Newsletter no.11 from Ald Anna Reynolds - April 2016   Please click   >>
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What are Aldermen there for?

People are surprised when I tell them that the Aldermen they elect only get to see and have a say on a fraction of the developments approved by Council - because the majority are considered too small or non-controversial, so planning staff sign off on those.

And on the occasions when development applications do come to us, it’s quite common for a majority of Aldermen to wave them through, because the planning staff have recommended a development for approval.

So you may ask, what is the point of elected representatives? There are times when a majority of Aldermen take an active interest in developments that fall outside the intent of Hobart's planning rule book or sit uncomfortably with broad community expectations or other respected views, like those of heritage and architectural experts. This is one of those times.

In 1931, New York architects were so proud of their iconic buildings, they dressed up as them.
Negotiating better buildings ...

A proposal that came before us recently was the Palace Hotel application, for a 73 metre concrete tower as tall as the Casino in a city block. This block is one of our most significant historic areas (around the Elizabeth Street bus mall) with more examples of nationally recognised Colonial and Victorian architecture than anywhere else in Hobart, such as the Colonial Mutual Life Building, the GPO, and many others.

I moved the motion to reject its approval and this was supported by a narrow majority of Aldermen. The final decision to defer refusal allowed further negotiations to happen between Council and the developer about the height and design of the building.

I took a stand against this hotel proposal because it’s important that we get this right - the proposal we rejected was to be the city's tallest, punching 30 metres higher than Hobart's planning rule book.

Our rules allow for some flexibility in height if other benefits can be proved. But the building was not interesting, nor complementary to the heritage street, nor did it have any special design features.

I think Hobart can and should set high standards and so I am glad the Council voted the way it did. Let’s see if what comes back to us at the end of April from the Palace Hotel developers is more worthy of Hobart's special character.

This experience raises a number of questions for me about how we ensure our planning processes and safeguards ensure we develop with quality, not just quantity. I think we need to revamp the role of the Council's Urban Design Panel.

We need to go beyond the statutory requirements for public notifications about large buildings in our city, so that the community can take an interest in these building proposals. We also need a much more sophisticated and hands-on approach to the impacts of taller buildings that make the CBD more shady and windy. At 40 degrees south, we don’t want a city that is so physically uncomfortable that nobody wants to be there.

You can listen to my interview with 936 ABC Hobart's Leon Compton, about negotiating better buildings.
Wrong way. Go back!

At Monday's (11 April) Council meeting I am moving a motion to resist the state government's request to take over responsibility for Hobart's two most important arterial streets - Macquarie and Davey Streets.

Why am I doing this? I'm concerned that the state government is looking for 'quick wins' on Hobart's
traffic congestion at peak times - and will be focused on making these streets better for the flow of cars, regardless of the impact on the businesses, residents and pedestrians that use these streets.

The state government's
Hobart Congestion: Traffic Analysis 2016 has just been released. Unfortunately, it is blind to the real drivers of traffic congestion. It says there are five reasons for traffic congestion, but not one of them is too many cars with one person in them on the road at peak times. The analysis also fails to mention Hobart's status as the worst capital city in Australia (by far) in terms of public transport usage.

The Analysis proposes a number of recommendations for Davey and Macquarie Streets. First on the list are to extend clearways and remove pedestrian crossings in several areas. If the state government takes over these two streets, these initial recommendations are a glimpse of what would happen - these iconic Hobart streets and commercial precincts would be turned into car-friendly freeways more like the Booker Highway.

Around Australia many businesses and residents have learned the hard way that increasing clearways, reducing parking and creating a street environment less suited to pedestrians, is a bad outcome. Over a decade, Councils of all political persuasions have been pushing back against these proposals because of the economic, social and environmental impacts.

For example, the City of Boroondara in Melbourne commissioned a study of the economic impact on traders of a proposal to extend clearways along Kew Junction streets. A trial of the proposal found an annual sales loss of $9,000 to $13,000 per business.

Recently the City of Sydney voted to end the clearway on
Oxford Street and lower the speed to 40km/h, because businesses and residents found that the loss of parking and faster traffic flow led to a lot of failed businesses and shop vacancies. They were fearful of Oxford Street turning into another Parramatta Road, which is a thoroughfare for cars but a dead zone for people and businesses.

The Tasmanian government hopes it can fix traffic congestion, at least in the short term, by merely extending  clearways and reducing pedestrian crossings. But traffic congestion is a deep-seated problem, that won't be tackled until we increase public transport and reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles. New public transport infrastructure like the northern suburbs light rail and a ferry system is only mentioned by the analysis as something that may be done in 5 to 10 years' time. 

Hobart City Council needs to be very cautious before relinquishing its control over two important streets, to a state government that is yet to demonstrate its willingness to develop sophisticated solutions to this systemic problem.

West Hobart walking wins ...

When I first started at Council there was a petition that had been signed by 100 people in West Hobart who were concerned about the safety of the traffic environment around the Caldew Park (train park) in Hill Street. To start with, I was a bit worried that the petition might end up in the same place as other letters written over many years about traffic on Hill Street - nowhere!

But with a lot of persistence from a group of committed residents working collaboratively with schools and businesses in their area, the West Hobart community have shifted the conversation from ‘no’ to ‘go’ in terms of Council's support for their aspirations of a more people-friendly Hill Street.

Recently Council agreed to a number of initiatives which I hope will create the kind of Hill Street that the community are looking for, such as:

  *  Council will push for the installation of traffic signals on the corner of Hill and Arthur Streets, and lobby the state and federal governments to provide the funds for this. This corner has been pretty chaotic for cars, bikes and pedestrians since the new Hill Street Grocer opened, so the lights will make this area safer. Having lights will also help to provide a break in the constant flow of traffic that races through the roundabout during peak hours, and this break is important so that pedestrians get a few moments to cross the road safely.

  *  Council will also work to see the installation of a children’s crossing in Hill Street in the new 40km/h zone near Caldew Park (these are the crossings that operate around school hours), and

  *  Council will build a number of more generous crossing points on Hill Street, to replace little concrete refuges. These will be designed a bit like the one pictured and send a signal to all road users to slow down and allow for people crossing the road. It’s still to be decided if these will be fitted with zebra crossings that give pedestrians right of way, and the design process for these and other measures will happen over the next 12 months.

... but are we below standard?

Soon after the Council voted on these West Hobart changes, I attended a national event where I learned about how other Councils are making their cities more active and sustainable by putting walkers at the top of the city's traffic planning hierarchy. Seeing some of the work happening in Councils like the City of Port Phillip and the City of Yarra makes me wonder how much Hobart has yet to catch up with our approach to people, their neighbourhoods, and traffic.

For example:
>> in the City of Port Phillip, the Council voted a decade ago to not install any more roundabouts because they are not safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Now they have a program of installing zebra crossings on these roundabouts, despite the complaints they initially received from the state roads department.

>> in the City of Yarra, they have divided their city into 21 'Local Area Precincts' and developed plans to create quiet, people-friendly street environments in residential areas. Now these streets all have 40 km/h speed limits, and bike paths are painted on every road whenever a fresh layer of tarmac is laid.

At 12.30pm on Tuesday 26 April, I’m presenting a lunchtime show-and-tell with Ald Damon Thomas about what we learned at the national walking and local government conference, at the Elizabeth Street conference room at the back of Town Hall. Please feel free to come along, I'd love to hear your ideas about making Hobart a city that’s friendlier for walkers! The more walking we can get happening in Hobart, the more we can achieve a healthier community, less congested streets and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Participatory budgeting

As the level of government closest to the community, local governments can more easily involve its community in the decisions that affect them ... and this process can restore people's faith in democracy! It’s one of the exciting opportunities of local government globally.

Around the world, Councils are working in interesting ways to involve their communities in the decisions that affect them between elections. Participatory budgeting means giving the community a greater say in the tough trade-offs and choices that Councils need to make at budget time. It’s an inspiring
global movement, and now Hobart City is taking the first steps towards doing this too.

If you’d like to get a bit of a feel for the City budget and provide some input to us about the choices you would make, here’s the
budget which you can allocate as you see fit.

It’s early days for Hobart City Council - this feedback will inform the budget decisions to be made by elected members -  but it’s a great start and a practice worth encouraging and supporting.

Spraying weeds ... or not?

In February it was revealed that the World Health Organisation’s Agency for Research on Cancer had upgraded its assessment of the herbicide Glyphosate, from ‘possibly’ to ‘probably’ carcinogenic to humans, placing it in the same category as red meat.

Glyphosate is used by Hobart City and Councils around Australia to manage street weeds. It’s been seen as the least worst of the weed sprays available, but this new ruling will still concern some people. The federal regulatory body for the use of pesticides in Australia has issued a watching brief but has not advised Councils to stop using the product.

I asked Council to take a precautionary approach on the use of Glyphosate, and am pleased to report that the City will minimise the use of Glyphosate in parks, reserves and road reservations over coming months until further information is known.

In the meantime, residents also have the option of requesting that the area around their house is listed on our ‘No Spray Register'. To register, you need to fill in a
one page form
and commit to managing the weeds near your house with another method.
Coming Up - Catch the Train!

If you’d like to see more public transport in Hobart, now is a great time to have your voice heard! I would love to see you at
‘Catch The Train’ - a family fun walk or jog in support of Light Rail for Hobart. It starts at 11am Sunday 1st May from Cornelian Bay sportsfield, for a walk or run beside the rail corridor to Station Street Park, Moonah (an easy 2km, 30 min walk). At the Park there will be ice cream, coffee, activities for kids, and information stalls from community groups promoting cycling and public transport. It’s being organised by Jen Brown from Mums for Alternative Transport.
Franklin Square reopens

At the end of April the covers will start coming off the best little green space in the heart of Hobart!

Franklin Square has been going through a face-lift with new paths and walls, a revamp of the fountain, a spruce-up of the garden beds, and new lighting and park furniture.

Make sure to check it out, and please let me know what you think!
Working for you - quick stats

Since January I have attended....
  • 31 Council, Committee meetings, workshops and special working group meetings
  • 22 other meetings with Council staff or Aldermen
  • 38 meetings with residents
  • 18 community events
Let me know if you’d like to meet me and talk more about a concern or your great idea!


Impressions of the proposed Palace Hotel, from the development application.


"Hobart's road network is consistently near capacity during peak periods. Relatively small changes in traffic conditions therefore tend to have a large impact on traffic flow."

The state government's analysis recommends that this pedestrian crossing on the intersection of Murray and Davey streets be closed so as not to impede the flow of car traffic.

This pedestrian crossing on the intersection of Harrington and Macquarie Streets is recommended by the state government to be closed.

Persistence by West Hobart residents led to Council supporting a change in the speed limit around Caldew Park last year.

Traffic lights on the corner of Hill and Arthur Streets will give pedestrians more time to cross safely.

The type of crossing point proposed for Hill Street.

A raised crossing at a roundabout in the City of Port Phillip.








Please stay in touch!

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

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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) - landfill waste
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

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