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Newsletter no.9 from Ald Anna Reynolds - February 2016
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Our urban bushland - a burning issue

As I write on this gusty February day, dozens of fires continue to burn in the north and south-west, most of them ignited by dry lightning strikes more than a month ago. While firefighters work incredibly hard to battle the bushfire emergency this summer, I think there’s a growing community awareness of what a changing fire future means for Tasmania. And there's more than our World Heritage Area and rural communities at stake. If wet alpine forests like pencil pines are already burning as the climate gets warmer and drier, then what’s the risk for the flammable eucalypt bushland surrounding Hobart?

In my work over the last two decades as a climate change campaigner, adaptation was almost a dirty word, like an admission of defeat, that tackling greenhouse gas pollution was too hard. Reducing emissions remains the main solution. But now pushing for sensitive, well-planned and effective adaptation measures is also essential to protect both the bushland we love, and our homes and communities.

When I began working on Council as Parks Chairperson, I started asking questions: how much fire management are we achieving? If we get a severe fire, could we be accused of not doing enough? Given our changing climate, how do we need to think and act differently?


This map shows fire histories since 1980 for part of the bushland surrounding South Hobart (current to Dec 2015). This reflects the prescribed burning by Hobart City Council and the 1998 bushfire. The shades of green are areas that were last burned before or during the 1980s. Shades of yellow during the 1990s and into the 2000s. Orange and red since 2005.

60 percent of the Hobart City Council area is bushland. The boundaries throughout greater Hobart, where bushland meets suburbs, is a last line of defence around 200 kilometres long. The inevitability of a major bushfire is identified as right at the top of Hobart’s City Risk Register. At our most recent Parks Committee meeting, we were presented with some alarming maps. They tell us that a lot of our bushland reserves have not burned for a while, and fire hazards are high. That’s not due to negligence - hazard reduction fires in cities are difficult, because of the impacts of smoke and the risk of escape. But it means we end up with alarmingly high bushfire risk in our reserves right now. More than half of the area in Council bushland currently carries high or extreme bushfire risk, the rest moderate risk.


This is a map of the potential fire intensity in the Council bushland reserves around Hobart on a typical 'bad fire day'. Any area that is not green on this map indicates bush that will burn with an intensity that is uncontrollable on a bad fire day (that is, Forest Fire Danger Index of 50, wind from north to west, maximum fuel load. For comparison, the Danger Index for the 2013 Dunalley fire was 112; Black Tuesday in 1967 was 128).

I urge you to
read the advice to Council about the bushfire risk to Hobart, and see these maps in more detail (starting at page 94). We all need to start getting used to living with and adapting to climate change, because it’s changing our city rapidly. Council is doing more work to understand bushfire risk and what Council should do as a land manager. We will need to spend more money, have more management burns, and perhaps even create bigger firebreaks, while ensuring we protect the natural values of our bushland. Please let me know if this is something of particular interest to you. As this Mercury editorial quoting my Greens colleague Ald Philip Cocker suggests, Hobart needs to have a frank conversation about how to deal with bushfire risk, before another 1967 happens.
More on mountain bushland...

A few weeks ago Council approved three new big ideas for kunanyi / Mt Wellington:

>> upgrading the Pipeline Track with a make-over for the Fern Tree entrance park, new history signs, and conservation of the historic bridges

>> revamping the Organ Pipes Track, which was built in 1931 and takes walkers under soaring dolerite columns and snow gums (it’s been a bit neglected and needs resurfacing)

>> creating a new downhill 'gravity' mountain bike track from Big Bend to Junction Cabin.

We signed off on the concepts and will now look to state or federal government to provide funding. Wellington Park is one of the most visited places in Tasmania and it’s a vast and complex area to manage with the limited resources that Council has. We hope these ideas will capture the imagination (and the wallet) of a Premier or Prime Minister.
Lenah Valley first for street make-over!

Following the street parties in the spring of 2015, Council considered the great events and community support for the
plans to make our neighbourhood shopping streets more people friendly (report starts at page 178). While we plan to improve all the streets in the coming years with wider footpaths, street trees and more...unfortunately our budget doesn’t stretch to doing everything at once.

Recently Council decided that lucky Lenah Valley will be the first neighbourhood to get a make-over in the Augusta Road shopping area. Lenah Valley business owners and the community organised a great event and are the driving force behind making the changes. I’m really looking forward to working with you over the next year or so to get the work done so we can all linger longer in Lenah Valley!

This process was special in that it involved so many people trying out new ideas for their neighbourhoods. Currently the
excellent report that resulted is buried deep in Council agenda papers, and has not yet been released as a stand-alone report that's easier to access. I'll do what I can to make this happen.
New crossing for South Hobart

After persistent lobbying from the local community, South Hobart will finally get an upgraded crossing in the main shopping area (near the corner of Macquarie and Elboden). The crossing was recommended as a priority project after the street party held in September last year. Council agreed to undertake this work in the 2016-17 financial year, so the first step will be finalising the design (in line with the concept pictured - you can
read the report in detail, with the South Hobart proposal from p 253). The crossing will greatly improve the safety of crossing Macquarie St and help create a more pedestrian-friendly street. Well done to all of the community members that wrote letters, petitions and attended meetings...it may have taken longer than was ideal but I hope the final project is a big improvement!

If you would like to find out more or be involved in the discussions about this and other South Hobart traffic matters, please attend the Local Traffic Committee at 5.30pm on Wednesday 9 March, at the community hall in D'Arcy Street Park.
Interested in your local street?

There are several Local Traffic Committees around the Hobart area, so if the design of your local streets matters to you, perhaps consider attending one of the meetings coming soon...

*  West Hobart - 5.30pm, Tuesday 23 February (in the 'Glass House' Meeting Room, which is in the back parking area of Town Hall)
*  Sandy Bay - straight after the West Hobart one (around 7pm), Tuesday 23 February, same venue
*  Mt Stuart - 5.30pm, Tuesday 8 March, same venue
*  Lenah Valley - straight after the Mt Stuart one (around 7pm), Tuesday 8 March, same venue
*  Glebe - 5.30pm, Tuesday 22 March, Phillip Smith Centre in Glebe

Local Area Traffic Management is widely practised in Australia and around the world. It recognises that local streets are different to major arterials and that local communities may want to create a different, slower and safer environments in these streets. Many Councils establish Local Area Traffic management plans, policies or resident groups in recognition that the community has knowledge and an interest in the planning and management of road space within a local area.

Our committees currently meet in the absence of a Local Area Traffic Policy, but I’m hoping that we can develop one in Hobart soon. There are some great examples around the country to inspire us, like this one at
City of Yarra.
How about public transport?

While local area groups focus on improving the safety and character of neighbourhood streets, I’m also interested in broader region-wide transport projects. Hobart is becoming a congested, car-dependent city, and I don’t believe that’s the way we should continue to develop.

There have been decades of under-investment in public transport, and while the state government needs to fix this, local government can play an influential role.

That’s why I put my hand up to represent Council on a joint Glenorchy and Hobart City Council Rail Corridor Working Party. Alderman Damon Thomas and I (representing Hobart) are hoping that Glenorchy and Hobart can work together, as two Councils with an interest in better public transport, to push the development of the corridor for a light rail service. We’ve had a few meetings and will jointly investigate how we can develop the land around the stations to help make a service more viable. Local governments are crucial to getting similar projects up and running around the country, such as light rail services in Adelaide, Parramatta, and the Gold Coast.
First payment to Myer

At the final meeting for 2015, after the occupation of the new Myer store on Liverpool Street, Council approved its first payment of $1.75 million to Myer. I voted against making this payment, because although Council is now legally bound into a contract that would be difficult to break, I could not vote for a contractual arrangement that I was not involved in approving.

Unfortunately this first payment is one of many to come. Council will pay an extra $875,000 each year for four years if the store’s gross sales for the first year of trading are less than $50 million. I hate to think of all the great community and infrastructure projects that will have to wait because of this flawed deal.
A more positive spend...

The Doone Kennedy Hobart Aquatic Centre now has 400 new solar panels on the roof! Council found that for the pool to reduce carbon emissions, electricity use, and running costs, it’s more economic to install a solar photovoltaic system than solar hot water. Now this 99kW solar PV system is installed, along with more efficient heat pumps, and variable speed drives on pumps and fans. We expect they’ll save at least $25,000 and 45 tonnes of CO2 a year.
Affordable Housing

Getting affordable housing included in the planning guidelines for Macquarie Point required quite a bit of my focus and persistence at the end of last year, but in the end Council agreed (bar one vote) to my amendments. The Planning Commission will now consider all of the planning guidelines that have been set for Macquarie Point and I hope they retain the ones about affordable housing.

In the end, Council would not support a binding requirement for developers to provide some affordable housing (like the 15 percent quota required in South Australia). However I hope that now Council has included a desire for affordable housing in the planning guidelines, this will create a precedent for future Councils and provide an opportunity for community housing providers to explore opportunities with developers at the site.

While we may think Hobart has lots of affordable housing, the inner city is increasingly becoming more expensive for the young, people on low incomes, and pensioners. Hobart is changing rapidly and if we want to retain the social diversity of our city, Council needs to play a leadership role. I enjoyed championing this issue over the last few months and hope the steps we took are respected by the Commission.
 




 


 
Lenah Valley street party, 2015
The street parties resulted in 'A plan for Hobart's local retail precincts'

 
South Hobart doesn't have one of these at the moment.




 
South Hobart could have one of these across Macquarie Street.




 






 






 
Elizabeth Street, about 1920 (TAHO)















 
Premier Will Hodgman, Lord Mayor Sue Hickey, and Jennifer Hawkins cut the ribbon.









 



 

 
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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
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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)
Newsletter 8 (February 2016)


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