Howard Smith Wharves

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Howard Smith Wharves is a wharf site on the Brisbane River in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The 3.5-hectare (8.6-acre) site is culturally and historically significant and is one of the last undeveloped riverfront locations in Brisbane.

Brisbane City Council had initially proposed an extensive commercial development of the site that includes hotel, sport and entertainment facilities in new or refurbished old buildings. This plan was rejected by the local community which resulted in a revised plan incorporating greater public space and less commercial development. The revised plan was then rejected by the Queensland Government over concerns with flooding.

Site history[edit]

The Wharves in 1958

Howard Smith Wharves were constructed in the 1930s in conjunction with the Story Bridge. The wharves, originally built as the Brisbane Central Wharves, were leased by the shipping company Howard Smith Co. Ltd from the mid-1930s until the early 1960s and became known as Howard Smith Wharf. From 1934 until the early 1940s two berths and a number of storage sheds were constructed. During 1941 and 1942, five air-raid shelters were constructed below the cliff face. Since the early 1960s the site has remained vacant. In early 2000, one of the heritage wharf buildings was demolished after partially collapsing into the Brisbane River.[1][2]

Heritage significance[edit]

The remaining wharf buildings provide rare physical evidence of the pre-1940 Port of Brisbane facilities, and the air-raid shelters are the most intact group of shelters remaining in Brisbane. The Howard Smith Wharves are registered on the Queensland Heritage Register.

Initial plan[edit]

On 18 August 2009, Brisbane City Council received the decision notice and approval package for the development application for Howard Smith Wharves. It was proposed to develop the site as three precincts:

  • Precinct 1 - hotel and tourism precinct
  • Precinct 2 - restaurant, retail, gallery, entertainment and commercial precinct
  • Precinct 3 - active outdoor recreation, entertainment and community facilities precinct

The plan also proposed to retain 80 percent of the site as open public space.


There was significant opposition to the initial development proposal, with parties concerned about the architectural, historical and ecological legacy of the development. The Brisbane Cliffs Coalition is objecting to the proposed development of the site, and the Howard Smith Wharves Appeal Committee was formed to fight the development plans in court.

In September 2009, 31 New Farm residents, including Councillor David Hinchliffe, launched legal action in the Planning and Environment Court, challenging the scale of the planned development.[3] This action forced the council to back down and amend the plans for the site.[4]

Amended redevelopment plans[edit]

In June 2009 the Brisbane City Council has amended its redevelopment plans for Howard Smith Wharves in response to the community comments received during the consultation phase. The community was concerned about a loss of views, and the footprint of the building development area. As a result, Council has made changes to the development plans that include alteration in buildings shapes and size and the addition of a new 10 metre boardwalk and possible CityCat terminal.

The revised plan was available for comment as part of the public notification stage of the development application process.[5] Only 10% of the parkland is to be used for retail development.[4] After the 2010–2011 Queensland floods, which inundated the site, the Queensland Government rejected the plans on the basis that they were a flood hazard.[6] A $8.5 million project to restore the boardwalks was completed by February 2013, when new plans were announced.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wardill, Steven (23 March 2000). "Collapsed river wharf may face demolition.". The Courier-Mail. p. 4. 
  2. ^ Marx, Anthony (24 March 2000). "Council blasts wharf loss.". The Courier-Mail. p. 8. 
  3. ^ "Howard Smith Wharves development call 'arrogant'". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Courtney Trenwith (6 December 2010). "Work starts on CBD wharf redevelopment". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  5. ^ "Howard Smith Wharves site shrinks after community comment". Property Council of Australia. 17 Jun 2009. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  6. ^ Melinda Howells and Francis Tapim (4 August 2011). "Government rejects Brisbane council's wharves redevelopment plan". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Katherine Feeney (13 February 2013). "Decaying wharves to transform into lifestyle precinct". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 27°27′46.86″S 153°02′16.52″E / 27.4630167°S 153.0379222°E / -27.4630167; 153.0379222