Aged-care protest sparks debate over industry future
"WE get there needs to be more aged care facilities," Kay Hogan said. "We're objecting to what is being proposed."
Ms Hogan, 60, is a member of the Protect Taringa working committee and along with her 89-year-old mother, is one of several passionate residents of Seven Oaks Street, in Brisbane's south-west suburb of Taringa, that are battling the proposed development of Tricare's three-building complex on the site currently occupied by a single, three-storey medical use building.
The Tricare complex will comprise a nine-storey aged care facility, plus a 14-storey and 16-storey retirement village buildings.
The argument is over the increase in the number of buildings on the site and over several living quality issues for both the current residents and those that Tricare will be accommodating in the new complex.
It also highlights the gap between what most people are used to seeing as Seniors accommodation, and where the aged care industry is moving as it plans to cater for the growing demand by Australia's rapidly increasing ageing population.
Local residents have voiced concerns the towers are not appropriate for aged-care accommodation, car and increased traffic flow.
They also claim it decrease the privacy and air flow around the near-by buildings and will cause substantial shadowing of neighboring residences.
"We have had quite a bit of expert advice from people who have been in the nursing home industry for 30-odd years," Ms Hogan said.
"The general consensus is that a nine-storey aged care facility, one isn't going to be safe because the fire brigade has already basically commented and said that they wouldn't be able to get the people out in a fire.
"If you are mobile in your aged care, it would be nice to walk around grounds and not be in a high tower in what appears to me to be, certainly on the plan, to be quite small rooms.
"I get that they have to have fairly small rooms to cater for numbers.
"I guess the design of this building just doesn't seem to be conducive to optimal aged care, care."
The project architect, John Deicke of Deicke Richards, responded by noting that design of the Taringa project with its high density aged care accommodation is being driven by the industry which sees this as the way to cope with the expected future demands.
"The density here allows independent and assisted living apartments to be located on the same site as aged care," Ms Deicke said.
"That integration gives residents a better opportunity to age in the communities they know and to remain with their partner, even if they require different levels of care."
Tricare's property and planning manager Simon Dwyer added to the discussion by saying the height and scale of Tricare's Taringa project, "will allow Tricare to efficiently deliver a range of high quality services into each building in the project".
"The residents will benefit from desirable views with the peace of mind of being able to age in place," he added.
The local residents have also voiced concerns about the local bus stop being located at the top of a steep hill and the nearest train station is too far to walk to.
Tricare are offering to manage these concerns by providing a bus service, similar to other retirement communities.
"We are also looking at a fleet car service to remove the need to own a car," Mr Dwyer said.
Brisbane City Council has responded to Ms Hogan's further concerns over a lack of public consultation, yesterday issuing a statement from Councillor Julian Simmonds, whose ward includes Taringa, that the its doors are open to the residents to have their say.
He advised the proposed height, potential traffic impact and interface with existing buildings would all be key considerations for the planning officers assessing the Tricare proposal.
"The building heights of up to 16 storeys proposed in this project are out of step with community expectations for this site and are not in keeping with the surrounding area," Cr Simmonds said.
"Although this site is zoned for health care purposes such as aged care, and this is a use council is encouraging to cater for our ageing population, the height is certainly not consistent with what council believes is appropriate for this site.
"I am strongly encouraging residents to have their say on the development by making a submission and I am personally reinforcing their concerns with the assessing Council officers.
"Under the state government's Sustainable Planning Act, Council must fully assess all applications according to the statutory process.
"I appreciate the community's patience during the assessment process and thank them for assisting me in my representations by putting forward their concerns."
Since September 2016 Brisbane City Council has approved 19 aged care and retirement projects, equalling about 2016 increase in beds, in response to the increasing demand for accommodation for ageing city residents.
"We're seeing this approach here in Brisbane and south-east Queensland, and interstate, and it's giving seniors and older residents better opportunities to age in the communities where they've lived and worked," Mr Deicke said.
"On sites where older retirement housing is being re-developed, an integrated and higher density approach can provide more shared facilities, more open space and more sense of community than the models of the past.
"We need to be able to offer seniors living and aged care close to centres with access to services, transport, amenity and connections to residents' interests, families and friends."
The Protect Taringa working committee met for the first last night to discuss their next move. "We will go down fighting," its spokesperson Ms Hogan said.