a review of all electronic billboard approvals across the city. Let’s get these billboards removed, and ramp up the pressure to enshrine changes to planning laws to protect and respect us.

Community concerns raised about the LED Billboards:

- Neighbourhood Character: LED Billboards are entirely at odds with the aesthetic character of the inner-west and against the local planning scheme.

- Visual and light pollution: given the current billboard’s proximity to residential areas, and the number of proposed billboards in close proximity to each other, the LED aspect will create significant visual and light pollution, as well as obstructing views which form part of the local character.

- Safety: LED Billboards are a known distraction to both pedestrians and motorists, yet their known locations on both Latrobe and Given Terrace are an already dangerous spot for pedestrians and motorists. Some residents have voiced that they were hit on both on foot and on bicycle on the stretch where the Latrobe Terrace billboard is constructed.

- Prohibitive for local businesses: the inner-west is the most expensive area in Brisbane for advertising.  They rarely promote local businesses, who are shut out by the inaccessible price. They're more likely to be used by big businesses, major party politicians, the gambling lobby, and other corporate industries that can afford the extortionate costs associated with renting the advertising space.

-No public consultation: Above all, one of the biggest concerns local residents have displayed is the fact that Council and State planning laws do not require any public consultation. There is also a concerning lack of transparency in that there is no publicly available information on past or current applications.

Under the City of Brisbane Act and the Local Government Act, the State Government specifically exempts advertising billboards from requiring assessment under ordinary planning scheme approval processes. Put simply, our local and state government planning laws are failing us. They are riddled with loopholes stacked in favour of developers—not the wishes or the safety of our communities.

Council’s refusal to address the gaps in the planning legislation since 2017:
Both State and Council laws are relevant to the billboard application and approval process within the Brisbane City Council. These are:

  • City of Brisbane Act 2010:
    • Advertisements Local Law 2013
    • Advertisements Subordinate Local Law 2005
  • Queensland State Planning Act 2016
    • Local Government Act 2009
  • Cr Matic fully supported the proliferation of electronic billboards in Brisbane. Cr Matic and Civic Cabinet voted in November, 2017, in favour of changes to the Advertisements Local Law 2013 and Advertisements Subordinate Local Law 2005 which allowed for billboards to be built closer together.
  • The Queensland State Government’s planning framework does not require local governments or applicants to undertake public consultation for billboard advertising.
  • Under the City of Brisbane Act and the Local Government Act, the State Government specifically exempts advertising billboards from requiring assessment under ordinary planning scheme approval processes.
  • Back in 2017, when Council last made amendments to the Advertisements Subordinate Local Law, it was specifically pointed out that there were major gaps relating to public consultation and approvals processes. Cr Matic and the LNP ignored the issue.
  • Cr Matic is currently a member of the Brisbane City Council’s ‘City Planning and Economic Development Committee.’

Profit motivation:

  • Both Council and State Government receive fees for billboard advertising. The amount they receive is not known.
  • The Queensland Government’s Department of Transport and Main Roads collects revenue from smaller, streetside LED signs called IdentiLites.
  • The Liberal and Labor parties both receive significant amounts of donations from advertising companies and property developers - including in-kind donations (eg: cheap or free advertising)
  • In 2017, Michael Berkman was elected as the first Greens State MP in Queensland, in our neighbouring seat of Maiwar. Since his election, he has amplified the voices of local community campaigns to permanently ban property developer donations to political parties in this state. Prior to this, major party politicians accepted millions of dollars in donations from developers, in exchange for unbridled access to our streets and suburbs. Banning property developer donations was an incredible win for our democracy, and for our communities, but this action alone does not exclude further rampant and inappropriate projects—these electronic billboards are a prime example of that.

Cr Matic’s personal motivation/conflict of interest:

  • Cr Matic admitted to having learned about the proposed billboard on Latrobe Terrace back in 2019 when he was approached by the property developer. He claims to have told the developer that it would not garner the community’s approval, yet did nothing to change the planning laws, alert community members, or ensure he kept updated on any potential applications.
  • The Brisbane City Council's own approvals officers opposed the massive LED Billboard sites on both Latrobe and Given Terraces, determining they would be “[incompatible] with the distinct Paddington character”, “unduly dominating” and “oppressive”. Following this assessment, the paper trail becomes unclear. What we do know, is that the applications were then approved by a senior Council officer, and consultants acting on behalf of the Billboard owner cited a meeting with Cr Matic in August 2018. The consultants also claim that Cr Matic was supportive of the Billboards.
  • Throughout this controversy, Cr Matic has maintained he had no prior knowledge of the existence of the Billboard applications and was not supportive of their construction. Now, in response to this RTI, Cr Matic has claimed that these conversations did not occur.
  • The site at 78 Latrobe Terrace, Paddington, where the first electronic billboard was installed, is one that has been used by Cr Matic to display numerous election signs (corflutes), including at the Qld Local Government Elections in March 2020. 

Community actions so far:

Media references:

Quest News, 1st June: https://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/the-eyesore-coming-to-one-of-our-most-charming-streets/news-story/535c1a972edca3ff4f96599afcdabbdc?fbclid=IwAR2aLKw_UBQhhhwKuF47hPCvhR1RdzJGCD_DX_5veRhA0lZznohYMTDQbgU

Quest News, 3rd June: https://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/council-halts-new-billboards-across-city-ahead-of-inquiry/news-story/66c8c571e367f8a703ba0a3b274a69aa

Quest News, 5th June: https://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/council-warned-three-years-ago-of-explosion-in-billboards/news-story/112d71a18807a62024adf733380ca0a1?fbclid=IwAR3FZ2SbptKotxU54STKBwHUcPXsJktzRVkDfguzYPg9WdXl2yqVNzyV7nU

Quest News, 22nd July: https://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/not-a-museum-secret-billboard-docs-shed-light-on-controversy/news-story/e2504afa83d5d3db3423b3c4ff12fcfd?fbclid=IwAR23Zbno7Fdq_kgJykXEilUbsID-2RXw0YYN6smVv82_qQtFVSJXQapCXoM

Quest News, 6th August: https://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/ill-take-you-to-court-led-billboard-stoush-ramps-up/news-story/2d30fd4e98098a8b2b7d09a0386282d3?fbclid=IwAR1-_OommZea0yZHvmGioZddix5DQqVCT-tWGrqhjSx8r7e4jk03548WKiY