As world leaders come in, some Brisbane residents head out

But as security tightens ahead of the rest of them, Brisbane residents are doing the opposite and leaving town, raising fear the world will have a lasting impression of a ghost town.


“It’s definitely a no-go zone. We can’t walk down there. It’s been restricted for quite a while. And they definitely told us that we shouldn’t go anywhere near that.”

Lauren and Sophie are university students living just a hundred metres from where United States president Barak Obama will stay.

An influx of possibly seven thousand G-20 delegates, media and world leaders in all is expected, but, for many Brisbane residents like Lauren and Sophie, it is a time to leave.

“The fact that they’re having to put these things in place for the risk that something might happen is a bit of a concern. Given that this is our home and this is where we live and this is where we’re supposed to feel safe, it’s a little bit scary.”

The two young women are in the middle of exams, but their university will be under a G-20 security blanket for a speech by Mr Obama on Saturday.

With a public holiday on Friday, Lauren and Sophie are packing for a long weekend at the beach.

At first, authorities, indeed, encouraged residents to leave town.

But now, they fear Brisbane’s moment in the international spotlight will show it up as a ghost town and not put it on map as a must-see world city.

The chief executive officer of the state government’s Queensland Tourism Industry Corporation, Daniel Gschwind, says he is holding out hope.

“Look, I don’t believe it will be empty. I think there is really genuine interest that people have in seeing what the commotion is about. It’s, you know, a Friday and the weekend coming. I think there will be plenty of people in town. And I would encourage people, if they’re interested, to come and have a look, see what’s going on.”

Mr Gschwind hopes cultural events in town will keep people around.

“We have a party in town. That means it’s a bit inconvenient for some people at some point, but that’s just the price you have to pay for being part of an international community.”

Lauren and Sophie acknowledge they have enjoyed the events so far, but say it is not enough to make them stay.

“The attractions are really great, and I think people have been having a lot of fun, especially at Southbank. When I’ve gone there to meet up with friends, there have been so many families enjoying all of the free events. So it might have changed people’s minds to stay, and it probably would give a better impression if more people are here, but, like us, most people are interested in just leaving, because it’ll be pretty inconvenient.”

James Freestun is senior vice-president of the Queensland branch of Strata Community Australia, the main type of residential property in the G20 restricted zone.

He talks of concern.

“Look, I think there’s a concern about, you know, ‘if they put a sniper on my roof,’ and I’ve got to say that we have some members whose buildings actually have some kind of security. I don’t know what they are — they’re calling them snipers, but people on the roof (anyway). And whether that’s going to ‘make them a target,’ or that ‘something could go wrong’ … I’m sure these guys walk around with their rifles with the safety triggers on.”

Mr Freestun estimates up to 40,000 people live within the restricted areas.

There will be a heavy security presence, but that creates its own issues.

“They’re obviously going to be looking for people that they see as being a risk, and it’s about making sure you don’t look like one. So, I’ve got a few suggestions about how you dress as well. Don’t wear backpacks. Stay away from military fatigues and things like that. And, look, treat it like … don’t make any jokes about bombs or anything like that. It’s not going to go down well.”

The full G20 security measures will be in place from Friday, with protests scheduled primarily for the weekend.

For Lauren, like many other residents of Brisbane, though, the G20 protests hold no interest.

“To be honest, I think it’s not really a cause that’s very close to my heart. As much as it’s a very important issue for the world, I’m not very interested in protesting against it.”

James Freestun says residents in possible protest zones should be prepared in ways they may not have considered.

“We’re just saying to people, ‘Check your insurance and make sure that civil unrest is covered in your insurance.’ I’ve spoken to a couple of the large insurers in our industry, and they’ve said most buildings that are insured up to 50 million dollars and some of them up to a hundred-million dollars have that cover.”

Lauren and Sophie are confident all will be fine at their apartment block.

But they are looking forward to the beach.

“Mooloolaba. At the Sunshine Coast.”

“Yeah, we love that beach. So we’ll go up there and have a nice break.”