You are here

Macquarie Point Development Corporation Amendment Bill 2018 - Second Reading

18 October 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I have deep concerns on many 
levels about this bill before us. It was not something I was expecting to 
speak on but you only have to open the bill and look at some of the 
comments from a range of people in the community over the last couple of 
days, from people at MONA, councillors on the Hobart City Council and a 
number of other groups in the community who have instantly picked up what 
this is proposing to do.

It is a bill to remove the voice of Tasmanians from debate about this most 
central part of our capital city. We are a small state, this is a small 
city, but it is a beautiful one. What happens on that most central and 
precious plot of 9.3 hectares will be the biggest planning decision any 
government makes for their generation, for at least 30 years. It will 
have impacts that will ripple out for good, for missed opportunity, for 
children, communities, tourists, all opportunities and possibilities of 
connection and reconciliation, for experiencing public events and the joy 
of being together in community with other people. This site promises all 
those things.

In 2016, when MONA presented their views of what should happen on that 
site they were taking a space that we, the public in Tasmania, had been 
waiting for this Liberal Government to speak into, waiting for the 
Macquarie Point Development Corporation to make their announcements into a 
public space. There had been deafening silence from the corporation. 
There have been a noted lack of activity and it was within that space that 
MONA presented their thoughts on a vision for Tasmania.

What struck me, and I am impressed, was the way that MONA somehow seems to 
find a place where people can have a conversation, the things they bring 
together gives people something like a neutral spot, it is a creative spot, 
it is an inventive spot, and they speak to people's imagination. There is 
a bunch of clever people there and they have conversations. They reach 
out and they create the space for people to dream into. 

What they presented were some ideas for how that fantastic, special site 
of Hobart could be used and included a reconciliation park. The support 
for that in the community expressed in public places and also in 
conversations I heard with people was overwhelmingly positive. It was 
clear it was the first step in a very long conversation that needed to be 
had, first with the Aboriginal communities in Tasmania. It was so well 
received. People felt, yes, this is a contribution that we are ready for. 
We are ready to make that step in Tasmania. We are ready to start the 
conversation about what reconciliation looks like in a physical place, how 
we would mark that, how we would create memorials and celebrations of 
culture and connections with community. Greg Lehmann opened a space for 
having that conversation about the opportunities for commemorating our 
history and for providing us with an opportunity to have that conversation 
together.

MONA also presented a range of other ideas around our linkage, our 
connection to the Antarctic, there was space for the Eden Project, 
conversations about linking to the water, an opening to the water as well 
as conference centres. Most of all, public open spaces so that there 
would plenty of opportunity for people to come together in community to 
have the sorts of dynamic, exciting, challenging, jaw-dropping, awe-
inspiring, creative events that MONA and other Tasmanian artists put on 
for us. We are so blessed to live in a state like Tasmania that has such 
a diverse and now world-renowned arts scene.

What this bill would provide is a squandering of that opportunity because 
it would give the person who is sitting here, the minister, the Treasurer, 
the opportunity, the sole responsibility for making those decisions. It 
would be Treasurer in consultation with Mr Jaensch, the Planning minister. 
These two, shall I say, white guys, would sit down -

Members interjecting.

Dr WOODRUFF - Well, it is true and it is exactly the point. Two white men 
would sit down and have the final decision about that space. It is the 
uncomfortable truth, Mr Hidding. The uncomfortable truth is that there 
should be children, there should be Aboriginal people, there should be 
women, there should all ranges of people in Tasmania involved in what 
happens in that space. It is not the remit of two guys to make that 
decision without any recourse to the recommendations of the State 
Architect or our Tasmanian Planning Commission, to make an essentially 
planning-free decision. 

The minister is not required under this bill to seek the approval of the 
Tasmanian Planning Commission before he prepares and provides final 
planning amendments for the planning scheme in that area, which is 
currently the Sullivans Cove Planning Scheme. The minister is not 
required to present them to the Planning Commission for their considered 
assessment and a public hearings process. There is no mandated 
requirement in this bill for public consultation. As it has been written, 
it would be up to the Hobart City Council if they so wished and if they 
had the time and resources to undertake the public consultation process as 
is drafted before us in 21 days. That is impossible and it highlights 
what is going on here. There is no intention in this bill to seek 
people's views about this important site. It could barely have been 
drafted more clearly to remove the views of the Tasmanian community, of 
the council acting as the planning authority for that space and of the 
delegated planners within the Tasmanian Planning Commission, who have the 
experience and the ability to undertake that sort of work. 

Having looked at the budget and what has been happening over the last 
couple of years under this Liberal Planning minister, Mr Gutwein, there 
has been this constant transfer of resources from the Tasmanian Planning 
Commission into the Department of Justice. It is no wonder because all of 
the work required in developing these sorts of major planning scheme 
changes is going to be done within the minister's department. This has 
been in train for several years now, the removal of staff and expertise 
from the Planning Commission. There was a view, and it was expressed to 
me while the Tasmanian Planning Scheme was being drafted that the Planning 
Commission was a bit big for its boots and they were just making life 
difficult for governments. They kept planning things and looking at the 
letter of the law and taking a big-picture view and thinking about 
extensive impacts and looking at the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 
and really applying the objects of that act. 

When you really get down to the objects of the Land Use Planning and 
Approvals Act they are pretty annoying if you just want to have a quick 
and dirty development approval. It is hard to do because when you have 
public space, public land, you ought to be taking a really clear eye to 
the impacts on the local environment, the costs for the unintended 
consequences for other infrastructure, the health of the community and the 
sustainability of the local community as well as the environment.

For the new look of Macquarie Point, it appears that housing will part of 
the mix. Housing, as Mr O'Byrne said, was always meant to be part of the 
mix but in a way that was clearly not going to fetter the maximising of 
public open space so we can have the very large events, the late-night 
events, the loud and noisy events, the chaotic events, the firecrackers 
and outside fires, the carousing - the public joy of being together in a 
noisy community. Who knows what else will go on there? Some random MONA-
ness, which we would all enjoy. The question is, if this is going to be 
housing as some groups have spruiked, in that we need to have affordable 
housing. We certainly do, but there are many places around the city we 
could be looking at having in-fill. We certainly need more affordable 
housing in Tasmania, but there is nothing in here that says it would have 
to be affordable housing. It is much more likely to be housing for people 
who are on the other end of the financial spectrum. 

I am also a bit concerned about the positioning of Macquarie Point and the 
number of cruise ships that are planned for Hobart and the welcoming of 
this Government for more and more cruise ships to come. It raises real 
question marks about what sort of Macquarie Point we could be looking at. 
We could well be looking at a Darling Harbour-type of Macquarie Point, 
which would be a disaster. Once a long time ago I remember enjoying going 
to Darling Harbour and it was a fun place. I go there now and I just 
shudder and cannot wait to leave as soon as I get there. I went last year 
and it was a theme park, it was gross. It was not a public space; it was 
space where I was assaulted by junk and it was truly kitsch. There was no 
public space left. 

Mr O'Byrne - You could have been anywhere in the world.

Dr WOODRUFF - Exactly, you could have been anywhere in the world. It was 
totally built out, there was no good public open space left, and all the 
beautiful buildings had been overshadowed by skyscrapers. It was a 
concrete jungle on the edge of the water. That is what we could have. We 
could have Louis Vuitton shops and arcades of expensive shopping for the 
endless boats and cruise ships that turn up. That is definitely a 
possibility if this minister is making the decision, because look what 
happened at Kangaroo Bay. 

Kangaroo Bay was a beautiful bit of Crown land foreshore that was given 
away for $2.5 million - a steal - to a company which put in a development 
proposal that was twice the height of the Kangaroo Bay development plan, 
twice the height that the community of the Eastern Shore, Clarence City 
Council and ticked off by the Tasmanian Planning Commission, had agreed to 
as the maximum height that would be appropriate for that area. Not only 
that, we lost the public open space. That building has taken away the 
public open space. There was a design for a beautiful section of public 
open space around two buildings that had a transect for people to move 
around the foreshore of Kangaroo Bay. That has gone.

There is an opportunity for people to ride their bikes, hunkering still on 
to Cambridge Road, and there is some kind of patching together they have 
done around the outside of the hotel that is now twice the size of what 
the Kangaroo Bay development plan has allowed for. Why was that? Because 
someone from State Growth went to China and found a suitable developer, 
Shandong Chambroad Petrochemicals, and brought them back here, and guess 
what that company said? They said, 'We're not going to bother to invest 
unless we get what we want. We want twice the height and we want all the 
public space'. 

That is what happens with this Liberal minister when he is left to his own 
devices. We have no confidence, minister, that with these sort of single-
handed, secret operations you are going to keep the public open space that 
this beautiful central area requires. Inevitably, if you are making the 
decision about what should go there, you will be having private 
conversations with developers who say, 'We would like to put that Eden 
project thing in but we're actually going to need to take a lot more space 
because it won't be worth it for us to come to Tasmania unless we can have 
twice the space you are offering us'. That is a real risk. 

The Cenotaph is an important landmark in its own right. It deserves to be 
respected and it should not have buildings that outshine it in its nearby 
vicinity. There is not anything in this bill, or anything as I read it, 
that would prevent a minister making a decision to create a planning 
scheme amendment that would prevent a high-rise building being built in 
this Macquarie Point area. It does say that it must be substantially 
similar to the planning requirements in the area but as was pointed out 
earlier, there is nothing that defines that and there is no ability for 
the Planning Commission to make an independent determination about whether 
it is substantially different or not.

The minister can, on the request of the board, consult with the board and 
prepare some proposed amendments to the planning scheme, provide them to 
the board, in this case the Hobart City Council authority, receive 
representations from those bodies and then make a decision. There is no 
requirement for the Planning Commission to approve this process; in fact 
the Planning Commission does not get the opportunity to make an approval 
at all.

There is the possibility therefore that we could be seeing high-rises, 
perhaps not at the height of the Fragrance development - but I note the 
Fragrance proposal has been withdrawn from the Hobart City Council, 
although that does not mean the company is not looking at resubmitting it. 
We would not want to see Macquarie Point ending up with high-rise 
buildings. Fragrance has dismissed the idea of human-scale cities. A 
comment from Fragrance Hotels was that Hobart would be suffering from 
short, fat buildings and that we need to have high rises. People in Paris 
would be amused to hear that their five-storey maximum height on buildings 
would be considered short and fat. 

Jan Gehl, who was here as an architect and brought out as a consultant by 
the Hobart City Council some years ago, is an international luminary 
architect who has done fantastic work in public places and city planning. 
He has some very strong views that are based in experience and evidence 
that people need to keep earthed. We need to keep to a maximum of five 
storeys so that we can see up and appreciate the details of the flowerpots, 
the clothes hanging off people's railings and people's faces. About five 
storeys is pretty much as far as the human eye can go. Humans living on 
the fifth floor are still able to see the trees, the ground and people 
moving around on the earth below. That provides an opportunity for people 
to connect across spaces and to retain the human community connections we 
know we need in order to be happy, functioning individuals as part of a 
socially cohesive group.

We are concerned about another planning bill, which gives the minister 
unfettered powers to make decisions about this very important area. We 
are concerned that four-and-a-half years have been wasted on Macquarie 
Point when we had a proposal as substantial as the one MONA put the effort 
into delivered in 2016. We have had two-and-a-half years since then in 
which the Macquarie Point Corporation and this minister could have been 
undertaking a public consultation about that proposal. Two-and-a-half 
years of consultation has been wasted and we have had very little come out 
since then. It is not surprising that when you wait this long people 
start to become a bit itchy, but it is our job to put the brakes on an ill-
considered bill like this, which would give the power to the minister to 
make these decisions on his own. That is not the way forward for Tasmania.

It is such a special site and there are many good things that have been 
proposed, people are dreaming into that space and we have to do what we 
can to not squander the opportunity and to leave it open for people to be 
in community together in open spaces. We do not want this to be 
privatised. We do not want this to go underground, like what is happening 
on Rosny Hill and like the secretive expressions of interest process. 
Under this Liberal Government, when things go underground they do 
eventually pop up. They pop up in a form that is privatised, that has 
lost the public open space, that has degraded the natural environment 
within the vicinity and that locks people out of public places in city 
landscapes where, more than ever, we need opportunities to come together 
and enjoy each other's company, being part of some beautiful artistic 
programs of community together.