Locals and environmentalists in Brisbane, Australia have raised strong objections about the City Council’s recent approval to build a new ISKCON temple on land they say used to be protected.
The bushland in the area of Seventeen Mile Rocks that the temple will be built on borders a popular children’s waterpark called Rocks Riverside.
“It’ll take away from the amenity of the park, the tree lines enscarpment that people enjoy when they’re in the park,” said Matthew Bourke, while another local said, “We’re opposed to any building on this site.”
A Ten News Australian television report said that hundreds of trees would have to be cut down to make way for the three-dome temple with a highest point of 18 meters.
ISKCON's Regional Secretary for Northern New South Wales and Queensland Tirtharaj Dasa, however, said that the complaints were uninformed and that they were not taking into account ISKCON’s adherence to local laws and respect for the environment.
“The existing approval requires us to follow local environmental laws and we will certainly abide by them,” he says. “We also have a comprehensive revegetation and landscaping plan in place to compensate for any trees that may have to be cut down.”
Temple president Adi-Kesava Dasa reminded the public that ISKCON has the utmost respect for all living entities, including trees, and said he was sure that the beautifully-designed temple would enhance the location.
“We are structuring this as Krishna's Garden Palace, with many beautiful park features,” he said.
The ISKCON Australia leaders also say that while those protesting the temple’s construction may appeal to a local planning body, their efforts will probably be futile since the land has an existing usage right by law which cannot be changed.
And the new temple—which is expected to be one of the largest purpose-built ISKCON temples in Australia—is no new, spur of the moment idea. Plans have been in the pipeline for over a decade, and the Development Application was approved by the Brisbane City Council in mid-May of this year following a several-year-long process.
Krishna’s Garden Palace will replace the old Brisbane temple, a rented premises that devotees have occuppied for twenty-five years, to accommodate a growing number of worshippers. And it promises to be an impressive facility.
“The new temple will be a replica of the Madan Mohan temple in Vrindavan, India,” says Tirtharaj. “It will be situated on an escarpment that overlooks a beautiful park, the Brisbane City skyline, and the Brisbane River. It will be in a prime location that will become iconic in the local landscape. And it will have facilities for underground car parking, ashrams, guest facilities, administration, children’s facilities, an auditiorium, a spacious restaurant for 100 people, classrooms, and of course a temple with beautiful design work.”
Regular worship as well as festivals will be a main feature of the temple, which is also expected to be a facility for training and educating devotees and the community at large.
Of course, all this is some distance away yet. Now that its Development Application has been approved, ISKCON will have to draw building plans that take the Brisbane City Council’s conditions into consideration.
“We will also have to wait pending any appeal that has been lodged by environmental groups,” Tirtharaj says.
After that, the building approval stage will take six to nine months. Once the building approval is received, the construction phase can begin. The project is planned in two stages, each of which is estimated to take up to twelve months.
In the meantime, those who are objecting to the temple’s construction are only a small percentage, as Tirtharaj explains.
“The local community are naturally very excited to have such a wonderful facility in their area,” he says, adding: “Multiculturalism is a large part of Australia’s social fabric. ISKCON has for years been promoting a cross cultural diversity and endeavouring to reach out to all people to embrace a cultural and socially sustainable path of living. We hope that given the broad mindedness of the people this project will become a focal point for those who visit and participate in the offerings it will present.”