Leader of the Opposition Milton Dick (right) at King George Square.
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has shut down the idea of grassing King George Square following the launch of a petition calling for action by Brisbane City Council opposition leader Milton Dick.
Speaking from the square, where a patch of grass had been temporarily unfurled, Cr Dick said City Hall could no longer ignore the public criticism of the $28 million redevelopment which concreted the square in 2009.
“King George Square used to be a grass oasis where city workers could stop and have lunch and it's time we brought that back to the city,” Cr Dick said.
“I'm pleased to launch this petition and community-based campaign calling on Brisbane City Council to immediately commence a review into greening King George Square.”
But Cr Quirk said even if Cr Dick's petition amassed popular support, grassing the square was “just not practical” and that the feasibility study Cr Dick was advocating would be a waste of ratepayers' money.
Responding to Cr Dick's criticism that the square was a “baking oven”, Cr Quirk said there were “plenty of other opportunities” for people who wanted to sit on the grass, including the Botanic Gardens, Post Office Square, ANZAC Square and Emma Miller Place.
“It's just not practical to go back to grass,” Cr Quirk said. “We have a lot of events in this venue. As I said, there are many other venues in the city where people can go if they're looking to sit down on the grass.
“It's a case now of accepting this is an events venue, and that's the way the square will be in the future.
“I don't think there is any point in wasting ratepayers' money in looking at redesigns at this stage.”
However, some of the city's leading events organisers said there was some merit to Cr Dick's bid for turf.
Loud Events director Marianne Edmonds said more greenery would make the place more desirable while j2 founder Joanna Jordan said events could be held on grass if the proper measures were adopted.
“Events can be staged on grass, and without grass being affected,” Ms Jordan said.
“And I do have sympathy for the workers who would like to sit under a tree on the grass and eat their sandwiches.
“But it's a balancing act for council, and the hard thing is that if spaces need to be regrassed again and again because they've ben trampled, or just in general, it does becomes more expensive for the hirer to use.”
Ms Edmonds said that from an events perspective there was a greater need for shade than grass, though greening the space would make it more attractive.
“Holding public events without shade is really hard,” she said. “King George Square is fantastic for the suppliers who can bring in the marquees, but a little bit more greenery would make it more enticing – people would feel more inclined to spend time in the space rather than use it just as a place to walk through.
Ms Jordan agreed, and said the strength of King George Square as an events space was during the cooler months and in the evenings because of the lack of shade.
“It's too hot in the middle of the day,” she said. “No one disputes that.”
The design for the controversial 2009 redevelopment was one of four finalists in a competition launched in 2006. It was popularly chosen, and endorsed by the then Labor-majority council.
Figures from the council show the square has averaged about 250 large public events a year since the redesign.
More information about Cr Dick's petition is available online.