Hello! Thanks to everyone who answered our call for nominations of new Street Trees. More than 200 community members let Council know where they'd like to see new trees. Council has a target of 40 percent canopy cover by 2046 and the arboriculture team is now working on a planting program using the feedback from the submissions.
I'm looking forward to seeing our city looking even more delightfully green and leafy!
Walking out on a climate emergency
A climate and biodiversity emergency motion was proposed at a recent Council meeting. In summary, it called on the City of Hobart to:
Affirm its commitment to future generations in addressing catastrophic climate change and biodiversity loss through its on-going policies, strategies and leadership by supporting the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency;
Write to the incoming Prime Minister;
Submit urgency motions to the Local Government Association of Tasmania and the Australian Local Government Association to declare a national climate and biodiversity emergency;
Include acknowledgement of the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency in the Council's new Strategic Plan.
A similar motion has been passed by 549 local, state and national governments representing more than 65 million people. It is part of a global movementstarted in 2016 to communicate the problem of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – which according to ice core records are at a level not seen for three million years!
I'm deeply concerned about how vulnerable Hobart is to the climate disruption caused by global warming from greenhouse gases.
After extreme events, local governments are usually the level of government left to pick up the pieces, rebuild communities and rebalance our budgets. This is why the majority of the governments that have passed the climate and biodiversity emergency motion are at the local level.
Thousands of Hobart school students rally for climate action, including my daughter Jess (photo: Karen Brown)
When this motion came to be voted on in Hobart, three members of Council chose to leave the meeting, which denied us a quorum to discuss and vote on the matter. They claimed it was not technically correct to consider it as an 'urgency' motion, and that it should go to a Committee before coming to Council. This dramatic walk-out was a shock tactic rarely seen before in our decision-making chamber, which is why it has sparked debate.
Unfortunately for our planet’s health, it’s a tactic used for too many decades by climate change deniers. To turn your back on the issue by refusing to take part in democratic debate is disappointing at best, and irresponsible at worst.
The motion from Councillor Bill Harvey to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency was no surprise, nor was the procedure unusual. He gave seven days’ notice of his motion and it was published on the Council agenda as required under the Local Government Act.
In fact, there have been 18 urgency motions (just like Bill’s) put directly to a Council meeting in the last term (2014–2018). The 18 motions were moved by several elected members, including those who ‘walked out’. Some of the motions were about the City of Hobart logo, support for the UTAS STEM building and whether Council should be a member of the Southern Tasmanian Councils Authority.
From my perspective, climate change is the defining issue of our time, and it is well overdue for leaders to galvanise community support and take decisive action.
Some of the confusion around the climate emergency motion stems from complex procedures agreed to by the Council in 2011 (before I was elected). I feel that some of these rules are not in the spirit of our legislated rights as decision-makers under the Local Government Act.
Under this Act, all elected members in Tasmania are entitled to debate their motion at the next meeting, so long as they provide seven days' written notice of that motion.
But elected members of our Council must jump over an extra hurdle.
Our city-specific rules require seven days’ notice for a motion to first be discussed at a small Committee, which may be weeks away. Only after that can it go to a Council meeting, which may be another week or two later.
This may have some benefits for in-depth deliberation of complex proposals, but also has a downside for our responsiveness. I am keen to see us review these procedures.
Housing and homelessness
There is a huge amount of anxiety in the community about the plight of people sleeping rough, especially as the days and nights get colder. It is estimated that approximately 120 people are sleeping outdoors, in tents and in bushland in the Greater Hobart area.
Councillor Ewin intends to propose urgent action at our meeting on 3 June, and I'm hoping to get our crisis housing providers in before the meeting to brief us on exactly what they need from us right now.
The Council is not a specialist homelessness service provider, but we need to ensure that those who are have everything they need from us. We also need to push the state and federal governments to provide sufficient funds to the crisis agencies that support people, which is clearly not the case at the moment.
Our ongoing housing problems are something I'm passionate about helping to address. Local government doesn’t have the large budgets held by State and Federal governments, so we don’t directly build houses or run services. But there are still many useful things we do, for example:
Council funds a number of practical things to support people who are homeless including Metro cards, lockers, phone charging stations and recently we have installed showers at the new Kemp Street public toilets.
We also work closely with and provide grants to homelessness charities such as the funding for Colony 47 Christmas Lunch and the Mara House (women’s shelter) Art Program.
Homelessness is an increasing problem in capital cities around the nation, with a 14 percent jump in the number of people who are homeless in the last five years.
As a capital city Mayor, I regularly work with seven other city Lord Mayors to advocate for stronger action by our Prime Minister and the federal government. Together we have called to increase the budget for short-term shelters (flat since 2009) and funding for a further 200,000 public housing units nationally by 2030.
At a recent meeting with Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore and Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp
On the topic of Mayors working together, the Mayors of the Greater Hobart councils (Glenorchy, Clarence and Kingborough) and I have agreed to get together monthly under the banner of the ‘Greater Hobart Mayors’ Forum' to work on shared city challenges like affordable housing and transport solutions.
Thoughts on reconciliation
During Reconciliation Week, I spoke at a Town Hall forum about what reconciliation means to me. Partly I think it is about more recognition of forgotten and hidden history, like this story about the end of the Black War in Tasmania.
On 7 January 1832, the local newspapers reported that the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes had surrendered themselves to the ‘Conciliator of Aborigines’ George Augustus Robinson and were expected to arrive in Hobart that morning.
The procession that came down Elizabeth Street was led by Mr Robinson, followed by the 26 survivors of the war. They did not come as prisoners. They had come with the promise of a peace treaty - an agreement made that their stay on Flinders Island would be a temporary one and that they would return. It was an agreement that wasn’t kept.
The group set up camp in Mr Robinson’s front garden on the corner of Elizabeth and Warwick Streets (above). They spent several days in this place before a boat took them on their fateful trip to Flinders Island.
This location, and the story it holds, is one of Hobart’s most significant heritage places, and yet there is no sign or telling of this story (on left, the site in 2018).
An important part of Reconciliation would be recognition of this place and more of the other places that tell the Aboriginal story of Hobart.
I also believe that some of the amazing people from our history deserve greater recognition, like Truganini. Diplomat, leader, survivor, and peace maker, Truganini was a member of the south-east Tasmanian nation and spent a lot of time in Hobart, including her last three years before she died.
A memorial to Truganini is tucked away in the bush on Mount Nelson, but I think she deserves greater recognition in the city centre. I would like to have a conversation with the community about naming more places after Aboriginal historic figures and dual-naming geographic features in Hobart. This will all be part of the discussion as we develop our first City of Hobart Reconciliation Action Plan over the next few months.
Lord Mayoral reception requests
As part of my commitment to opening up our public buildings to the community, we are welcoming applications to hold receptions for organisations to celebrate significant occasions in the Lord Mayor’s Court Room at the Town Hall.
These events can include:
- launching a new project
- an organisational anniversary
- a significant national or cultural day
- student delegations to national events
- any other important events held in Hobart.
More information on how to apply can be found here.
The Dark Mofo winter festival is almost upon us and, as always, features exciting ways to liven up our cooler months.
This year the council is supporting the new art precinct ‘Dark Path’ which will take people across the recently opened Remembrance Bridge to rediscover the people’s Queens Domain - including the Old Beaumaris Zoo and the Botanical Gardens - to experience free public art installations.
Be aware though, it involves a lot of walking in the dark over uneven ground. Dark Mofo suggests you contact firstname.lastname@example.org you have any mobility requirements.
And of course, we also support the fabulous Winter Feast which returns for eight nights on the waterfront, with more than 70 stallholders selling delicious, warming fare plus a new (free!) children’s program. I look forward to catching up with many of you as we enjoy what's on offer.
Mayor in the Chair
Please don’t forget I'm continuing my Mayor in the Chair sessions where members of the public can come and see me at the Henry Hunter room in the Town Hall without needing an appointment.
The next two are on Saturday June 15 at 11am-12pm and Friday 28 June at 3-4pm.
Authorised by Cr Anna Reynolds, Town Hall, Hobart.
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