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Newsletter no.15 from Ald Anna Reynolds - September 2016
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Happy birthday Town Hall!
 
It was great to see so many Hobartians at the Open Day celebrating the 150th birthday of our Town Hall on 25 September. An estimated 5000 people wandered through the building to appreciate its grandeur and the stories of the city. I conducted a number of Town Hall tours on the day, and Ioved meeting people so keen to learn a bit more about one of our finest heritage buildings.

From the 1866 opening ball with over a thousand people dancing from dusk till dawn; to the concerts of Amy Sherwin, Tasmania’s own global opera star; to the Lake Pedder slideshows by Olegas Truchanas; to the ceremonies where so many new Australians gained their citizenship; to the multitude of decisions and meetings that are essential to city governance ... so much has happened in the Town Hall during its long life.

The Open Day was a fitting tribute to such an important and beautiful centrepiece of Hobart's history.

 
No Business in Abuse
 
In September the Council voted unanimously to sign the No Business in Abuse pledge, promising not to do business with companies that are involved in the offshore detention of refugees. The motion means that Hobart City will not hire or enter into contracts with companies that are running the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru – now or in the future. 
 
Hobart’s decision came after the announcement from companies Broadspectrum and Wilson Security that they will not retender for running the detention centres. However, there will likely be other companies lining up to tender for these federal government contracts worth billions annually.
 
Hobart City is the eighth Australian city to make this pledge, making us one of the leading cities in the country to take a stand on this issue. In doing so, we meet the expectations of many residents and ratepayers who are concerned about the child abuse, violence, and mental anguish experienced inside Australia’s offshore camps.
Divestment from fossil fuels
 
I'm really pleased that Council also recently agreed to undertake an external expert review of our investment and borrowing strategy, with a focus on whether we should shift our money away from the fossil fuel industry. The decision to commission the review was sparked by a petition signed by over 1500 ratepayers calling on Council to divest from fossil fuels.

There are 25 Australian councils that have already decided not to buy shares in fossil fuel companies or bank their funds with institutions that invest in fossil fuels. Their decisions have been made on assessments of the decreasing share value of many fossil fuel assets. Australian superannuation funds are estimated to have lost $5.6 billion in 2014, many because of the decreasing value of fossil fuel investments, particularly coal stocks.  These trends now present a credible legal risk for Councils with fiduciary duties.

Another compelling reason for Hobart to help the movement away from fossil fuels is because of our vulnerability to bushfires, which will be made worse with global warming. Supporting strong action on climate change helps to future-proof our city.
South Hobart development
 
There is a
backlash against a proposal for 24 3-bedroom townhouses to be built on the old Blundstones tannery site in South Hobart. It came to the Council to consider because of a large number of ‘representations’ (official objections) against the proposal. The majority of planning approvals are never seen by Aldermen because they are considered too small or non-controversial, so when we have to make a decision on a proposal, it’s usually because there are significant concerns.
 
This proposal once again highlighted how difficult it is for residents to navigate the planning system and influence what's happening in their community.  During the Council debate I congratulated the residents for their diligence and persistence, for checking and questioning the facts, for asking whether the desktop assessments of sunlight and traffic were correct, and to do this in such a limited time.
 
Council's report assessing the proposal was made public on a Friday afternoon and the concerned residents had to be ready to assess and speak to their concerns three days later...after first having to extract the facts, test the findings of studies prepared and paid for by the developer, and navigate the technical planning lingo of 'acceptable solutions' and 'performance criteria'.

At first glance this tannery development proposal looked like an open and shut case - able to be approved with the blessing of our planning rule book. We are working to increase the density of dwellings in inner Hobart, but there also need to be safeguards to ensure developments are respectful of the heritage of our oldest suburb and the rights of those already living in the area.
 
This area of South Hobart was overlooked as a heritage precinct (this is a planning ‘overlay’ that allows consideration of how a new proposal sits in relation to the heritage around it). While Macquarie Street on one side and the Hobart Rivulet on the other are listed heritage precincts, for some reason the streets of old cottages around the tannery site are not.
 
High density is ideal for the city, for the streets from the city heart up towards north Hobart. I quite like the new development on the corner of Molle and Collins Street - it's inner city, it's high density, and it works. But on the old tannery site, which is challenged by sunlight deficits and a narrow access road, it would have been better to have a few less townhouses. I was concerned that these site constraints and impacts on neighbours were too easily dismissed, and rules were being bent to accommodate the maximum densities allowed.
 
The new state-wide planning scheme will be in place at the end of the year. There will be new rules that promise simplicity for those who are building, but a lot of uncertainty for my role as a local decision-maker, and for residents in existing dwellings.
Parklets
 
Car-oriented planning forces cities to devote a lot of space to roads and parking. Sometimes more land is devoted to cars in a city than to housing, parks and public places. But around the world, cities are realising that making some of this car space available for other uses can lead to great outcomes for city life.
 
This has led to a boom in the development of ‘parklets’ – seating platforms that convert on-street parking spaces into vibrant community spaces. I recently moved a motion proposing that our policies on 'parklets' be updated.
 
Many parklets have a distinctive design (like the ones pictured) that incorporate seating, greenery and outdoor dining. They are particularly helpful in neighbourhood retail streets where footpath space is at a premium. Parklets need to happen as a partnership between Councils and local businesses, residents, or community associations, and everyone needs to give up something if they are to work. Council needs to balance the income from parking revenue with the value of more vibrant streets and successful businesses. Businesses and the community need to worry less about losing a car park or two parking spaces, in return for a great new place for people to hang out!
 
In Hobart, a 2015 decision to restrict outdoor dining on footpaths was based on new evidence about safety for elderly and disabled pedestrians. Our footpaths just aren’t wide enough to have safe space for pedestrians and outdoor dining. But parklets can allow us to find a quick and easy solution for footpath-squeezed spaces – converting a parking space to a parklet is a low-cost way to make our streets work better for people.
 
I’ll let you know how the review goes and I hope we can see some more of these parklets popping up around Hobart.
Cutting the cake


 





 








 

 

 










 










 
Former Blundstones tannery site, bordered by Weld
and Wynyard Sts,
and the Hobart Rivulet










 


 
Adelaide parklet








 
London parklet

 
 
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I'd love to hear your ideas and opinions, and receive your feedback on Council decisions.

Email me at
ald.reynolds@hobartcity.com.au
Call me on 0423222149
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Previous editions:
Newsletter 1 (Jan 2015)
Newsletter 2 (Feb 2015)
Newsletter 3 (April 2015)
Newsletter 4 (May 2015)
Newsletter 5 (July 2015)
Newsletter 6 (August 2015)

Newsletter 7 (October 2015) - street planning

Newsletter 8 (December 2015) - affordable housing
Newsletter 9 (February 2016) - bushfires and urban bushland
Newsletter 10 (February 2016) - traffic congestion special
Newsletter 11 (April 2016) - what are Aldermen there for?
Newsletter 12 (June 2016) - Council/Senate newsletter
Newsletter 14 (August 2016) - woodchip trucks through the CBD?

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Anna Reynolds · Town Hall · Hobart, Tas 7000 · Australia

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