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Inside working class Woolloongabba’s push to host the Olympics


For many Queenslanders, two words can bring feelings of state pride, forged on sacred sporting ground, rushing forward.

“The Gabba.”

One of Brisbane’s two great temples of sport, it was announced last week the Gabba would be completely redeveloped at a cost of $1 billion as the main stadium for Brisbane’s 2032 Summer Olympics, should the bid be successful.

“The Gabba.“

Two words bring big sporting moments to the forefront of mind. The sheer thrill of recently-retired Lions champion Jonathon Brown powerfully breaking clear, marking, quickly turning from the tangle of players and kicking calm and straight for goal.

Richmond winning a second consecutive AFL grand final last September, in the first-ever AFL grand final held outside Victoria. A match nobody would have ever expected to have been played in rugby league heartland.

The fluid power of West Indies great fast bowler Wes Hall at the Tied Test in 1960 matching the late, canny Richie Benaud as captain of the Australian X1.

The exhilaration as Peter Siddle took a hat-trick in First Ashes Test in November 2010 as part of a game-changing 6/54 on day one to set the Aussies up for a series win.

The brave, battered and bruised Indian team forcing Australia in January 2021 into their first-ever loss at the Gabba since 1988 to win the series 2:1.

In 2032, we could see the athletics and the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies at the Gabba, all underneath a lit cauldren.

The stuff of dreams.


Jamaica’s Usain Bolt celebrates as he wins the men’s 200-meter final with a world record during the athletics competitions in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008. CREDIT:AP

The Queensland government had already promised a $200 million overhaul of the Gabba in 2018, but now the Gabba upgrade is linked to the 2032 Olympics, the Queensland can ask the federal government to help cover the cost.

The Gabba has been home to Queensland sport including cricket and AFL for 126 years. It has played host to both rugby codes and the Socceroos’ first ever home game, against New Zealand in 1923.

Earlier this week, cricket and Australian Rules officials could not believe their luck at sercuring such a huge upgrade for their Queensland home.

However what impact will it have on Woolloongabba, dissected by transport corridors and for so long the ugly duckling of inner-city Brisbane?

It has changed dramatically from the low swamplands where Aboriginal people lived and hunted kangaroo, wallaby, possum and koala.

The name comes from Aboriginal phrases “woolloon” and “capemm” or “woolloon” and “gabba” that means either “whirling waters” or “fight talk place”.

Queensland’s railways grew around the old South Brisbane depot between the 1880s and 1960s, while one of the city’s biggest tram depots was at nearby East Brisbane.

The suburb and its surrounds contain three hospitals — the Mater, Princess Alexandra and the Queensland Children’s Hospital — which are all big employers.

South Bank Parklands, a legacy of World Expo ’88, is a 10-minute walk away, while the underground station for the city’s new underground rail network, the Cross River Rail, is straight across Main Street from the Gabba.

Who lives in Woolloongabba?

  • The suburb’s 5361 residents, according to the 2016 census, had a median age of 30, were less likely to be married (60.8 per cent never married) and more likely to be university-educated (43.9 per cent).
  • Culturally it’s a mix. One of the local state schools has “We all smile in the same language” as its school motto.
  • Just under 60 per cent of people speak English at home,  5.9 per cent speak Mandarin Chinese, 2.7 per cent Vietnamese, while 2.4 per cent speak Korean and Cantonese.  Aboriginal people made up 1.2 per cent of residents.
  • It’s a suburb of both professionals (33.2 per cent) and tradies (11 per cent), clerks and community workers (about 13 per cent each). About 10 per cent class themselves as manager.

Source: 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census.

In the past decade, the suburb of timber and tin Queensland workers cottages changed fast as the population grew.

Shane Smith runs Vogue Construction with nine employees. They have been restoring old Queensland homes at the Gabba for about 20 years.

He predicts Woolloongabba will now race ahead.

“This area here is about to boom again with what is going on over there,” he said, gesturing towards the new Cross River Rail underground rail station.

“And now, with what was announced at the Gabba, it is really going to boom.


Builder Shane Smith has been renovating Queenslanders and workers cottages in Woolloongabba for 20 years. He predicts the suburb to boom as the 2032 Olympics approach.CREDIT:TONY MOORE 

“I think it’s a really good thing for this area. I think it’s a good spot to have the opening of the Olympic Games. It was either that or Albion and I think this is more accessible for us all.”

Both the homes he is now working on were built in 1902. It’s expensive work. The cost of repairs in each home was “well north of $100,000”.

“These two were old workers’ cottages back in the day. So these were not rich people who lived here in these places,” he said.

Michael Harries is a director of Woolloongabba town planning firm Steffan Town Planning.

It obtains development approvals for projects ranging from home extensions to small to medium unit complexes.

“I think in the short-term there are all those new units that have gone up near the Gabba, so there will those impacts for those residents,” he said.

“So noise and jack-hammering would definitely be an impact for those residents in the short-term.”

In the longer term, the biggest impact will be down towards Kangaroo Point where planners have proposed a covered link down Main Street between the Gabba and Raymond Park, where, theoretically, athletes would warm up.

“If anything it is probably a positive thing,” he said.

“You will have residents who will be concerned and don’t want to deal with it and want to get out, but things like that walkway over Main Street (part of the Cross River Rail) is a massive improvement on what happens there currently when they have major events at the Gabba.

“They won’t have to get police out there closing down the road every night with the buses and police blocking the street so the buses can ferry people back into town.”


Woolloongabba is now a hybrid mix of original character homes and modern unit complexes.CREDIT:TONY MOORE 

He describes Woolloongabba as a hybrid suburb, with high-density living and the traditional lower density housing, protected by Brisbane City Council’s character house zoning.

Mr Harries said it was too early to see any reaction to the 2032 Olympics, but people were already investing in the suburb.

However, he did not see widespread changes to Woolloongabba, because the council’s zoning protects character homes and prevents development in easily-flooded areas.

“There is limited opportunity for infill development,” he said.

“It’s a good mixture. You are not going to see too many three and four-unit developments coming through in this area.

“It is more going to be the larger developments because of the nature of the zoning.”

The area is represented at the local government level by Greens councillor Jonathon Sri, who opposes the Olympics bid.

“We have far higher priorities, but if the major parties do push ahead with this, I’ll be using it as an opportunity to secure some positive improvements for my electorate,” Cr Sri said.

Cr Sri’s main concern is keep tackling the suburb’s “gentrification”, which he believes removes affordable housing.

He said rent control and a housing strategy needed to be put in place.


Cross River Rail’s new underground station is being built at Woolloongabba as part of the city’s new underground rail projectCREDIT:CROSS RIVER RAIL/FACEBOOK 

“My biggest concerns is that the absence of a housing strategy to mitigate the negative impacts of gentrification will lead to rampant property speculation, forcing out low-income renters as their homes are turned into short-term accommodation for international media and Olympics tourists,” Cr Sri said.

“We need a rent control system for the entire inner-city, more public housing built around Woolloongabba, and tighter rules against residential apartments being turned into hotel rooms.

“Otherwise half the homes in Woolloongabba and Kangaroo Point are going to end up on AirBNB, with no housing available for local workers.”

Cr Sri says the space beside the Gabba, on Main Street where the Cross River Rail underground rail station is to be built, must contain a large new park.

“We’ll need a large public park and sports field above the Gabba train station site, new sports fields created along the West End riverfront to replace the old factories, significantly more investment in Davies Park, and new pocket parks created around Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba so that local residents aren’t deprived of green space when existing parks are taken over for the Games,” he said.

Gabba Ward councillor Jonathan Sri’s seven-point wishlist

  1. New north-south high-frequency CityGlider bus service (and dedicated bus lanes) connecting Fortitude Valley to Woolloongabba and Annerley via the Story Bridge, Main Street and Ipswich Road.
  2. New east-west high-frequency Cityglider bus service connecting suburbs such as Bulimba and Hawthorne to West End via Woolloongabba.
  3. Pedestrian priority crossings from the Gabba Cross River Rail site to the northern side of Vulture Street and the southern side of Stanley Street.
  4. North-south separated bike/scooter lanes running along Main Street and Ipswich Road to connect to the Kangaroo Point green bridge.
  5. Separated bike/scooter lanes along Vulture Street to connect Woolloongabba to high-density housing areas in South Brisbane and West End.
  6. Extend the Stanley Street separated bike lanes east past the Gabba towards East Brisbane.
  7. A footpath link alongside the M3 to connect Vulture Street and the Gabba precinct to Lower River Terrace and the Brisbane River.


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Brisbane Housing Market Insights: May 2021

BrisbaneBrisbane Housing Market Insights

Brisbane housing market insights for May reveals increased demand for houses and approvals for new units has been underpinned by increasing consumer sentiment and a surge in interstate migration.

This resource, to be updated monthly, will collate and examine the economic levers pushing and pulling Brisbane’s housing market.

Combining market research, rolling indices and expert market opinion, this evolving hub will act as a pulse check for those wanting to take a closer look at the movements across the market.

Brisbane’s typically slow-moving property market has continued to rise as part of a once-in-a-decade boom that experts say could fuel a further 10 per cent rise in house prices in the coming year.

Brisbane house prices have soared to record heights for the seventh consecutive quarter, with tight stock levels and strong demand across all demographics increasing competition.

Investors have also made their way back into the market and competition is heating up.

The latest Corelogic home value index shows Brisbane dwelling prices have risen by 1.7 per cent on a rolling four-week basis.

Brisbane house prices advanced a further 1.8 per cent during April, pushing it up 6.2 per cent for the recent quarter and 9.6 per cent for the year to date.

The current median value for dwellings is $558,295 which is $10,000 higher than just a month ago.


Type Month Quarter Annual Median
All 1.7%▼ 5.6%▲ 8.3%▲ $558,295▲
Houses 1.8%▼ 6.2%▲ 9.6%▲ $621,806▲
Units 1.0%▶ 3.0%▲ 2.4%▲ $405,902▲

^Source: Corelogic Hedonic Home Value Index – April

The resurgence of buyer interest in the Brisbane property market has meant that auction clearance rates have consistently been in the 70 per cent range.

Clearance rates across April notably higher for houses compared to apartments, reflecting broader trends.

Hot spots included Brisbane’s inner city, inner east, inner west and the inner north – where house prices skyrocketed by 13 per cent over the past year to $1.2 million, 13.2 per cent to $1.053 million, 10.4 per cent to $1.17 million and 13.1 per cent to $1.1 million.

Brisbane auction clearance rates

Week Clearance rate Total Auctions
Week ending 11 April 2021 80.9% 123
Week ending 18 April 2021 72.7% 104
Week ending 25 April 2021 76.2% 105
Week ending 2 May 2021 76.0% 104

^Source: Corelogic Auction Clearance Rates – April

Brisbane is experiencing one of the tightest rental markets in a decade on the back of high demand coupled with extremely low supply.

Across April, Brisbane’s rental markets are experienced a tightening of supply, with vacancy rates currently sitting at 1.8 per cent.

Rental returns and yields have significantly increased in Brisbane, with rents soaring from 5 per cent to 15 per cent.

Gross rental yields sit at 4 per cent for houses and 5.2 per cent for units—much higher than other capital cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Some of the tightest vacancies across the capital’s suburbs include Anstead (0.5 per cent), Birkdale (0.3 per cent), Capalaba (0.2 per cent), Ferny Hill (0.3 per cent), Gumdale (0.4 per cent), Manly West (0.5 per cent), Rothwell (0.2 per cent), Sandgate (0.5 per cent), Shailer Park (0.4 per cent), Thornside (0.3 per cent) and Wakerley (0.4 per cent).

Brisbane residential rental vacancy rate


City April 2021 vacancy rate Monthly % change
Brisbane 1.4%▼ 0.1%▼

^Source: SQM Research – April

Rental stock on market

City April 2021 vacancies Vacancy net loss
Brisbane 4780▼ 627▼

^Source: SQM Research – April

Brisbane rent prices

Type Rent Monthly % change Annual % change
Houses $489.10▲ 0.5%▲ 6.8%▲
Units $386.60▲ 0.5%▼ 2.8%▲

^Source: SQM Research – April

Brisbane’s housing market has remained particularly unaltered by the closure of international borders, where historically high demand from overseas migrants has been disrupted.

Tight stock levels and strong demand across all demographics have made it incredibly difficult not only to find a property to buy but to also secure something at a reasonable price.

Loan data shows investors have started coming back into a housing market they had largely vacated and the boom is being driven overwhelmingly by established owner occupiers.

Another big part of the demographic buyer base helping drive demand in Brisbane has been first homebuyers.

Brisbane’s proportion of home loans that remained on deferral at the end of March was just 0.7 per cent, indicating a very very low likelihood of distressed selling.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for total dwelling units approved in Queensland in March was 4547, 12.1 per cent up on February’s figures.

Queensland building approvals

^Australian Bureau of Statistics, (Suspension of trend series between May 2020 and Jul 2020 due to Covid-19)

Dwelling Approved Monthly % change
Houses 2792▲ -4.0%▼
Units 4547▲ 12.1%▲

Queensland home loan lending indicators


Region First home buyer loan commitments First home buyer ratio – dwellings First home buyer ratio – housing
Queensland 3437▲ 36.6%▼ 32.3%▼

^Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics – March

Region September (quarter) 2020 arrivals September (quarter) 2020 departures September 2020 quarter net
Queensland 22,317▼ 15,080▼ 7,237▲

^Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics – September quarter 2020

Brisbane’s housing market: policy updates

Australia’s central bank will maintain low interest rates to support the country’s ongoing economic recovery and surging housing market, buoyed by its busiest Easter auction market on record.

Strong tailwinds will bolster the Australian economy through the second half of the year, but macro-prudential measures are likely to be introduced to ease house price pressures in 2022.

Queensland faces a “hard road” during the next four years as the state recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, Treasurer Cameron Dick says.

Brisbane housing market forecasts

ANZ economists forecast Brisbane house prices will rise by 9.5 per cent next year, as low interest rates and government stimulus flow through the economy while Commonwealth Bank updated its forecasts, projecting a strong rebound in prices across the second half of 2021.

CBA now expects Brisbane house prices to increase by 16.6 per cent to December 2022 compared to 13.7 per cent in Sydney and 12.4 per cent in Melbourne.

Westpac has also updated its property forecasts, with Brisbane real estate prices tipped to surge 20 per cent between 2022 and 2023.



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Subdued Office Occupancy Underpins Need To Support CBD


The latest results of the Property Council’s office occupancy survey show that Brisbane’s CBD activity levels have remained flat during April, as the Property Council ramps up efforts to encourage workers to return to the city.

The survey revealed Brisbane’s CBD occupancy level had stagnated at just over 60 per cent in April, marking the fifth consecutive month of little movement in the return to workplaces.

The Property Council’s Queensland Deputy Executive Director, Jen Williams, explained that while flexibility will continue to be a major feature of workplaces and there remains a small risk of future lockdowns, there is still a long way to go until the CBD reaches the level of occupancy anticipated in the new ‘normal’.

“Activity levels in Brisbane’s office buildings not only affect workplaces and office landlords, but the thousands of small businesses and retailers that rely on high levels of foot traffic to turn a profit.

“All businesses in the CBD are interrelated and largely reliant on office workers. From dry cleaners, to take away outlets, to electronic scooter companies, everyone relies on the consistent foot traffic that workers generate.

“As a direct result of the state’s success in tackling the health pandemic and the relatively low level of restrictions remaining, Brisbane was an early mover in the return of workers to the CBD.

“Unfortunately, we have seen the number of workers heading back into the CBD stagnate over the past five months. To position Brisbane for the future and capitalise on the generations of investment that have gone before, we must break the habits of COVID and get our people back together.

“In other parts of the world where employees have been forced to work from home for longer, businesses are desperate to get back to the office, as they have seen their productivity stagnate.

“With the likes of Google and Apple announcing major return to the office plans once the vaccine rollout allows, Brisbane and Australian businesses will risk losing their first mover advantage if they don’t get their teams back to together.

“This is why the Property Council is working with Brisbane City Council on a campaign to not only attract workers back into the office, but to ensure they make the most of what local retailers, cafes, restaurants, and bars have to offer.

“The State Government and Brisbane City Council’s Brisbane Holiday Dollars initiative is welcome recognition of the important role the CBD plays in contributing to the broader state and economy.

“While much is being done, there is still a long way to go until CBD activity levels return to ‘normal’. The Property Council is keen to work across all levels of government and industry to bring activity back to our city centre.”


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Major new tenant for Brisbane’s fast growing Airport City

Airport City

The list of tenants at Brisbane Airport (BNE) will soon include the world’s largest distributor for home-brewing brands such as Still Spirits, Mangrove Jacks, and Grainfather following the sod-turning ceremony for a new facility at the gateway.

Bevie’s 2,600sqm state-of-the-art unit will be located within a Warehousing Industrial Duplex Facility on Grevillea Place in Export Park.

Martin Ryan, Brisbane Airport Corporation’s executive general manager for commercial, joined John van Rensburg, CEO and president of Bevie, and more than 20 Bevie delegates on site to mark the commencement of construction.

Airport City

Van Rensburg noted that a number of Bevie delegates were able to take advantage of the trans-Tasman travel bubble and fly in from New Zealand for the event.

He enthused: “We are looking forward to calling Brisbane Airport home to our soon-to-be constructed, custom facility, and I cannot wait to see the look on everyone’s face when we move in at the end of the year.

“Our existing facility in Banyo has served us well but providing our team with a modern home will allow us to serve our retail partners across Australia more efficiently.”

Ryan said the addition of Bevie is a perfect example of BNE’s evolving Airport City and our ability to attract non-aviation related businesses to Brisbane Airport.

“Bevie’s arrival is very exciting for all of us at Brisbane Airport as it diversifies the mix of industries we have here on site,” noted Ryan.

“We have a number of exciting projects underway and a property assets portfolio exceeding A$1.7 billion. Bevie is a part of BNE’s exciting future, which includes the opening of the BNE Auto Mall in 2024.”

The remaining portion of Brisbane Airport’s new Warehousing Industrial Duplex Facility is a 1,900sqm site that is still available for lease.

“These two units will complete the last piece of real estate available on Grevillea Place, but we have plenty more sites available for everyone’s needs,” added Ryan.

The project is generating more than 30 construction jobs and is expected to be completed by December 2021.


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