Saturday, April 26, 2014

ENRICHING PLACE & CIRCUMSTANCE at World Heritage Springbrook

on the study by Clouston Associates
2 JULY 2013

Following the making of a few comments after a quick perusal of the Clouston document, one realises the need to take a closer look at this report; but time makes demands otherwise. So the preliminary review is published as a set of observations to be reassessed later. The comments below should all be read in this context of an initial schematic assessment. ‘Appears to be’ needs to be read as a preamble to each item until a further re-examination has been undertaken. It is suggested that this quick overview gives much the same attention to matters as does the report itself.

'World Heritage' gets a mention in the first two paragraphs of the first section of the report and then seems to be forgotten after one other introductory mention in the next section. There appears to be no substantial analysis of World Heritage impacts on place and proposals.

There is nothing about the experience of the roads that lead to Springbrook that are the important introduction to Springbrook, an integral part of it as an experience of place and location. One notices that photographs of the heritage timber bridges have been used to decorate the study. Indeed, one is on the front cover! This inclusion makes this point self-evident.

The whole study appears to be based on the irrational preconception that there is a ‘village area’ and a ‘national park area’ at Springbrook, as the Town Plan defines it, rather than being an assessment based on any real experience and understanding of this beautiful scattered place. This seems to suggest that the study is more about itself, its structure, and its theoretical processes and analyses, rather than anything to do with the natural sense, wonder and experience of this unique World Heritage region: see comment on marking entrances; and discussion on GAM matrix weighting system – as if numbers can prove anything that one did not know or could not experience.

Stakeholder participation is tourist/business based. Was National Parks involved?

Springbrook village is the main service centre for the mountain.’ - Where is this phantom 'village' that is spoken about throughout the report as if it held any identity?

Springbrook LAP’ – Where is the detail discussion on and analysis of World Heritage obligations?

‘Important VIC requirements as suggested by the operators:
– Toilets
– Turnaround facility
– Readable map of the area
• Other VIC requirements as suggested by the operators:
– Located on the left hand side of the road
– Safe interaction with Springbrook Road
– Capture traffic entering from all inbound roads (Pine Creek Road &
Springbrook Road)’
This schedule taken from the report is all about tourists, not place and the maintenance of its World Heritage quality.
If these items are to be properly assessed, the facts need to be quantified and analysed.
How many visitors?
How frequently?
How many toilets?
Is a centre needed?
What kind of centre?
What character; size; functions?
What accommodation?
How dispose of waste?
How much parking?
How much turn around?
What vehicles and in what numbers?
Is anyone suggesting an unreadable map?
What qualities make a map readable?
Where? How? From a car? As a pedestrian? For vision impaired?
Signs for those with disabilities?
Way finding for all?
Surely any good design would provide to good safe traffic movements, just as any map might be readable?
There is an almost inevitable sense of ‘motherhood’ notations here being used to give 'substance' to the report.

‘There is also a block of land behind this site where a house has been demolished
which could be considered for development. The current tenure of this block is
unknown. The WMS is State-owned as part of an easement.’
Why is the tenure unknown? Could not the GCCC have easily checked and advised on this after all of its involvement in this study? The comment suggests a frivolous level of analysis, a general commentary on matters rather than any quality research.

The regional map of the National Park zones is interesting as, at this small scale, the extreme sprawling fragmentation of the park areas is clearly highlighted – but this does not raise any comment in the report! Yet there is the odd statement about the ‘entry’ to the national park area, as if there was one cohesive area with one identifiable approach.

‘The owner is aware of this project and is supportive in principle for the possible
inclusion of a VIC within his property. He is aware of this project and is keen to
speak with the consultants about the possibilities on the site and how they might
fit in with his plans.’
Fudge Shop - Why has there been no discussion with the owner - not even a chat? It would appear to be a simple enough involvement. The study gives the appearance of having very little in-depth quality research. In places it starts reading like a general what-if/if-only commentary drawn from the ‘top of the head’ and structured into selected sections to give the appearance of a thoroughly 'researched' report.

‘The Old School House site contains a timber building that is used as a Parks
Information Centre. It is closed on weekends.’
This is an astonishing admission but not a surprise! National Parks must hang its head in shame. But it is no different to the ‘information centre’ at Burleigh Heads that was moved from the main highway location at Tallebudgera Creek to the back blocks of David Fleay’s reserve, on a dead-end road, a location poorly marked and nearly invisible to all but those who make the effort to find it, or those that stumble upon it by accident.

In what way has National Parks been involved in this study?
Has it been consulted in this report?
Have any World Heritage representatives been consulted?
Has anyone with expertise in flora and fauna been involved?
Have questions been asked about endangered species?
Have any soil reports been undertaken/researched?
Any water quality/flows been reviewed?
Has there been any fire analysis/study?
Springbrook is a subtle, sensitive and variable region that needs thorough research rather than general assumptions that suppose it to be like other areas, if it is to be properly understood.

‘Existing power, water and sewer systems in place.’
Wunburra - What capacity sewer is needed? Can this be supported? What is the waste problem that has to be accommodated? What car parking? There are no specific briefing numbers for anyone to be able to assess possible likely outcomes with any reliability.
How can anything be assessed if nothing is known?
One can never assume anything on Springbrook.
No comment has been made about the existing pedestrian problems at Wunburra that become a dangerous surprise to all motorists arriving on the plateau.

‘Best practice signage’ says nothing on the existing uncontrolled mess of signage on the mountain. It is as though the report fears any critical comment on GCCC or Government practices. It appears to be a political decision not to comment on anything that might be controversial as the mess of signage is self-evident, ‘in your face.’ The signs include over-decorated tanks and halls, numerous aggregations of directional signs, an ad hoc selection of private signs, and an array of National Park signs scattered right across the mountain.

The study on signs seems to ignore the fact that there are far too many messy signs now; that these need to be drastically culled. There is no point in adding ‘designer’ signage to any signage shambles.

Far too many of these studies have been written and read for ones like this to be taken seriously. This study appears schematically articulated to the formula and carries few surprises.
It gathers an almost random collection and selection of facts and figures and observations, and puts them in an order that is supposed to look like comprehensive, studied and impressive research when it is little more an array of some general annotations, reviews, wish-lists and possibilities, completed with a numbers game.

The traffic statistics are difficult to interpret as they use traffic jargon references.
One calculation, if matters have been understood correctly, shows 198 vehicles on an average day; 250 on the weekend. Is this so?
Why can these figures not all be made more clear and decipherable for easy comprehension? Complexity and confusion do not make for grand and meaningful science.
These statistics seem to confirm the nonsense of numbers previously quoted for Apple Tree Flat. The question is: what are the numbers – anywhere? If numbers are no known, how can even the need for a visitors’ centre be established, let alone its specific requirements and impacts?


The study looks like a schematic theoretical analysis of general observations finalised with a numbers game seeking to scientifically and rationally ‘prove’ a considered outcome from a report that treats matters superficially. World Heritage must be the core reference for everything on Springbrook. In-depth factual analyses must also be undertaken on all aspects of this study rather than having conclusions developed from some diagrammatic scattering of arrows and lines, some remarks on precincts, and a few comments on parking areas and sewer connection distances.

The study needs to be based on the real experience and thorough research, and a detailed understanding of the facts of the place, not mere observational assumptions, theories, previous reports and maybes. Past errors should be corrected, not confirmed and continued. They need to be challenged, just as existing issues need to be properly exposed, not politely ignored. There are some pretty, pretty good images in the study but nothing that shows an intimate sensitivity to place and an understanding of its genus loci. This surely must become the core reference for any outcome at Springbrook. A visitor centre, if there is to be one, must become an integral part of the qualities of place if it is to be more than an entertainment centre or a political solution.

The study is silent on obvious matters like existing signage, and says nothing of the historical memories, like the iconic ‘Craft Corner’ map shelter structure that was a traditional landmark for Springbrook that was readable – but it was demolished. History needs to be understood and enriched if the future is not going to repeat past errors or erase quality outcomes irrationally.

Neither does the study talk much about character and its demands: how the character of Springbrook is eclectic, changeable – randomly adjusting to the specific location, its geology, flora, fauna and its past.

The study energises itself around the grids of numbers at its conclusion, but it is vague on the real numbers of visitors, cars, absorption rates, water pollution, native vegetation, native flora, etc. – all impacts that need intimate review and resolution prior to the making of any decision. Indeed, all frameworks for this report that have been assumed need to be carefully reassessed in order to do away with subtle assumptions and simple preconceptions that can mislead

It is a ‘visual’ study that seems to concentrate on broad assessments of place and data by observation rather than the use of any qualitative research, critical analysis and in-depth review.

It is suggested that it would be dangerous to make decisions on this document without a commitment to much more detailed and factual research. That the Wunburra site might have ‘won’ when the comment on its exposure to fire is left hanging, seemingly forgotten as an aside, seems to suggest a looseness in this study – a diagrammatic lightness of interest in real impacts and rigorous outcomes.

Springbrook cannot be developed in such an ad hoc and hopeful manner. It needs an intimate and comprehensive understanding of all issues in all detail prior to the making of any decision, or else it will always be less than it needs to be. World Heritage places an obligation on everyone to act responsibly with these places, with care and caution. Development is not really a popularity contest, a feel-good outcome, a business decision, or a mathematical calculation. It must knowingly enrich place and its circumstance in every way.

Even so shortly after completing this broad review, other questions arise:
What is the current status of the LAP?
An area of car park has been mentioned. What numbers have been assumed? 
On what basis? How many visitors do these figures presuppose? On what frequency?
Sewer connections are spoken about when Springbrook is not sewered.
The comment on Springbrook souvenirs shows a lack of understanding of history. It has more to do with the quirks of present circumstances than anything else.

28th April 2014
On a visitors' centre for Springbrook, see:
The argument is that such a centre will be best located well away from Springbrook.

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