ABOVE: An Airport Link runs through it…an artist’s impression of the grand tunnel mouth in Kalinga Park. Behind the big pine is the multi-storey exhaust stack needed by the tunnels.

Coo-ee, Kalinga!

Airport Link set to bury
a local ANZAC memorial

ON Monday, May 19, 2008 – almost two years to the day this website made its debut – the fate of Diggers’ Drive was sealed when the Queensland State Premier, Anna Bligh, declared Airport Link a done deal.

The State Government and Brisbane City Council have now locked in the contractor to bring to fruition the billion-dollar Airport Link project and the associated Inner Northern Busway behemoth which, over the next four or so years, will be rammed and bored through the suburbs of Windsor, Albion, Lutwyche, Wooloowin, Kalinga, Eagle Junction, Clayfield and Wavell Heights before terminating in a massive intersection-cum-tunnel mouth at Sandgate Road, Toombul – carving a swathe through the most poignant part of Diggers’ Drive, located in Kalinga Park near Clayfield.

This is all because of a perfect, and almost ironic, convergence of purposes: A Commonwealth Treasury awash with billions of dollars for infrastructure largesse from an overheated economy and a seemingly endless mining boom royalty revenue stream courtesy of the People’s Republic of China; and a “nation-building” infrastructure project that coincidentally happens to be in both the Federal Treasurer’s own electorate, and in the State electorate of a Liberal Party leadership aspirant who was one of the main (former Brisbane City Council) proponents for Airport Link.

As if these factors alone weren’t enough, the recently re-elected Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor – whose original election campaign “vision thing” encompassed lots of tunnels and bridges – now has a sympathetic Civic Cabinet, and a handy national personal profile, to make sure it all happens.

Set also against a backdrop of monumental, almost-daily traffic gridlock (after decades of  Commonwealth and State Governmental neglect and obstinacy on the transport infrastructure needs of a State capital); surging population growth in south-east Queensland; and a Green movement obsessed with global climate change issues, rather than localised, urban environmental campaigning, it seems the fix is well and truly in for poor, old, human-scale Kalinga Park.

But then, with motorists set to fork out $2.00-a-litre for fuel within months (and who knows how much by 2012?, 2013? 2014? when Airport Link is built) and likely to be hit up to $10.00 at the toll booth to ply Airport Link one-way, maybe the debate is not entirely cased in reinforced concrete and bitumen just yet.

To try to gain an idea what a super tunnel project construction site looks like, just take a drive into the city today along Bowen Bridge Road (opposite Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital) and glance at what, by the end of next year, will be the northern approaches of the future Clem Jones Tunnel.

When all this paraphernalia arrives and the mammoth tunnel boring apparatus is put to work at the eastern approaches to Kalinga Park, obliterating Diggers’ Drive, Airport Link will make the North-South Bypass Tunnel dig seem like child’s play.

Diggers’ Drive – and the social, cultural, historical and environmental values both it and Kalinga Park embody – will be clear-felled, fenced-off from the public and ultimately lost down an open-cut (cut and cover?) minesite (for years).

Huge lorries, digging machinery and demountable bunkers will trundle across and set down in the parkland.

Bike tracks will be out-of-bounds and security guards will ensure stickybeaks keep their distance. Just how the plantlife and animal population will cope is a foregone conclusion…all will retreat and weeds, industrial pollution, dirt, dust and artificial lighting will bloom to fill the empty niches.

And no matter how long it takes for the quarrying to finish, once Airport Link is finally pronounced open for commuters, the pretty Diggers’ Drive end of Kedron Brook will have been transformed into just another soul-less, landscaped, concrete-sided extension of the eyesore that is “Schulz’s Canal”; just a glorified stormwater drain beside sterile, monolithic tunnel mouths, in the shadow of monstrous flyovers and noise barriers. Its avenue of mature trees – planted to honour the memory of the Fallen Sons of Kalinga, by actual World War I returned servicemen (not theme park-quality landscaping contractors) replaced by saplings and pine bark chips in manicured garden beds.

The historical integrity of this unique and important War Memorial, a distant, trammelled memory…

Perhaps you might care to encourage others to see Diggers’ Drive before the bulldozers and yellow safety hardhats take over?

Soak up the winter sun’s warm rays and listen to the sound of the myriad of birds as the breeze flutters through the treetops of native gums…many of them already tattooed at the trunk and destined for summary execution by chainsaw and chipping for posterity.

Take special notice of the massive gum tree just east of the Sandgate Road bridge. Imagine the changes – and the people – this particular specimen will have witnessed up until the year 2008 when it was earmarked for an undignified death.

Around it stand even more majestic native hardwoods , holding silent vigil over the engineering debacle of the East-West Arterial intersection, for which Airport Link is the not-so-obvious, but monumentally expensive, answer.

This website is a non party-political, community-focused and volunteer-resourced attempt to raise local public awareness about the reality of Airport Link and what stands to be lost forever: the serenity and suburban amenity of Kalinga Park and environs.

Not just another open space, Kalinga Park has an ancient soul.

This reach of Kedron Brook was an essential larder and lifeline for European settlement from 1838 onwards.

It helped sustain indigenous culture for tens of thousands of years before that.

Over to you.