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Changing the laws to help housing affordability
Hobart’s affordable housing crisis is a big concern for me.
Councils need to play their part in responding to the lack of affordable housing – bu first the State Government needs to give us some of the powers that Councils have in other states to make a difference.
We approve apartments and developments every week and we could require that a certain percentage of dwellings built are affordable. This planning tool, known as ‘inclusionary zoning’, is common around Australia.
Several states allow their local councils to ask that up to 10 percent of any development be designed and managed to accommodate lower income households.
But under current state law, Tasmanian local governments are not allowed to do this.
We know this because in 2016 (as a result of a motion I pushed), Hobart Council tried as part of the rezoning of Macquarie Point to secure some affordable housing with fairly soft planning directives.
The Macquarie Point Corporation, with the blessing of the state government, fought Council’s right to do this in the Tasmanian Planning Commission and won. We were told that asking for the inclusion of affordable housing was not something we were legally empowered to do.
Clearly given the current housing crisis this stance cannot continue and the state government needs to quickly amend planning laws to allow Councils to play our role.
Time to speak for the trees!
Is there a special tree in your neighbourhood, your garden, or the city that you'd like to see recognised and better protected?
We're asking the public to suggest new additions to the City’s Significant Tree Register. Anyone can make a nomination to the register before 1 May 2018 for trees on public or private property. It’s the first time the register has been open for new nominations since 2010, so this is an important opportunity.
Once received, the nominations will then be assessed according to trees’ aesthetic significance, outstanding size, age, links to historic events or people, landmark significance, rarity or ecological value.
If the tree is put on the register it cannot be removed without first coming before Council for consideration. Being listed on this Significant Tree Register list is the only protection that individual trees have in Hobart.
View the current register and fill out a brief nomination form here, or give me a call if you would like a paper form.
Civic heritage and the future of our Treasury
In the last few months, we've watched the discussion about the future of the beautiful sandstone Treasury building that sits next to Franklin Square.
In November the tourism industry called on the state government to “seek international expressions of interest in developing Hobart’s neglected Treasury Building into an outstanding hospitality precinct” (aka privately-owned flash hotel).
In response, heritage advocates called for the building to be kept in public hands and developed into a colonial art gallery and tourist information centre.
I want Council to have a say in the future use and protection of the Treasury building as an important public and cultural place, so I recently moved a motion on this topic.
Without a concerted effort, it will not be easy for Council to have a say, because the state government’s Tasmanian Heritage Council has jurisdiction over the heritage protection of the building. Sometimes we do not agree with the decisions of the Heritage Council.
One of the only ways that Council can have a role and set standards for the development that takes place in this area is through planning law.
Under the new statewide planning scheme, Councils can propose special zones with particular development standards and goals. They are called ‘Particular Purpose Zones’ or ‘Special Area Plans’ and they allow Council to describe particular special parts of the city and set out our vision and rules for the area.
My motion proposed that the Treasury buildings should become part of a new ‘Civic Heritage Area’ encompassing the Treasury building, Franklin Square, the Town Hall, the Bond Store, Old Customs House and Maritime Museum.
At the moment the Treasury building is proposed to be lumped into the general CBD zone, so if the building was sold for a hotel, Council could not set any special standards for development, aside from the same generic rules we have for the whole city zone.
My motion also asked for advice about whether we should consider nominating the Treasury buildings on the National Heritage List.
State 'take-over' of Davey and Macquarie Streets
There was a lot of talk during the state election about the changes that would magically result for Hobart’s traffic issues if the State Government could ‘take over’ Macquarie and Davey Streets.
But regardless of who owns the bitumen, the planning for these two arterial roads needs to take place in consultation with residents and businesses along the streets, as well as the Council.
To have an impact on traffic congestion, any ‘take over’ redesign needs to reward a shift in commuter behaviour, not just make more road space available for cars and drivers to act as they do now.
Design changes to these two arterials need to prioritise road space for public transport, cars with multiple occupants, cycling and pedestrians. Only by reducing the number of single occupant cars on Macquarie and Davey streets will there be any impact on congestion.
Introducing clearways sounds simple but in many cases, removing on-street parking may just result in new bottlenecks from intersections and bus stops. Even in peak hour, Macquarie and Davey Streets will still need places for buses to stop and lanes for people to slow down and turn into cross streets.
To ensure people can walk around the city and go to businesses in these streets, all pedestrian crossings must be retained and enhanced, not closed down.
Removing on-street parking and giving more space to traffic can change the character of the streets and the quality of life for people who use it regularly. In turn, this impacts negatively on the economic activity along the street and its property values. One only needs to look at streets like Parramatta Road in Sydney to see a formerly lively street turned into a dead zone of empty shops and crumbling properties.
Macquarie and Davey streets are the heart of Hobart and home to schools, houses, churches, shops, parks and some of our iconic historic buildings. The worst possible outcome would be a badly planned ‘take over’ that has a marginal impact on traffic flows but sends a signal to encourage extra people into their cars, worsening congestion.
Catch a shuttle bus to the Mountain
The Parks Committee that I chair recently agreed to seek expressions of interest for the provision of a regular, affordable and all-weather bus service for kunanyi / Mount Wellington.
Last year there were more than 500,000 visitors to the mountain, which was up 16.6% on the previous year. There is no regular, affordable and accessible bus service that you can board in the city or South Hobart and then hop off at the Springs, walking trails, or the summit.
As the day to day managers of the mountain, it’s clear to Council that the mountain is straining under the weight of growing vehicle numbers and there needs to be a practical and affordable alternative for residents and visitors.
Council developed a Good Neighbour Agreement with the South Hobart community when the decision was made to extend the life of the McRobies Gully tip to 2030. The agreement includes a commitment to collect, monitor and report data about run-off, odour and other impacts of the tip on the community. A meeting for the community to hear about the latest news from the agreement will be held at 5.30pm, Wednesday 4 April 2018, at the Living Arts Centre, 14 Weld St, South Hobart.
Newsletter 24(February 2017) - announcement of my intention to run for Mayor
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