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Greater Hobart Bill 2019 - Second Reading

1 May 2019

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the Greens are pleased to support this bill. All great cities around the world have removed the artificial boundaries of municipal areas and have some mechanism that enables planning connectivity across municipal boundaries because that is the way we move in society. We do not stop at the border of Clarence and start at Hobart as a different person in a different car in a different way. We need seamless transport routes and we need green spaces that move between councils and make connections between wild places like kunanyi. Hopefully in future we will make the connection between kunanyi, the Domain and through to the Derwent River. That is the sort of beautiful city that Hobart could be looking toward in the future. We could be looking toward a city that has truly liveable outdoor areas, where we have removed the gnarled traffic-congested roads those of us who live in or travel through Hobart have to endure during peak hours; those long periods stuck behind diesel and petrol cars with fumes and all of the other dangers and unpleasant aspects of the modern car environment. 

This bill enables us as a city to look toward a future, because infrastructure planning has to be with the long-term in mind. In 10 years' time, the planet has to be using about 50 per cent to 60 per cent less fossil fuel. We have to move away from the level of carbon dioxide emissions we are currently emitting, which is so damaging to the planet's biosphere. This is a step in that direction. We believe it will enable the councils to work on the things they have already had conversations about but have been, as I understand it, hamstrung by the lack of a legislative mechanism to move forward with formal connections between council areas. Funding can be applied for with confidence and plans can be made in the knowledge the project is not going to fall over on a whim. It will transcend electoral cycles or minor changes between councils and allow us to look at the city as a whole unit.

We are very happy to support this bill. There are some missed opportunities. It is disappointing to see the absence of the University of Tasmania, for example, in the conversation and in the structure of the advisory committee. I believe that whether you agree or not, whether you like it or not, the University of Tasmania has made a strong stand and a public decision that they will move to the centre of Hobart. This is going to be a massive change and it has been signalled as such for a long time. It will be a massive change to transport movements, pedestrian movements, commercial life and social activity in the middle of Hobart. It will also mean people, hopefully, coming in from Sorell, New Norfolk and the southern parts of the state. It is moving into the middle of Hobart so that students will be more attracted because of the shorter transit time to come from those regional parts of Tasmania and attend university. There is obviously going to be a big shift in transport patterns because of the university moving into the middle of Hobart. 

I thank the department, Michael Kerschbaum and Anne for the briefing they provided the Greens on the Greater Hobart Bill; it was very helpful. One of the things I raised was a question about the make-up of the advisory group. As it stands, the Greater Hobart Advisory Group is the body that does essentially the busy work on behalf of the committee. The advisory group will comprise the general managers from each of the four councils, Clarence, Kingborough, Hobart and Glenorchy, the secretaries of the four ministerial departments of Infrastructure, Housing, Community Development and Economic Development, and the CEO of Infrastructure Tasmania.

The addition of the CEO of Infrastructure Tasmania can be argued as an important person to be on an advisory group but in the function of providing advice I would argue that there are other groups that ought to have been represented. If we are going to expand the group out from just the GMs of councils and departmental heads of ministerial bodies that are on the committee, which this is what the bill does, then I would argue it would be appropriate to consider advisors from the community development and social services sector, given that the objectives of the bill include:

Promoting, encouraging and providing affordable housing, urban renewal, liveability and ease of access to places and facilities.

That is one of the objectives of the bill in clause 5(d). In order to do that you really need to be in touch with the communities who are affected - social services, the providing services, understanding the impacts on the local communities and all of the different groups involved in providing support and services for community groups. I would put to the committee that when they are developing the regulations for the meetings and procedures of the committee they may consider drafting in as a member of the advisory group, to co-opt, effectively, a person like the CEO of TasCOSS. A person who represents such a large grouping of the social service sector agencies is the sort of person I would have thought would be a useful addition to the advisory group. It might be from time to time that the formal inclusion of a relevant person from the University of Tasmania might also be an important person to have co-opted onto the advisory group to provide the best advice for the Greater Hobart work program.

My other comments about the bill relate to what I see as a missed opportunity. I have had a conversation with the minister about this and I understand that the minister sees this as a mechanism to bring the councils together and provide the legislative framework for them to cooperate on the work program that they collectively develop. However the state Government has a responsibility for the whole of Tasmania. The state Government has a responsibility to make sure we are looking to the future with an eye to the issues that all councils need to attend to. Fundamentally the Government is voted in to take carriage of the big issues and the planning for the state.

It is not sufficient to simply devolve all those things down to the lower levels of the planning scheme and say they will get worked out on a case-by-case basis. The whole point of this bill is to come up to a much higher level to enable strategic planning. In that regard there is a missed opportunity here to not make any mention of climate change in this bill at all, given that will be a substantial pressure on coastlines, the transport routes around coastlines, the quality of the roads, the inundation of roads - we have a lot of low-lying areas in Kingborough and Clarence; Clarence City Council has lots of them. 

There is also the effect of the importance of active transport. We know we have to become more active as a population. It is better for everybody's health. On an individual level, it is better for our budget. At a health level, we should be making an effort to encourage a cityscape that promotes people walking or riding, not using the roads. From the mayors I have spoken to in relation to this bill, it is the intention to put active transport in there but those words are not in this bill. That is a missed opportunity and we have an opportunity now to make some changes.

I flagged I would like to go into Committee briefly. I understand it is not what members want to hear but this is an opportunity which only comes once. I have two small amendments that I proposed and circulated to the parties. They aim to do essentially what all councils in Tasmania are rushing to do. That is to get cars off the road, increase active transport, make our roads much safer, reduce transport emissions both from a health point of view, reducing diesel and petrol emissions and reducing the carbon dioxide emissions. These are the small additions we are seeking to have made in the Committee stage.

I look forward to hearing the outcomes of the Greater Hobart work program. This bill prescribes that maps must be made. It is good to get away from words and put lines on paper. That is when we start tying ourselves down. We must be brave and fearless and start saying, 'We're going to go this way'. That means making decisions and doing what we can to bring the community along with us. 

We would love to get rid of as much hard surface as possible in the middle of Hobart. It is better for us with a warming planet to have more trees, more vegetation, more porous surfaces, less concrete and less asphalt. They are not healthy places to be in when there is an extreme rainfall event like there was last May - water rushing down the streets of Hobart, barging into buildings, knocking over cars. We can do something about that. I hope they are the sorts of things the councils will work together on. I commend the bill to the House.