Residents Against Intensive
1. A submission to the Public Works
Committee on the Institute for Molecular Biotechnology (IMB) at
the University of Queensland. Please note that the University of
Queensland¹s liaison officer has referred questions from the
RAID group and this author to the Public Works Committee for
resolution at the public hearing, so this submission contains a
number of unanswered questions.
1.0 Lack of safeguards as to future
2 No safeguards have been supplied by the
University/CSIRO that their assurances to the Public Works
Committee will continue to be met throughout the lifecycle of the
3 For example, assurances at the last public hearing that 'only' plant research would be conducted at the IMB counters statements to the contrary in press releases from the University (see attachment 1) and by Vice Chancellor John Hay at the open meeting on October 6, as well as the building specifications which show animal containment pens. If this was an integrated part of the development, how can it be so swiftly deleted without compromising the successful operation of the IMB? How will concerned parties know if animal research begins?
4 The IMB will be conducting commercially sensitive research which should not, and will not, be open to public scrutiny. How will residents know what is happening there?
5 The same legal status public entity - which makes the university think it can ignore community concern and self-assess its conformity to local and state legislation poses another health and safety risk for the project. Scrutiny and regulation of the IMB in operation will be constrained by this planning status.
6 A detailed request for information on the risk profile of the IMB and emergency procedures in October was not answered and remains unanswered (see attachment 2). This indicates that the University and CSIRO do not know the answers, or are not revealing them to residents; either option is unacceptable considering potential risks to staff at the institute, students at the university, the public and neighbouring residents.
7. Few experts are qualified to determine
whether public health demands will be met now, over the lifecycle
of the building, and during exceptional events such as human
error and natural disaster, at a site which is surrounded by a
very busy campus and residential homes. Australia is a newcomer
to the field of biotechnology yet international practices for
positioning and public safety do not appear to have been
researched. Similar research centres at Munich University, for
example, are well away from dense settlement. The environmental
impact assessment (unavailable to residents but apparently under
development by the CSIRO) is likely to be a standard document
without the scope to assess the public health risk posed by the
8. An expert in risk assessment and emergency procedure such as Brisbane¹s Doctor Sally Leivesley should be called in to determine whether an installation like the IMB could develop appropriate safeguards at this location or if, as in similar international laboratory complexes such as Munich University, it needs to be sited away from dense settlement.
9. The University of Queensland¹s Geology Department has claimed for many years that south-east Queensland was at imminent risk of a major earthquake. The St Lucia campus was largely underwater during the 1974 floods. What allowances have been made in the design and operation of the IMB for such occurrences?
10. In relation to the existing
Cunningham Laboratories on Carmody Road, Robyn Emerson placed an
inquiry to the University on November 1 about a large exhaust
pipe venting over the staff carpark on the Carmody Road side of
the laboratory which she suspected was connected to a fume
cupboard. The University of Queensland¹s Ms Cox agreed to act as
a liaison with CSIRO and confirmed the exhaust pipe is connected
to a fume cupboard. (A fume cupboard extracts various gaseous
fumes produced in laboratory research processes. The normal
reason for using a fume cupboard is that the fumes may have an
adverse effect on people working in the vicinity). She was unable
to say what was being released through the pipe but said she
would investigate further. As of November 11, no further
information has been received.
11. Depending on the material being released as exhaust, a fume pit is a health hazard in a number of circumstances. This one is within 20 metres of a residential home and 10 metres of the footpath. What is being released through this exhaust? How long has it been in operation? Has the Brisbane City Council been consulted about this, and about other operations in a laboratory so close to people¹s homes? What safeguards are in place?
12. In the week of November 1 the
University¹s recently appointed liaison officer Paul Bird told
Robyn Emerson he would not answer questions from residents until
after the Public Works Committee (PWC) sits on November 16 and
that any questions should be forwarded to the PWC for answering
at that hearing. This provides little opportunity for residents
to properly research issues to be raised with the PWC.
13. The University and CSIRO have failed to provide appropriate information to the community in the lead-up to the Public Works Committee (PWC). The lack of information volunteered to residents, the reluctance or refusal of the university to respond to inquiries, the short period of time available before the hearing and the lay status of residents presents great difficulties in attempting to raise issues before the PWC.
15. Neither the University of Queensland or
CSIRO¹s relationship with St Lucia residents over decades of
cohabitation has been cooperative, open and transparent. A close
and cooperative relationship over the years might have involved
meetings with local residents to discuss University of Queensland
campus issues, including emergency procedures in the event of an
incident; invitations to visit the campus or the CSIRO¹s
laboratory on Carmody Road to inspect existing operations;
meetings between the Brisbane City Council, University and
residents to resolve issues related to the impact of the campus;
the development of a residents reference group; notification of
incidents such as the explosion in the Steele Building which
caused a death etc.
16. As raised at the last Public Works Committee hearing into the joint building project, the CSIRO exhibited its status as a poor neighbour by failing to contact residential neighbours at its Long Pocket site to inform them of a possum cull.
17. There is no evidence for residents to believe the University and CSIRO will now adopt the responsible, open and transparent relationship essential in positioning a 36,000m2 complex of laboratories within metres of people¹s homes.
18. The public notice announcing the
project failed to properly identify the site, giving no street
address and using a name for the site which is not generally
known in the residential community.
19. Although some Dell Road residents were able to view the model of the joint building project in September, it was only following three weeks of persistent, largely unreturned phonecalls.
20. Information was not volunteered to local residents until a letter drop announcing the public meeting of October 6 which was called by our Member of Parliament Denver Beanland, not the CSIRO or University of Queensland, according to Mr Beanland.
21. Following the open meeting, which ran out of time to answer residents¹ questions, further questions were tendered to the contact person identified by the University of Queensland at the meeting but were not answered. (See attachment 2)
22. An environmental impact statement was put under development at a late date with the results to be available at the same time as construction is to begin. That environmental impact statement¹s ability to answer community concerns is questionable considering that the community was not asked to input into its terms of reference.
23. An alliance of the Brisbane City
Council, State Government and University of Queensland whose
heads are all part of a committee supporting biotechnology - can
be seen to have marginalised or ignored the safety and amenity of
St Lucia residents inherent in the positioning of the IMB at this
site. This coalition of interests has been apparent to the extent
that Mr Soorley, after earlier promising to take a hard
line¹ on the project, has backed down from legal action to
ascertain whether the project is subject to the Integrated
Planning Act. Premier Peter Beattie has labelled anyone opposing
biotechnology as fruit loops¹. UQ Vice Chancellor John Hay
has said he has ³nothing to say to people opposing the
University of Queensland staff visited homes owned by the University in Dell Road on November 9 and told residents to remove signs objecting to the project. They told one resident they were ³shocked² to see the signs and claimed the University¹s rental agreement precluded signs being placed on the property. The resident checked the rental agreement and there was no mention of signs on the property. On November 10, the Brisbane City Council sent a number of Local Law Officers out to tell residents at St Lucia and Long Pocket (where they are fighting a similar development) to take down their signs, claiming they would be fined "hundreds of dollars" for breaching a council by-law. Investigation showed there was no such by-law and Lord Mayor Jim Soorley repudiated the action on November 11.
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