Save the Rogers Reserve 2017



SAVE THE ROGERS RESERVE - Episode 2 - 2017


All Toowoomba Region citizens should be concerned with Toowoomba Regional Council's new "master plan" for the Highfields Cultural Centre.  This plan treats with contempt a generous bequest of land made by Charles & Motee Rogers almost 24 years ago.


Residents may remember that it was suspected three years ago (during our last campaign to Save the Charles & Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve), that the council wanted the Reserve for a library and other community facilities, and at the time, this assumption was denied adamantly, however only a few years later, TRC now have announced their intentions on paper in a new Draft Plan for the Highfields Town Centre.  The document has just been released and is a mammoth 46 pages long and a little hard to decipher. We have no protest against a new library or community space, but it is an environmental crime to encroach on the reserve in any way for these new plans. 

The Charles & Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve consists of over 6 hectares of Remnant Dry Rainforest Vegetation, and is one of the last remaining examples of it's kind in the Highfields Region.  The total treed area that you see there currently, is classed as an Endangered Ecosystem (Regional Ecosystem 12.5.6) under Queensland Legislation's National Vegetation Management Act.  It also has a Biodiversity Status under that same act as Endangered. (see map) 
The Toowoomba Regional Planning Scheme identifies the vegetation of Charles & Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve as being within the Biodiversity Areas Overlay "Areas of Ecological Significance" where impacts must be avoided altogether or minimised through outcomes that include avoiding further fragmentation and reducing edge effects.


CURRENT ISSUE AT HAND as per the Highfields Draft Cultural Precinct Master Plan 2017


  • 1.  Library in the trees, option 1, or Option 2 - library seemingly not in the trees, but actually IS encroaching on the Reserve land, taking up space of some of the most precious dry rainforest bushland in the front section (lot 8) near the entrance signs on Community Court.  It seems that council are offering “option 2” so it appears as though the reserve is being spared, but when you look closely, this is not the case at all. Rough estimates show that at least 12 significant eucalyptus trees will be lost with Option 2, along with many precious dry rainforest plants.

  • 2.  O’Brien Road is being widened to four lanes plus a centre island with trees – to make way for this, the reserve edge on O'Brien Road will be depleted for a highway sized road - with four lanes to no where.  This large road will be unsafe for families and citizens crossing to and from the cultural precinct to proposed town centre shops and amenities, and it seems ludicrous to cut into precious bushland and remove established trees to widen a road and then plant alternative trees in the centre of this new road.  We note that Ruthven Street in the city centre of Toowoomba is only two lanes.

  • 3.  A new road is proposed, named Charles & Motee Rogers Drive, running behind the sports centre & skate park from Rogers Drive to Community Court.  (see pages 28. 42, 44), cutting into the reserve again and an unnecessary waste of space in this Cultural Precinct, where space is at a premium.  The enormous length of the proposed road will encourage access to the reserve at many points rather than at set path entries contributing to the degradation of the Reserve's environmental integrity, and it's large span will without a doubt, mean disastrous results for wildlife with a high-risk of road trauma, and un-necessary removal of further trees. This would also take away precious parkland from Lot 904, purchased by the Crows Nest Shire Council in 2004 as additional park land for the Charles & Motee Rogers Park.

Have your Say?

Highfields residents have been offered the opportunity to respond by choosing from two options, both of which are sketched to suggest that the bushland will remain in place around the buildings.  As the details on Page 14 show, this is NOT the case.

Respondents are offered the choice of only two options, one which would create less damage to the Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve. Both options are unacceptably destructive, but the form cannot be submitted unless one of them is chosen.

An opportunity to respond, telling council that we would like the library, but not on the site of the precious reserve is not offered to us.


Overview:

The tall trees of the reserve are an iconic part of the character of central Highfields.  The Charles and Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve is a functioning ecosystem of high quality. Once destroyed, it can never be fully replaced. Its environmental value should be acknowledged by Toowoomba Regional Council. The reserve should not be treated as though it were nothing but "green space", or a mere beauty spot which could easily be replaced with something of equal value.


OUR POSITIVE PROPOSALS:

Positive Proposals for the solving the problems posed by the existence of an important environmental reserve in the Highfields Cultural Precinct.

SOME NEEDS IDENTIFIED BY THE MASTER PLAN, BUT NOT RESOLVED BY IT
The master plan acknowledges that:


  1. it would be desirable to  “physically grow the extent of the (Charles and Motee Rogers) reserve” (Page 14) 
  2. “Stakeholders have said (that the) “Highfields Cultural Precinct needs... support for the conservation of.... the local bushland setting.”( Page 21)
  3. And “The Charles & Motee Rogers Reserve is not integrated well into a vision for the town centre’s public realm or open space strategy.” (Page 22)


The Master Plan as it stands fails to address these three issues.  
Instead, it  reduces the extent of the Charles and Motee Rogers Reserve (the Reserve),  reduces the area of conserved local bushland, while offering no strategies for supporting conservation,(Page 13) and no appropriate strategy for integrating the Reserve into the precinct. Instead, it relegates the Reserve to the cultural Precinct’s backyard.
These negative steps are outlined in the Master Plan, which provides for


Excising all but  Lot 7 from the biodiversity area (Page 12). This provides for the environmentally valuable sections of Lot 904 and a significant portion of Lot 8, to be cleared and used for other purposes.
Excising a strip from Lot 7 to widen O’Brien Road.
Excising a further portion from Lot 7 for part of the planned “Charles and Motee Rogers Drive”. (Pages 28. 42, 44)
Planning to replace the only section of the Reserve offering an ideal solution to the integration problem, with a library. A second negative effect of this positioning of the library would be the unnecessary destruction of existing bushland, including some tree species which occur nowhere else on the Reserve.



1. “GROWING” THE EXTENT OF THE RESERVE.
This would not be necessary if the Master Plan simply retained as much as possible of the current area of preserved vegetation.
This could be done by:

  • Using all the whole area of the State Owned portion of the precinct for the planned library. This would save from destruction the corner section of Lot 8, which currently carries an ecosystem with a high level of biodiversity integrity and has road frontage on Community Court.
  • Retaining the current width of the O’Brien Road Reserve up to the point where the reason for widening - provision for on-street shops and a library cafĂ© - actually applies. It would be reasonable to widen only the section of O’Brien Road between Highfields Road and the current opening of Community Court. This would save a further strip of Lot 7's intact ecosystem from destruction.
  • Retaining part of Lot 904, as part of the Reserve.  This would save another section of the precinct’s original ecosystem from destruction.
  • Providing in the Master Plan for TRC management of the Reserve to maintain and improve its existing biodiversity qualities. This is currently done by a volunteer group, but not to a standard which is desirable in a part of a Community Precinct of the planned quality.
  • Removing the skate bowl from the precinct. The current skate bowl is inadequate for a growing community, and poorly situated in its current semi-concealed site. The reason for including this road in the Master Plan is not explained but it seems to be for no better practical reason than to make the current skate bowl a less suitable venue for juvenile mischief.
  • Providing for the building of a skate bowl of a standard more suited to Highfields’ growing needs than the existing skate bowl. Arranging for it to be situated in a more suitable situation, such as one of Highfields’ empty parks where an adjacent road would allow for higher visibility and some casual supervision by passing motorists.
  • Ditching the plan to build the Charles and Motee Rogers Drive. It would be an unnecessary waste of space in this Cultural Precinct, where space is at a premium. It would encourage access to the Reserve at many points instead of by a few path entries, thereby contributing to the degradation of the Reserve’s environmental integrity.


2. SUPPORTING CONSERVATION WITHIN THE RESERVE.

  • The Master Plan could provide for this by:
  • Conserving as much as possible of the existing bushland area, within a newly redefined Reserve boundary.
  • Defining the boundary with fencing of various possible kinds, bollards etc, to help reduce damage to the natural vegetation by foot trampling, council mowing, and vehicle incursions. (Habitat vegetation is damaged when pedestrians walk all over it.  Judicious partial fencing to reduce the number of points of entry would help support conservation within this area.)
  • Guiding foot traffic onto the existing footpaths. They are currently much-used by community members enjoying the reserve’s natural qualities. Most traffic restricts itself naturally to the paths.
  • Removing one potential source of destructive multiple access, by ditching the plan to construct the Charles and Motee Drive. Inclusion of this road, with its arrows showing how the public would be given access encouraging them to trample about widely, shows a lack of understanding of the difference between an environmental reserve and a park.
  • Restoring the native vegetation where possible, taking into account the four essential layers of this vegetation type (1. Upper canopy of Eucalypts. 2. Lower canopy of other tree species. 3. Understorey. Ground covering layer of undergrowth.) Note that it is very important to exclude mowing from the Reserve.




3. INTEGRATING THE CHARLES & MOTEE ROGERS RESERVE INTO A VISION FOR THE TOWN CENTRE’S PUBLIC REALM.
This can be done by:

  • Recognising that partly realised potential for suitable integration already exists, and is already in keeping with the high profile of natural bushland as valued by the Highfields community. The Community Court frontage of the Reserve is part of our town centre’s character, and should be retained. 
  • Removing or concealing the unsightliness of several roadside installations and  the back entry of the Fitness Centre, which mar the appeal of the Reserve’s road frontage. Both are inappropriate both now, and to the new vision of the Cultural Centre.
  • Incorporating the Reserve’s Community Court entry in the planned “ arbour or public walkway to link the cultural buildings and nearby facilities”,  as mentioned in the Master Plan Project Update 1.
  • Further improving the visual appeal of the Reserve’s Community Court frontage. Attractive trees are already present, so this would be easily done. Note that any improvements should be in keeping with the nature of the reserve, to emphasise its specialness as a conserved area. (i.e. No inappropriate planting of non-local species. A fence  - or an attractive hedge of a local plant such as Holly Dovewood - to allow for the reserve’s undergrowth to retain its integrity right up to the boundary. An attractive gateway and signage.)


We ask that Toowoomba Regional Council respect the communities request to preserve the entire endangered ecosystem known as the Charles & Motee Rogers Bushland Reserve, and disregard any plans to use any of the bushland for future roads and community building facilities. We would like Toowoomba Region Council to honour past promises to preserve this last patch of remnant vegetation in the centre of Highfields, and to change it's perspective and view it as a precious community asset in it's current state, and not as a 'bare patch of land' for future development.


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