Chapter 2 Proposed development and construction of housing for Defence at
Defence Housing Australia (DHA) seeks approval to construct dwellings
for Australian Defence Force (Defence) personnel at a site at Rasmussen,
DHA will develop approximately 1,180 allotments plus one medium density
site for the provision of housing, and intends to construct houses for Defence
families on 401 of those lots.
The purpose of the project is to maintain or reduce the number of
Defence personnel and their families residing in private rental accommodation
in the Townsville area. The project also aims to replace housing returned to
investors at end of lease and replace existing housing that no longer meets
This proposed development and construction project was referred to the
Committee on 24 November 2011.
Conduct of the inquiry
Following referral, the inquiry was advertised nationally and
submissions sought from those with direct interest in the proposed project.
The Committee received one submission and a supplementary confidential
submission from DHA. A list of submissions can be found at Appendix A.
The Committee conducted a public hearing on the project and an in-camera
hearing on the project costings on 1 May 2012, in Townsville.
A transcript of the public hearing and a copy of DHA’s public submission
to the inquiry are available on the Committee’s website.
Need for the works
Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, Queensland, is one of Defence’s largest
bases and home of the 3rd Brigade which forms the core of the Australian
Army’s Ready Deployment Force.
The base currently supports a population of 3,817 military and 626
civilian personnel. DHA has identified a growing need over the next five years
to provide new housing accommodation for families of Defence personnel working
in the Townsville area.
Of the total Defence personnel residing in the Townsville area, 2,100
are Members with Dependents (MWD). As of 1 June 2011, 13.2 per cent (280 families)
of the MWDs were on Rental Allowance (RA) which is the provision of an
allowance to assist members in sourcing their own accommodation in the private
rental market. Defence policy and DHA contractual obligations require that no more
than 15 per cent of members be on RA.
To maintain the housing stock in Townsville at acceptable levels, DHA must
provide approximately 80 new dwellings per year in order to:
n maintain or reduce
the number of members on RA
n replace housing
returned to investors at end of lease
n replace existing
housing that no longer meets Defence standards.
In its submission to the inquiry, DHA explained that it is pursuing a
mix of measures to meet future Defence housing needs in Townsville.
DHA suggested that the purchase and development of a greenfield site is
appropriate at this time, for the following reasons:
n Defence has a
requirement to integrate Defence families into the wider communities. A local
community, of which approximately 30 per cent are Defence families, has
traditionally met Defence social requirements. This is consistent with the
percentage of rental properties in the broader community.
n DHA operates in a
commercial manner. This development and construction methodology is the most
cost effective way to meet Defence housing and social requirements and for DHA
to meet the required return to shareholders.
The Committee is satisfied that there is a need for the works.
Scope of the works
The proposed scope of the works is detailed in Submission 1: Defence Housing
DHA plans to develop 1,180 residential allotments plus one medium
density site, in 30 Stages, on a site of approximately 99 hectares. DHA then
intends to construct 401 dwellings (approximately 33 per cent of the total
development) to supply housing for Defence personnel.
DHA discussed broader planning issues for the site:
The development of the site will be undertaken generally in
accordance with the concept plan, provided in supplementary item No. 2 of our
submission. The site is highly irregular, as it is made up of 10 separately
titled lots covering an area of approximately 99 hectares. The site is zoned as
suitable for residential development. When DHA purchased the site in December
2010, there was an existing concept master plan with a number of approvals in
place. Since acquiring the site, DHA has reviewed the existing approvals and
developed an enhanced concept master plan in consultation with Townsville City
Council and other relevant stakeholders. The current concept master plan
provides an arrangement of lots more suited to the needs of DHA and the local
market and provides a more even distribution of open space.
DHA elaborated on the broader planning concepts for the development:
The proposed allotment mix will introduce variety to
accommodate lifestyle options and provide a range of price points to meet local
market expectations, as well as DHA's objective to meet defence housing needs
through the provision of high-quality attached and detached housing that is
financially viable and attractive to investors and integrates with the
surrounding community. The allotments to be developed on the site have been
designed to maximise opportunities for buildings to be developed in a
cost-effective and timely way that responds to the solar paths and prevailing
breezes, cater for an outdoor-orientated lifestyle and engage with streets to
create a cohesive and inclusive streetscape. The road network has also been
developed to incorporate a number of potential bus routes. The master plan
consists of formal and informal open spaces, linked by a green corridor along
principal roads. This is intended to serve multiple functions, including a recreational
space, pedestrian and bicycle linkages and stormwater treatment. The natural
features of the site have been recognised and provision has been made for
connections to regional open space opportunities along the Ross and Bohle
Subject to Parliamentary approval, construction is planned to commence
on the project by February 2013, with the first houses being delivered by
October 2014. The project completion would be expected by December 2023.
The Committee finds that the proposed scope of works is suitable to meet
Cost of the works
The estimated overall project cost is $261,709,213, including GST, but
excluding the purchase of the land and escalation.
The cost will be met from DHA equity and debt funding and will be
recovered through sale of individual lots to the general market and the sale of
DHA constructed housing through its Sale and Lease Back program.
The Committee is satisfied that the costings of the project provided to
it have been adequately assessed by the proponent agency.
The Committee raised the issue of flooding in the region, and the
potential for large flood events to impact on the Rasmussen site.
DHA stated that the high side of the site of the proposed development is
the Ross River, with the entire site draining west towards the Bohle River.
DHA explained that the Townsville City Council has produced a flood
report for the Bohle River:
They have looked at a whole stream of measures and a whole
stream of hydrology cases. They have worked out the worst event, which factors
in a one-in-100-year event. They have done a risk assessment of other events
and deemed that a one-in-100-year setting and a one-in-50-year flood envelope
is appropriate for development in the Bohle River flood plain.
DHA stated that the proposed development will be above the
one-in-100-year flood event level:
The base of the houses, the concrete floor of the houses, on
our site is designed to be 450 millimetres about the Q50 flood line, which puts
it above the Q100 flood line.
DHA discussed the assessment of flood potential:
The flood report that council released shows that the site
itself is clear of the Q50 flood … the one-in-50-year flood. That is deemed the
definable flood event in the Townsville area by Townsville City Council after
some considerable risk assessment, except for some minor areas where the drains
encroach on the development, which are not to be developed anyway … the
development is proposed to be able to provide lots that are clear of the
Q50-defined flood event but also such that any floor levels would be located
450 millimetres above the Q50 level.
DHA explained further:
The flood study also has a Q100 run where it provides flood
levels within there. In the vicinity of this development the Bohle River shows
a difference in flood level between the Q50 and the Q100—or the one-in-50-year
event and the one-in-100-year event—of approximately 100 millimetres. Therefore
the floor levels would actually be 350 millimetres above the Q100 event.
DHA reiterated that it is building to the requirements of state
government and local authorities:
The recent review undertaken by the state government and the
Brisbane City Council in relation to the floods that occurred in 2011 in
Brisbane suggested that they upgrade the state standard to Q100 plus 300
millimetres. As I stated before, the design scenario for this development is
Q100 plus 350 millimetres, so we are in excess of the recommendations of that
The Committee pursued the issue of flooding, suggesting that the Q50 and
Q100 floods are not the worst flood events which have the potential to occur,
as recent flood events around the nation have shown.
The Committee accepts that DHA is developing and building on the
Rasmussen site within normal guidelines and advice provided by local and state
government agencies, regarding the potential for flooding.
The Committee asked DHA to elaborate on traffic issues associated with
the proposed development.
DHA explained that Riverway Drive is the primary access to the site,
however other access will come in from the north or south and there will be
three entrances from Beck Drive to the west, as the site develops over time.
DHA provided information on existing traffic volume and the predicted
traffic volume during the development period:
The existing traffic on the road at the moment in the
vicinity of the front entry [of the development site] is 14,400 vehicles per
day. That is a daily traffic volume … That is an aggregate total. The normal
practice in Queensland is to do an analysis of the traffic 10 years past the
end of development. The traffic models have predicted that the traffic volume
at 10 years after development will be 25,900 vehicles per day … It is a
DHA discussed traffic flows during peak time periods:
The traffic report actually has peak hourly traffic
breakdowns for all of the intersections along that section of road. All of the
traffic analysis is done based on peak hour volume—there is an AM peak and a PM
peak. Some of those can vary in terms of which one controls the upgrade
requirements for the intersection. Traditionally in Townsville, and this
development is no different, the peak hour volumes are around 10 per cent of
the daily traffic volume.
The Committee observed that Riverway Drive immediately adjacent to the
proposed development is a two lane carriageway (one lane each way). DHA
discussed the plans to upgrade the road to make it a four lane carriageway:
The Department of Transport and Main Roads in our discussions
with them have confirmed that the duplication of the two-lane carriage way to
four lanes from Gollogly Lane, where it becomes four lanes, south to Allambie
Lane, which is the road to the south of our development, will be upgraded within
their five-year plan … When we look at the traffic volumes, the normal
duplication trigger in terms of vehicles per day is around 20,000 vehicles per
day. So if you look at those traffic volumes the duplication in timing seems
DHA also explained that measures will be taken to minimise the impact of
increased traffic flows on residents:
… one [issue of concern for residents] was the traffic access
to and from Riverway Drive. We highlighted there our plans to put an
intersection with traffic signals at our entry point onto Riverway Drive and
highlighted that that would assist in breaking the traffic flows so that
residents north of the site would have much easier access to and from their
properties, because we are creating a break in the traffic … we are building
that part of stage 1 first up in the development.
The Committee was assured that DHA had fully considered the impact of
the proposed development on traffic flows in the immediate area. The Committee
appreciates that the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads’ plan
for the duplication of Riverway Drive will ensure appropriate traffic flows in
Rasmussen, and that the installation of additional traffic lights will minimise
increased traffic flow impacts on residents.
Social and cultural planning
DHA stated that it has engaged a social and cultural planner to assess
the impacts of having approximately 1,180 additional families use the existing
schools and other public amenities in the Rasmussen area.
DHA discussed some of the initial outcomes of the social and cultural
DHA has engaged a social and cultural planner who has
completed a social and cultural planning report. The preparation of this report
included a significant amount of research including a number of focus groups
with local residents to determine their perceptions of the proposed development
and to seek what components of development are of a priority to the Townsville
people. The research clearly indicated a favourable response to the development
and that outdoor living is of a supreme importance to Townsville locals. Access
to Riverway Drive and local shopping facilities was another key recommendation
of these groups. This feedback was incorporated into the revisions of the
master planning process.
DHA outlined the community facilities and services available in the
The site … is located within close proximity to the Rasmussen
primary school; the Good Shepherd Catholic primary school, community centre and
church; a sports ground; the police-citizens youth club, or PCYC; childcare
facilities; and a shopping precinct. It is considered that the proposed
development will have a positive impact on surrounding local and regional
communities, having been designed for residential development under the
Thuringowa planning scheme for some time.
With regard to public transport, there is an existing route connecting
the Townsville CBD to Rasmussen via Riverway Drive. The Master plan for the
development includes a clear and defined public transport route through the
project site. More than 90 per cent of residences will be within 400m walking
distance of bus stops along the route.
DHA elaborated on the role of social and cultural planning over the
course of the construction of the development:
That will be an ongoing role. The reason for that is that
this project goes for 10 years, and the environment around us will change. We
expect that, over the 10 years, families will come and go. We cannot predict
exactly what community facilities will come and go during that period of time,
so consequently there needs to be ongoing consultation with the local community
… We will look at people like the local schools, the shops, the medical
facilities. The PCYC will be major. When you are looking at another 1,180
families coming into the area, that is a lot of people coming in, but it will
occur over an extended period of time. So we will be working very closely with
those providers of services surrounding our development to ensure that they
grow as we grow.
The Committee was very pleased to be briefed on the thorough examination
of social and cultural planning issues and is reassured that these significant
planning aspects are at the fore in DHA’s project.
Importantly, the social and cultural planning is not just a one-off
assessment at the beginning of the project but will be an ongoing process
throughout the life of the development.
Final Committee comment
The Committee was satisfied with the evidence provided by DHA regarding
the proposed development and construction of housing for Defence at Rassmussen,
Having regard to its role and responsibilities contained in the Public
Works Committee Act 1969, the Committee is of the view that this project
signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a project which
is fit-for-purpose, having regard to the established need.
||The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives
resolve, pursuant to Section 18(7) of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,
that it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work: Proposed
development and construction of housing for Defence at Rasmussen, Townsville.