October 9, 1999.
Public Works Committee
Canberra ACT 2600
We wish to make this submission regarding
the CSIRO/University of Queensland (UQ) Joint Building Project,
St Lucia, Qld. This project is referred to locally as the proposed
Institute for Molecular Biosciences (IMB). Its
satellite laboratory, the Natural Sciences Precinct (NSP) is
proposed for the neighbouring suburb of Indooroopilly. Members of
our group intend to accept your invitation to attend the meeting
at UQ on 27 October 1999, to discuss these matters further.
We formed our committee at a public meeting
in April this year, because citizens were concerned about and
opposed to the proposed inappropriate placement of these large
commercial GMO laboratories within our residential areas, in
Brisbane. We have since then become aware of the Biosafety issues
involved, as well as other concerns about excessive traffic
volumes, overcrowding of residential areas, the risks to the
environment of this type of research, as well as other concerns.
OBJECTIONS TO THE NEED FOR IMB AND NSP
- We would dispute that $50 million of
taxpayers money should be spent on the IMB.
- It has now been 26 years
since Boyer and Cohen managed to recombine toad and
- It has been 18 years
since the CSIRO originally began lobbying successive
Federal and State and governments for funding, on the
basis that "Australia is missing out on the
Biotechnology dollar". How long must we wait before
the home-grown Biotechnology dollar is to arrive in
Australia? Another 18 years?
- We have seen little evidence that
Biotechnology in Australia has delivered on its wild
promises to " save babies" and to
"feed the world".
- We are doubtful that the Biotechnology
and the IMB will be "the Goose that laid
the golden egg". The better analogy is
that of the Turkey, who, and having eaten three golden
eggs, is now old, terminally ill and constipated, but
still demands a $50 million funeral.
- Biotechnology in Australia is not
"cutting edge". It is in fact an old science,
which is now out-of-step with community demands
and expectations. Stocks in Biotechnology companies have
been plummeting around the world for the last 12 months,
as the community has become aware of and rejected
genetically modified agricultural products, throughout
- Australia has over 190 Biotechnology
companies. A recent conference in Germany determined
these were the worst performing Biotechnology
companies in the world, with an average annual
profit of less than 1%. Deutsche Bank in Germany has been
advising its clients throughout the world to divest
themselves of Biotechnology investments, because of the poor
long-term prospects for the future, and lack
of acceptance by the general community.
- If Biotechnology in Australia is truly
viable in the open commercial market, then why does the
CSIRO need to build laboratories for the use of these well-funded
multinational chemical companies ? Surely
these companies can afford to build their own
laboratories, if the prospects of profitability are truly
- We believe that spending $50
million on the IMB is a mistake, as this form
of scientific research has had its day. The scientists
involved have misread the social and political community
in which they live.
- They need to read the newspapers, and
listen to the people in the community they live with.
They would hear that the public do not want genetically
modified agricultural products, and they do not want
laboratories with high-risk to community in their
OBJECTIONS TO THE
ADEQUACY OF IMB AND NSP TO MEET
- The IBM and NSP are being built in
heavily populated areas of St.Lucia and Indooroopilly.
The IMB will be seven stories high and will create
privacy problems for the low rise detached housing on
Carmody Rd and Dell Rd and many other areas in St.Lucia
- The IMB is to be built in the
circumferential green buffer zone around UQ, which should
remain as open space. On the UQ campus, there are many
suitable sites for such a large building e.g. sports
fields and large undeveloped car parking areas, old
rundown buildings that could be redeveloped.
- Moving the IMB to other open space in
the UQ would allow for co-location of IMB and NSP on the
one site, with a reasonable green buffer zone
- Best practice, however should involve
building the IMB and NSP together on the same greenfield
sites, as are available at Pinjarra Hills (UQ) and
Samford (CSIRO). These campuses already contain
significant scientific infrastructure, have better roads,
and plenty of room to expand.
- The Draft City Plan requires that the
IMB be consistent in size, form and bulk with
neighbouring residential housing. This would limit the
IMB to 3 story detached laboratories, with areas of open
space between. The building as planned is far too large,
and is even inconsistent with the size and bulk of all
other buildings within the UQ campus.
- Shadows cast by the building at certain
times of the year and at certain times of the day will
inconvenience local residents. We understand that shadow
drawings have not been executed.
- Reflected traffic noise from front wall
of the IMB will create problems for residents across the
- BUILDING SAFETY
- Planning of the IMB has been completed
and funding has been arranged, before Environmental
Impact Studies, Assessment of Impact studies, Traffic
Studies and Risk Management Reports have been completed
- Such glaring omissions of normal
building practices bring into question the integrity of
the builders of the IMB and the NSP.
- We believe the IMB (and the NSP) should
be subject to the Integrated Planning Act 1997 (IPA), and
should not be fast-tracked to avoid complying with his
Act, because it is being built on University land.
- Considering the size of the IMB, and
its obvious impact on surrounding areas, it would seem
tremendously important that its plans are consistent with
building codes for the rest of the State and the rest of
Brisbane. To ignore these building codes would be
extremely irresponsible of UQ and CSIRO.
- The builders of the IMB have not taken
up the opportunity to obtain free consultation with the
Brisbane City Council's Assessment of Planning Objectives
team, who could have advised on a more environmentally
friendly approach to building. Such an assessment has
been sought with respect planning of the NSP, by the same
builders of the IMB.
- No traffic studies have been performed,
although construction is about to commence. No building
of this size would be allowed to be built under the Draft
City Plan or Integrated Planning Act 1997(IPA) without
extensive traffic studies being performed by independent
- The UQ Campus has approximately 30,000
students visiting each day, and surely traffic volumes
will be affected by the 750 staff to be employed at the
- Road access to the IMB is inadequate,
and consists of the single narrow residential road,
Carmody Rd. Streets in this area are already heavily
congested, and the IMB will worsen this problem, with
increased staff vehicles and large vehicle deliveries via
- The IMB has parking for only 240 of its
750 occupants. This small number of car parks provided
are reportedly for exclusive use of CSIRO workers, as UQ
does not provide any dedicated parking for its staff.
- We believe it is irresponsible for UQ
to continue to provide inadequate parking. This forces
the staff and students to park in the surrounding
- Some of the funding available for IMB
should be set aside for underground car parks,
as is normal practice when such large buildings are
constructed in Brisbane.
RISKS TO THE COMMUNITY
- As residents, we are strongly against
the placement of Biohazard Physical Containment (PC)
laboratories (in the case of IMB PC-3 laboratories,
involving live mice and rats in GMO experiments) within
our residential suburbs.
- We have had problems with the CSIRO
Department of Tropical Agriculture at Indooroopilly, who secretly
exterminated all the Possums in eastern Indooroopilly
last year, after they got in and ate from a petrie dish
of GMOs in their Indooroopilly laboratory. The
public were not informed. Dr Elisabeth Heij attempted to
cover-up this issue again in the media, in September
1999. We currently have a formal complaint with GMAC over
this incident, and are calling for community
participation in all Institutional Biosafety Committees
- We are alarmed, too, that the sister
building, the NSP will have PC-3 and PC-4
(high-risk to the community) laboratories,
when it is to be built in 2000. Like the IMB, the NSP is
to be built directly in a residential suburban area at
Indooroopilly. The community will not accept that this is
safe, necessary or desirable. We have confirmed the
planning of PC-3 and PC-4 laboratories at the NSP by a
recent search under The Freedom of Information
Act, after we were denied access to virtually
all planning documents by Mr Frank van Schagen, CEO of
- We believe the public has the
right to know about this type of research
being conducted in physical containment laboratories. We
are concerned that this information concerning high-risk
laboratories has been withheld from the community, by the
builders of the IMB and NSP.
- Genetic manipulated plant and animal
material will be routinely transported from IMB to NSP
through our suburban streets. This is
not satisfactory regardless of safety
protocols, and is another strong argument for co- location of IMB
and NSP on the same greenfield site.
LACK OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION
- As residents of the local area, we
believe we have been treated disrespectfully by UQ and
CSIRO, by a complete lack of public
consultation over the IMB.
- The IMB project was announced in the
press around mid-1999, as a fait accompli, without any
prior warning to the community or its representatives.
- Community consultation only commenced
in September 1999, when a local resident, Mr John Massey,
repeatedly insisted on a meeting with UQ staff to discuss
the IMB. Since then, a couple of meetings have been held.
The level of discussion at these meetings has been such
that they have seemed like undergraduate lectures on the
benefits of GMO research.
- Planning of the IMB is at such an
advanced stage, that it is hard for the community to
envisage that its opinions regarding the IMB could have
any effect whatsoever on its implementation.
- We can only assume that this is what
the UQ and CSIRO have intended all along i.e. they have no
concept of their role as members of the community,
they are indifferent to the self-image they create in the
community, and their level of environmental citizenship
is extremely poor.
- The UQ and CSIRO have attempted to fast-track
the building of IMB, by withholding important
information about the size, the location, and the nature
of its research and associated risks, from the community.
It is only now, as the residents of St.Lucia and
Indooroopilly are becoming aware of the IMB, the true
public consultation can start to take place.
- We are told that construction is to
commence in December. More time is required to allow more
public debate and discussion about IMB and its location,
before building should be allowed to commence.
- We request a three-year
moratorium on the commencement of building of
the IMB, to allow time for full public discussion and
debate. This should apply to all major buildings on UQ
- All buildings on UQ land and CSIRO land
should automatically and compulsorily be legally subject
to the Draft City Plan1999, and the Integrated Planning
Act 1997. There should be no exemptions,
particularly for buildings of these massive dimensions.
- Biohazard physical containment
laboratories (PC-1 to PC-4) should not be allowed in
- Best practice should involve the
placement of IMB in a greenfield site, as exists at
Pinjarra Hills and Samford, and co-location
with its satellite laboratory, the NSP on the same site.
- If the IMB is to be built at the UQ
campus, it should be moved away from
residential areas on Carmody Rd, and placed on
the north and eastern aspects of the campus, where there
are acres of vacant land.
- The circumferential green
buffer zone around the UQ should be preserved,
and the IMB should not be allowed to encroach upon this.
- Parking should be provided
for staff and students attending the IMB. Overflow
parking from UQ should not be allowed to congest and to
lower the amenity of surrounding residential streets.
- Advance planning and funding of the IMB
should not be allowed to proceed without completion
and publicising of Environmental Impact Studies,
Assessment of Impact Studies, Traffic Studies and Risk
- The height of buildings in the IMB
should be restricted to three stories, to be consistent
with detached residential housing across the road.
- CSIRO and UQ staff must henceforth
immediately inform the community if our local possums or
fruit bats are contaminated with GMOs from the
laboratories, before they are trapped and killed.
- Members of the community should be
appointed to Institutional Biosafety Committees
of the IMB and NSP, to improve their
accountability, and to improve communication between the
Biosciences and the community.
- Traffic studies need to
be performed and publicised before the IMB is built. If
these studies were to show that local district access
roads were already carrying in excess of their allowed
10,000 vehicles per day, then this would be further
argument for not building the IMB at St.Lucia, but rather
moving it to Pinjarra Hills, on the outskirts of
Brisbane. We presume this is why traffic studies have not
so far been performed.
We believe that the CSIRO should not
receive $50 million dollars from
the Federal Government, to build this
over-sized commercial GMO
laboratory in a residential area. The
future of GMO research is
doubtful in the longer-term. There are
far safer alternative greenfield
sites on the outskirts of Brisbane, more
suited to this kind of research.
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