Last week the City Hall was packed full of people passionate about two big issues – building height limits in Hobart city, and the cable car proposed for kunanyi/Mt Wellington.
I welcome this legislative right for Hobart electors to call for public meetings that provide a platform for the community to speak and for motions to be debated and passed.
The two public meetings were triggered by petitions of more than 1000 signatures from electors in the Hobart Council area. Under the Tasmanian Local Government Act, this requires Councils to hold a public meeting on the topic of the petition.
Audio recordings of the meetings will be on the Council website by the end of April and the motions passed at the meetings will be considered by Council at its 6 May meeting.
Building heights meeting
The main motion at this meeting was moved by Leslie Lauder and supported by a sea of hands.
It calls on Council to protect the heritage character of Hobart by:
1. Acknowledging the great economic and social value of the city's character and working to ensure that new development complements that character;
2. Establishing a maximum height of 45m which in part allows 15 storey buildings but restricting such buildings to sites where they don't impact on heritage buildings, streetscapes and precincts;
3. Strongly tighten the use of discretion in planning approvals which has led to serious abuse.
In a display of active democracy, hundreds of hands went up to say a resounding “yes” to maximum building heights in keeping with the current height limits (of 45 metres or 15 storeys), rejecting the case for increasing these limits to 60 metres (20 storeys) or more.
Other motions supported by the meeting were to ensure protection of heritage values does not conflict with the ability of disabled people to use buildings, and for the inclusion of sustainable building criteria in the planning scheme. The proponent of the meeting, Hobart not Highrise, did not move a motion.
UTAS comes to town
You’ve probably heard about the University of Tasmania’s announcement that over the next 10-15 years, it will be relocating the majority of the Sandy Bay campus to the CBD, largely along Melville Street, to meet up with their existing schools along Campbell Street.
I’ve received both positive and negative reactions to this announcement.
above: University of Adelaide masterplan
Some see it as an opportunity for the city to become a vibrant centre for education and research. Small university cities like Freiberg in Germany are cited as examples for us to emulate, with a large publicly accessible university library in the city heart. Cities like Adelaide host five university campuses in its city centre.
right: Museum of Discovery at the University of SA in Adelaide
Some feel comforted that the university is a public sector developer who will plan with and consult the community, and deliver its projects over a long timeframe.
The alternative could see more ad hoc carpark and hotel developments undertaken by a range of private developers with no real obligation to engage the public in their plans.
Others are not fans of the university move and worry about a lack of car parking and increased traffic congestion. There is a lack of trust that the university will bring quality building design to Hobart’s heritage heart. There are also concerns that new buildings may be added to university land near Glebe.
It is important to note that the Council does not have any right of veto over who buys and uses CBD properties, particularly when uses such as education, research and student housing are allowed in the city zones. Every new development proposed by the university will go through the normal planning processes.
However, for this move to be positive rather than negative, it is essential that Council and the community stay closely engaged with the university as they plan this decade-long move. Advocacy is needed from day one to challenge university decision-makers to make sure this move is built on strong guiding principles and the public interest.
We need to require the university to build well designed buildings with high sustainability ratings that respect and enhance our heritage character. We need to ensure that the university invests in public spaces and contributes to infrastructure to improve active and public transport access to the city, so that parking and traffic become less significant issues for everyone.
It is positive that the University has agreed to pay the equivalent of rates for all their city buildings, which will provide essential funding for new city infrastructure and services. Under law they are not required to pay rates (like every other university in Australia), but striking this agreement with the Council will see a much better outcome for the Hobart community.
I will continue to be a champion for the public interest in discussions with UTAS, and will also continue to push for a commitment to planning for sustainable development that aligns with the heritage that is such a feature of our beautiful city.
Mountain tracks upgraded...
I was delighted to officially open the upgraded Pinnacle and Organ Pipes tracks this month with Her Excellency, Professor the Hon Kate Warner, Governor of Tasmania.
It is very exciting to see the results of the $2 million Great Short Walk restoration project. This is the largest investment ever by the Council into the mountain and took two years to complete.
The original heritage of the hundred year old tracks has been respected, with our track builders using the same traditional techniques that were the base of the original tracks.
If you're yet to visit or haven’t been for a while, please have a look – catch the Explorer Bus or get dropped off at the Chalet for a one-way, gentle and largely downhill walk to the Springs. Or do the longer return trip from and back to the Springs.
...but more to do on heritage listing
In March, Council considered advice about whether we could and should put in a bid to have the Organ Pipes on kunanyi/Mt Wellington placed on the National Heritage List.
The advice was that Council could nominate the entire eastern face of kunanyi / Mount Wellington as it potentially meets four National Heritage criteria, namely:
- possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Australia’s natural or cultural history
- potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Australia’s natural or cultural history
- importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of Australia’s natural or cultural places, or a class of Australia’s natural or cultural environments
- importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics valued by a community or cultural group.
There was some resistance to Council developing the nomination (which staff had costed at $100,000 to prepare). In the end a majority of Council voted to defer a final decision about starting a nomination until it was known if the State Government would support it.
National Heritage listing is a way of recognising and celebrating the environmental and cultural significance of kunanyi/Mount Wellington. Once on the list, no action should be taken which will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of a place.
The listing would also allow the Council to access federal funding, which would be very welcome additions to our budget for walking tracks and heritage signage.
I will be seeking an opportunity to discuss this with the State Government in more detail in the near future. There is no justifiable reason to not support a listing which can enhance the national recognition of our revered mountain.
And in other news...
No to nuclear weapons! Hobart voted to become a member of the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons ‘Cities Appeal’, a coalition of local governments supporting the United Nations nuclear weapon ban treaty.
This landmark global agreement was adopted in 2017 but Australia is yet to sign and ratify it. It was terrific to meet Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Tilman Ruff on his recent visit to Hobart. He provided a clear reminder about the need to ban the most destructive and inhumane weapons ever created.
After the Christchurch terrorist attack in March, I worked with the Multicultural Council and Muslim community to organise a vigil in Franklin Square. It was wonderful to have so many caring people gathered together to mourn the loss of lives and to show solidarity with the Muslim community, many of whom felt deeply unsettled by the violence.
We also coordinated a condolence book which was signed by more than 400 Hobart residents and is now on its way across the Tasman to the City of Christchurch.
Last month, Council voted to take leadership on the issue of single-use plastics. In 2020 Hobart retailers will be advised to change their current single-use plastic containers (smaller than one litre in volume or an area equivalent to A4 in size) to more environmentally friendly options.
This change will only affect packaging that is provided at the point of sale, such as when food is prepared onsite then packaged for takeaway. Pre-packaged food (that is, food already packaged like chocolate bars and soft drinks) will not be affected. Pre-packaged fruit and vegetables from the supermarket will also not be affected. More information: hobartcity.com.au/singleuseplastics
Save the date!
Hobart City Federal Election Forum
1–2pm, Friday 3 May, Town Hall Come and hear Clark candidates talk about what they will do for Hobart. We have briefed all candidates on eight big priorities for the city and asked for a written response by 8 May (which will be posted here). This forum will be a chance to quiz the candidates on Hobart issues.
I'd love to hear your ideas and opinions, and receive your feedback about Council decisions.
Authorised by Cr Anna Reynolds, Town Hall, Hobart.
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