You are here

2019 Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee - Port Arthur

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Tags: Maria Island, Tassal, Fish Farms, Port Arthur, Algal Blooms

CHAIR (Mrs Petrusma) - Thank you all. The time now being 9 a.m. the scrutiny of Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority will now begin. The time scheduled for the scrutiny of this output is one hour. I welcome the minister, the chair and CEO to the committee. Minister, for the benefit of Hansard, can you please introduce any other persons at the table including their names and positions please.

Mr GUTWEIN - Certainly. To my left is Professor Sharon Sullivan, Chair of the PAHSMA board; Stephen Large, CEO; second right is Dr Jane Harrington, Director Conservation and Infrastructure; Anne McVilly who manages tourism operations; to my right is Dr Anthony Reid, my adviser from my office.

CHAIR - I remind members about the practice of seeking additional information for GBEs. The question must be agreed to be taken by the minister or the chair of the board and the question must be handed in writing to this committee's secretary.

Minister, or chair, do you want to give a very brief opening statement, keeping in mind that we only have one hour for scrutiny?

Mr GUTWEIN - I will take a couple of minutes if I could, Chair.

It is a pleasure that as the Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority sits under my responsibility. The recent annual report highlights the achievements of the authority, its sites and its people for the past year.

I congratulate Professor Sharon Sullivan, the board, Stephen Large and his management team, and all of the hardworking employees of PAHSMA on the authority's achievements and acknowledge their success over the past year.

PAHSMA has received a number of accolades for the 2018-19 financial year. In fact, there are quite a number to work through but I will just touch on a couple: winning the Australian Tourism Awards for both major tourism attraction and cultural tourism; awarded the winner in the cultural tourism attraction and major tourism attraction categories for the Tasmanian Tourism Awards; awarded winner for Port Arthur Historic Site as the best historical site in Australia at the Australian Travel People's Choice Awards; along with numerous many others.

The PAHSMA site continues to welcome over 416 000 visitors combined across its three iconic sites. These included cruise ship passengers from the 16 ships which stopped at Port Arthur during 2018-19. The Tasman region continues to benefit from the Port Arthur Historic Site's continued success with PAHSMA workforce growing to 183 employees as at 30 June 2018. The authority is the most significant employer in the region.

Conserving each site's heritage buildings, ruins, landscapes and collections is rewarding but also inherently challenging, requiring considerable financial and human resources combined with expert professional knowledge. Significant conservation work valued at $4.64 million was completed during the year, including the major project completion of stage two of the Isle of the Dead walkways which allows for increased access whilst further protecting the heritage fabric on the Isle.

In closing, I acknowledge that the PAHSMA Chair, Professor Sharon Sullivan, will be retiring from the role effective 22 December 2019. Professor Sullivan has served on the board since December 1999 and has been integral to many organisational and conservation improvements initiated by PAHSMA and has been an outstanding chair. On behalf of the Government, I thank Professor Sullivan for her passion, knowledge and dedication provided over the past 20 years and wish her well for the future. Sharon, I personally thank you for your assistance, advice and support since I became the new minister.

In recent days, the process to appoint a new chair of PAHSMA has concluded. To build on the wonderful legacy you leave I am announcing today that the new chair of the board will be one of Australia's most experienced corporate leaders, Mr Grant O'Brien. Mr O'Brien was selected after an extensive recruitment and selection process. He has significant chair and director experience with outstanding skills in leadership and strategy. He is originally from Penguin on the north-west coast, he was a senior corporate leader having served as the CEO of Woolworths for a period. He has held chair and director roles for a number of boards and foundations. I am certain that he will build on the achievements of PAHSMA, conserving and maintaining a unique and internationally significant built heritage whilst ensuring that the tourism and corporate aims of the organisation continue to grow and develop.

I will now pass on to Professor Sullivan to say a few words.

Prof SULLIVAN - Thank you very much, minister. It is a great pleasure to be here but also a bit sad. Being associated with Port Arthur for such a long while, it sort of gets in your blood. I am very happy with the state that Port Arthur is in and very proud of what has been achieved.

I do not want to take a lot of time but if we think of the last 10 years, we have acquired National Heritage and World Heritage listing. We have done our visitors centre development, we have restored and stabilised the penitentiary. We have done our separate prison conservation project; we have taken over the Cascades Female Factory historic site and we are developing a visitors' centre for that.

As the minister has mentioned, we have continually increased visitor numbers and revenue, increased the number of employees and increased the input into the economy of not just the Tasman Peninsula, but Tasmania generally.

We have become involved in cruise ship visits and we are managing them well. They are a very good source of revenue. We have increased net assets and we have increased conservation expenditure to go with our mission.

The number of tourism awards that we have won - we have won 18 at a state level and six at a national level over the past 10 years. We have established research and university affiliations which assist us a lot. We have established and maintained a relationship with a world heritage site in China which has been very helpful in a number of ways: exchange of information, exchange of staff and actually, incidentally, they started to learn from us, but we are now learning from them. When they come here, they can tell us about the Chinese market and Chinese tourists.

We have provided conservation and assistance to numerous other heritage sites in Tasmania and we consider that to be part of our mission. We have begun a sustainable tourism and carrying capacity for study, which we consider to be important.

Finally, I would say that over the past 10 years, there has been a remarkable change in community involvement and engagement on the Tasman Peninsula and at the Female Factory. This has immensely strengthened the values of the site and also what we do there.

In saying all of that, I am not saying that is something that has been achieved by me or by the board or by the staff; all of these people, the board, the staff, have been intimately involved. The support of the Tasmanian Government has been essential. We have bipartisan support -

Ms O'Connor - Tripartisan.

Prof SULLIVAN - Sorry, tripartisan. We have support and we have had a very helpful and excellent minister in the Premier. I am very pleased to say that he has been replaced by someone with equal enthusiasm and equal drive. We certainly could not have achieved these things without that support.

I remember the time when PAHSMA did not have government support and it is very difficult. The government did not, in the distant past, have an understanding of what PAHSMA could do and be, which we now have.

Finally though, I would like to say that above all, it has been Port Arthur itself and its magic and, I guess, its attraction to people that has been most important.

The minister has outlined a number of things we are doing this year, so I won't repeat them but I would like to say that our next challenge is the world-class history and interpretation centre at the Cascades Female Factory, which we are working on. The recent fires throughout the country, and recent discussion about climate change is something we are very aware of because of our climate change issues, especially at the coal mines. I am happy to say that we are really doing a lot of work on climate change, possibilities of mitigation and so on. We have an expert on our staff who has been talking about this to international communities at international meetings.

There are a couple of challenges that we face. One of them I mentioned, of course, is climate change. The other is that in 20 years, we have not had any sort of reorganisation of PAHSMA in a formal sense. We have grown 'like topsy'. This year we have undertaken a review with our staff to see where the roles still fit, to see what their concerns are, to see how we might reorganise some of our functions to provide us for a good future. That is what we are doing as well this year, and that is proving very successful.

Again, I thank the Tasmanian Government for the support offered, not only to PAHSMA, but also to me as the retiring Chair. I am confident the PAHSMA team will continue to excel in both their conservation and tourism efforts under new leadership and I wish them very well into the future. I leave PAHSMA, as I have said, in good hands. Thank you.

Ms STANDEN - Thank you, minister and Professor Sullivan for that overview. I will start by thanking you for your lengthy service to PAHSMA. I am sure that will be a significant loss to the organisation and to the heritage sector generally within Tasmania. Thank you for that and good wishes for your future.

Minister, I would like to start with infrastructure. Your annual report talks about water and wastewater. Professor Sullivan has just mentioned the challenges of climate change and so on, but I am going directly to water in the first instance. I understand that the Port Arthur authority supplies a number of - the figure I have is approximately 150 - residences and businesses; 11, I am advised, under a supply agreement. Is there enough water to supply those needs as well as the general needs of the authority at Port Arthur?

Mr GUTWEIN - There is a significant amount of discussion underway on that. Obviously, in terms of the future, growth needs to be taken into account, especially the wastewater treatment plant. That was one of the legacy issues left out of the original 2008 transfer of assets to what were then the four corporations established to manage water and sewerage. There was a moratorium put on that. It is currently being discussed with TasWater; I have had discussions with both the Chair and the CEO about what the future might look like.

As a business unit, you can understand they have reservations about taking on what is, to some degree, kit that has been in place for a long time and that will obviously need upgrading. A discussion needs to be undertaken with the broader ownership of TasWater as well about that particular asset.

To your question, my understanding is that at the moment it is a manageable situation, but Mr Stephen Large might like to make some comments about the circumstance on the site as well.

Mr LARGE - I am fortunate in that Jane Harrington, our conservation director - I don't want to pass the buck on the first question - is right across it. Ms Standen, some of the figures you quoted of 115 users aren't correct - it's nowhere near that.

Dr HARRINGTON - We don't have that many external connections. That is a figure that has been bandied about. At the moment we probably only have about 11 external connections. All of those decisions have been made in a sustainable way. We have knocked back - we have not been able to provide additional connections to other people who have asked on the basis of not being able to guarantee a water supply.

We run two dams. We manage them in as a sustainable way as possible. We also run our own treatment plant where we are currently in close liaison with the EPA and with the local council. We do everything that we are supposed to do. At the moment we have alerted those small businesses that are connected to our water supply that we can't guarantee water supply. We simply can't. We have two dams. If it does not rain the dams aren't going to be full.

We are looking at alternatives at the moment which involve acquiring water from another nearby dam, but that is yet to be resolved. We have had circumstances in the past, probably about 11 years ago, where we went into this time of the year as well wondering what we would have to do. Clearly the water supply is an imperative for us to be able to run the site and the other businesses. Historically, the other businesses that have been attached are large businesses, including the Port Arthur Inn, which is within the Port Arthur Historic Site, and also the cabins and caravan park at Garden Point, which are also on land that is owned by the authority and leased out. It is disappointing that suggestions are made about the level of our connections. It is not as bad as that.

Mr GUTWEIN - I will just add to that. As I indicated, I have started the conversation with TasWater. From the Government's point of view, PAHSMA is not a business that should be managing water or wastewater for the broader community. We are looking at what the pathway might be, but that will come with a need for significant investment.

Ms STANDEN - Do you have any figures on current capacity and what is needed, what investment would be required and where that money is going to come from?

Mr GUTWEIN - I don't have that advice before me as yet.

Ms STANDEN - Not on water or sewerage?

Mr GUTWEIN - No. The corporation may have some further advice that they can share but at this stage I -

Dr HARRINGTON - Without giving figures, I can give you a qualitative response. From the wastewater treatment point of view, we manage our own needs as they stand at the moment above adequately. We did an audit on the capacity when we were investigating the potential to transfer it. The audit shows that at the moment we can manage our existing usage even to the extent that if we have cruise ships coming in, we are fine with that.

The biggest challenge for the Tasman Peninsula is that we have the only wastewater treatment plant on the peninsula but we are not in a position to say to anybody else - which we think would be otherwise responsible - we will be able to assist you with a provision of a proper wastewater treatment and water supply. We just do not have the capacity to go any further than what we are doing at the moment.

We have looked at it. That is where, at the moment, TasWater has done their own audit. Clearly, it is a plant that is now something like 30 years old. It will need some work. No matter what, that work will either need to be done by TasWater or in the future it would be an investment that would have to be met by the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority. Either way, it is well-maintained equipment but it is like everything - it is dating and probably in about 10 years' time the potential exists for the requirement of $2 million to $3 million worth of infrastructure to be replaced.

CHAIR - Minister, Computer Services have asked if next time you could speak louder. You are the only one they cannot hear.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is highly unusual.

CHAIR - Yes, we know it is unusual.

Mr GUTWEIN - I don't believe you, Chair.

Ms O'CONNOR - Professor Sullivan, on behalf of the Greens I also thank you for your total commitment to PAHSMA over the past 20 years, and your depth of knowledge and love of the place.

I wanted to ask a question about Darlington on Maria Island, which comes under the responsibility of PAHSMA. I need to know, I guess -


Ms O'CONNOR - Not at all? Your heritage responsibilities, to some extent?

Mr LARGE - No, Parks and Wildlife.

Ms O'CONNOR - Didn't we talk about Maria Island two years ago?

Prof. SULLIVAN - We did because at that time the then minister had asked PAHSMA to do a joint review with Parks and Wildlife Service about whether we should take some active role in looking after the heritage aspects of the island.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you able to update us on the outcome of that review, Professor Sullivan?

Prof. SULLIVAN - I am. I will give you the outlines. Stephen and Jane know more about the details.

We did a very useful, I think, joint report to the minister, in which we employed consultants who assessed the needs for the heritage assets because, as you would be aware, it is part of the World Heritage convict listing. Because of, in general, other responsibilities which Parks had, there was some maintenance required. But there was also a number of thoughts about ways in which the assets could be looked after better and also could be used better by the public. This report went to our then minister, but he did not act on that. He asked for a number of options about PAHSMA's involvement. He did not act on that but as a result of that - I think I would be correct in saying, but Stephen will contradict me if I am wrong - the government assigned further funding for the renovation and conservation of the heritage sites ongoing and has also set up a committee in which we are involved.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Professor Sullivan. The reason I ask this question is because there is an expressions of interest proposal that went up on the State Growth website about a week and a half ago for accommodation to be built at the site of Adkins House on Darlington inside the World Heritage Area. In the report that went to the minister, in which there was discussion of better use of those buildings, was repurposing or rebuilding Adkins House for a private commercial development part of that consideration?

Prof SULLIVAN - I would have to ask, I am not aware of that, but I think our conservation director might be aware of that.

Dr HARRINGTON - For that specific project, no. Certainly, there was a suggestion that there were opportunities with existing structures to be able to support some further development of accommodation.

Ms O'CONNOR - If you have a private commercial developer rebuilding a property that burnt down in 2001 as part of that Darlington convict site, do you think there is a potential impact on heritage values?

Dr HARRINGTON - It would certainly be open for consideration in terms of the relevant legislation. My understanding is that there was a management plan which would query whether it would allow that to go ahead or not.

Ms O'CONNOR - There is no worry, Jane, they just change management plans here, this Government, if they need a development to go ahead.

Mr TUCKER - As the member for Lyons, and as the Port Arthur site resides in Lyons and what a great electorate it is, what are the plans for any future development of the Female Factory?

Mr GUTWEIN - I know Jane will champing at the bit to answer this one. The Female Factory is a World Heritage Site that is managed by PAHSMA, but is in Hobart. I had the pleasure of having a guided tour recently and I was quite taken by the site, the restoration, and the heritage conservation work that has gone on, and what I hope are some very exciting plans in place for further development on that site. Dr Harrington has been working very closely on this and I will not steal any of her thunder, if she would like to explain further.

Dr HARRINGTON - Yes, it is a very exciting opportunity for us. We have done a considerable amount of work at the Female Factory but it is primarily being grounded in interpretation and landscape. Anyone who knows the Female Factory, and I am hoping everyone sitting at the table has been there, would realise that, from a built structure point of view, there is very little there. Historically, there is not a lot other than some of the amazing walls and the matron's cottage. The biggest challenge we inherited was the rather gorgeous fudge factory. In a previous life it was also a fish factory. At the time of the World Heritage listing in 2010, one of the recommendations from the World Heritage Committee was that the anachronistic building in yard 3 should be removed. Apart from being an anachronistic, having a 1970s building sitting in the middle of that rather glorious and otherwise convict landscape, it is not functional, it is not practical and we are very handicapped there by any capacity to better tell the story; that amazing story about female prisoners, female convicts and their contribution to the establishment of this wonderful nation.

The board supported a proposal that we prepared. We originally went out for a design competition for a history and interpretation centre to provide a structure that could house the facilities, house what we needed to do for our staff, house our interpretive facility that, in itself, could provide an interpretive device as to what was one of the structures on the building. The plan at the moment is we've reached the stage where we had a design competition. It was won by Liminal architects. Liminal are Tasmanian based with Snøhetta, who are Norwegian but have an office in Adelaide, and Rush Wright landscape architects. We have progressed with them and we now have the final design.

We are close to being ready to submit the DA. The significant thing for us is we have had a very thorough heritage impact assessment done, which, if I may refer to the previous question, is obviously a really important document. To be able to prepare that assessment reassures us that, in terms of all of the statutory requirements that we will need to meet at both the local, state and Commonwealth level, there will not be any constraints on that going ahead. We are very excited because it's a World Heritage Site in a suburban area in Hobart. The opportunity for us to engage, as we have wanted to for some time, with that really special story about women is looming.

Mr GUTWEIN - Could I just add to that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Briefly, maybe, given that we only have an hour of this GBE.

Mr GUTWEIN - Very briefly. I would expect that a development application will be submitted to the Hobart City Council, probably early in the new year. The total investment will be around $5 million. We will be working with PAHSMA and making application to the federal government as well, through the heritage programs they have, in looking to bring that to fruition. It is a very exciting opportunity.

Ms STANDEN - Minister, can we go to the Port Arthur Inn and lease arrangements. I am advised that the lease of the Port Arthur Inn was purchased by Federal hotels but plans have changed over time and don't include plans for lower-cost accommodation. Could you advise the state of the lease?

Mr GUTWEIN - My understanding is the lease runs out 2058; it was put in place in 2004. In terms of the current lease and Federal's plans, I don't have any current advice of their intentions, but I know it's a frustration for the authority that it has taken a long time for any work to be progressed. They had a concept of quite a significant rebuild on that site, of lifting the accommodation standards to a similar type standard to Saffire. I believe they are rethinking that at the moment, but I don't have any further advice to provide. I'm not sure if Stephen or Sharon do?

Prof SULLIVAN - Only to say that it has been a long time. We've been through several iterations with Federal. A number of them have related to the sensitivity of the site. We don't control the lease. It was originally provided in, was it 1958?

Mr LARGE - 1959.

Prof. SULLIVAN - The lease has no conditions. It was long before World Heritage but, as you would know, the motel is sitting right on top of the site and within the site. Therefore, we have been doing very careful work with Federal over the years in terms of design, because one of the obvious things is that the impact of any new building must be less than the impact of the present building.

Federal has also been doing market research. They did get to the stage of having quite a developed design, which we were discussing with them. They then took it to market research and the information they have given to us is that they did not think that their clients who patronised Saffire would be interested in being in a place that was close to Port Arthur. It has turned out that the people at Saffire are really much more interested in leisure than in ecology or -

Ms STANDEN - Heritage?

Ms O'Connor - Surprise, surprise.

Prof SULLIVAN - I am not sure about that, but their market research, of which I have not seen the details, indicated that they needed another market there. That is what they're working on at the moment. It certainly is frustrating because we definitely need more accommodation on the peninsula and this is what we are hoping will now transpire.

Ms STANDEN - Thank you, Professor Sullivan.

Minister, to continue that line of questioning and related to my earlier questions around infrastructure, what are your estimations around the extra pressure on infrastructure given that we have just been talking about limitations of water and sewerage infrastructure? I am wondering whether the current water supply is being monitored for safety. Can you confirm reports of raw sewage running in the streets in some areas of the site?

Mr GUTWEIN - I certainly cannot confirm those reports. I will pass to Dr Harrington or Sharon, who might have a comment on that.

Ms STANDEN - That's fine. To the longer time aspect around capacity, then?

Mr GUTWEIN - Maybe we might deal with that comment first.

Prof SULLIVAN - Yes. Jane has been involved in dealing with some of these rumours.

Dr HARRINGTON - Rumour; there is absolutely no veracity to that statement. It's wrong. I can quite categorically state that nothing like that has ever happened. I know some people seem to have a degree of concern over certain things but there is no substance to anything as to why they would have those concerns.

We have had, probably in the last five years, one boil-water alert. We notified all our connectees at the time. It was a problem with the dosing of the chlorine. We work very closely with the EPA and they monitor us. I can assure you if anything like that was happening it would probably be on the front page of the Mercury and deservedly so.

In terms of our capacity, going back to the Port Arthur end, they are already connected. I would have anticipated, if the Federal proposal had gone ahead with the reduced number of rooms, that there would have been less of a call on it. If they continue with the way they are we are already meeting the capacity of dealing with anything that's happening at the Port Arthur end for both waste water and water supply. It is fairly disappointing that people are making comments about that when we provide a service and are very responsible in our approach to how it is dealt with.

Prof SULLIVAN - If I might add to that, the board and the authority are very well aware of the need for looking forward in terms of expected increased visitation. This is why, as we have detailed, we have commenced our carrying capacity study. The first thing we did was a detailed study of all of our infrastructure with the aim of looking into the future and seeing where there might be challenges.

Ms STANDEN - If I can just finalise this line of questioning, Dr Harrington mentioned a figure of some $2 million or $3 million over a 10-year investment. Does that include provisions for the Port Arthur lease and Federal Hotels' plans, et cetera?

Mr GUTWEIN - There is no clarity at all in terms of what Federal Hotels is considering at the moment. Regarding the interaction and discussion with TasWater, as I have said to you earlier today, that is underway; we have begun that discussion. Obviously we need to ensure that we have a water and wastewater treatment system that is suitable both for the needs of the site now but into the future as well. Those matters will progress. I make the point that the Government has recognised TasWater has a need to significantly invest into assets around the state. At this point in time there is a total of $300 million, including $20 million that was paid last year, that the Government has committed to TasWater to assist with these challenges, but we need to work through the process. We will scope it up but, in my view, into the future, PAHSMA shouldn't be running a wastewater or water system. It is simply not their core business and steps will need to be taken.

Ms O'CONNOR - On a related issue that relates to water quality, minister, I am not sure if you have had representations from local people who live near Long Bay, which is a small dead-end bay just near the Port Arthur Historic Site. Has there been any feedback from visitors to the site about the contamination of the water supply as a result of Tassal's pens which went in there last year?

Mr GUTWEIN - Is this the story that was running yesterday?

Ms O'CONNOR - I don't know if it was running yesterday; we got this information a week and a half ago. Long Bay now, as you can see, minister, is full of algae and slime as a result of those pens. This is from a local tourist operator who is very concerned about the impact on visitors of what is happening in Long Bay. Has there been any concern raised by visitors?

Mr GUTWEIN - I have no advice before me but I am happy to allow Sharon or Stephen to make a comment on that. I make the point that there is a range of reasons that those algal blooms occur, which you will understand.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, but I have been talking to the locals and Long Bay hasn't been like this for many, many years.

Mr GUTWEIN - Again, I make the point that there are many reasons for algal blooms.

Ms O'CONNOR - Have you undertaken any inquiries?

Mr GUTWEIN - In fact, I haven't seen the photographs you have there. I am happy to follow up and make inquiries. Perhaps Stephen or Sharon have further comments they can make.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just before you go to Sharon or Stephen, do you agree that it is problematic to have industrial fish farming around the corner from a World Heritage site in a dead-end bay that is clearly contaminating the water supply?

CHAIR - Minister, can you speak up, please?

Mr GUTWEIN - I'll take that as a comment. As I have said, there are many reasons why algal blooms occur and I won't be drawn on your assertion that it's the fish farm. I will have a look at the matter and seek some advice.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. Did Stephen or Sharon want to comment?

Mr LARGE - I got the same email you did, but because we've been so busy getting ready for the scrutiny committee hearing I haven't had a chance to take it up with Dennis. It obviously is concerning and we perhaps need to find out a bit more about it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Has there been any communication between Tassal and PAHSMA about the impact of the pens?

Mr LARGE - No, not at all.

Ms O'CONNOR - Has Tassal engaged with PAHSMA?

CHAIR - That is the last question for Ms O'Connor, then I will pass on to Mrs Rylah.

Mr LARGE - We've talked about a house they lease at Garden Point, but not about fish farming per se.

Ms O'CONNOR - So they haven't come and talked to you about the mess they're making in Long Bay?

Mr GUTWEIN - Just to close that out, the first I was aware that there is an issue I think was from a media story running yesterday. My understanding is that the EPA is looking at that -

Ms O'CONNOR - Deeply reassuring.

Mr GUTWEIN - but I caution you that algal blooms occur for a lot of reasons. The EPA will investigate this, as they do with other matters.

Ms O'CONNOR - Coincidentally, the same thing has happened at Okehampton Bay, where the beach is a mess.

Mrs RYLAH - PAHSMA manages world-renowned and award-winning World Heritage assets where there may be official visitors from other countries who visit or who are hosted at the site. Are you able to share with the committee who is visiting and their interest in the site?

Prof. SULLIVAN - I will ask our CEO to answer that question, because he has a very pretty diagram.

Mr LARGE - We have a lot of international visitors and are very pleased about that. Obviously in the last few years the Chinese visitation has increased considerably. It has just flattened out a little bit now but I think that is due to the lack of accommodation in Hobart, which is improving all the time. We have a number of Mandarin-speaking staff who do guided tours in Mandarin each day. We also have Mandarin-speaking staff in our ticketing and café areas to accommodate particularly the Chinese. We have our visitor guides in four different languages to assist visitors who don't speak English. We would be as China-ready as any heritage site in Australia. We got onto this earlier and Anne McVilly and her team have done a really good job in being aware of that market and addressing it.

Mr GUTWEIN - I will add to that. There have been a number of notable international visitors as well. I refer to the annual report, but without reading all of the names because in many cases I would make a mistake in pronunciation, we have had the Ambassador of Indonesia, the Ambassador of Ireland, the Ambassador of Austria, the Ambassadors of Nepal, Switzerland, China, and the Republic of Korea. The Ambassador of Nepal visited the Female Factory. The United Kingdom's High Commissioner also visited the Female Factory, and the Ambassador for the Republic of Korea visited both sites, including the Female Factory. There is a significant number of very high-profile international visitors who come to these sites. That is testimony to the way the authority has managed the site. It is internationally renowned in what it offers.

Mrs RYLAH - Congratulations.

Ms STANDEN - Minister, a couple of questions about staffing and local benefits. First, I note from the annual report a slight increase in staffing, but a higher proportion of fixed-term or contract staff. I am wondering how that helps the local economy given that, presumably, a proportion of those staff come from the Greater Hobart area. Can you give us an overview of your approach to staffing, the number and proportion of contract staff, and the local benefit?

Mr GUTWEIN - As minister, I don't have operational control, but we are the most significant employer, as I understand it, in the region.

Ms STANDEN - Whilst we are on that, perhaps suppliers as well as staff, to cover local suppliers as a proportion of contracts -

Mr GUTWEIN - I will ask Stephen Large to make some commentary on that.

Mr LARGE - The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority is the largest employer on the Tasman Peninsula. Obviously it is critical in terms of its economic and other social benefits. A lot of our staff are fixed-term, principally because most of our visitors can be between 31 December and, probably, until the end of May, so a lot of them have fixed-term contracts.

We are currently in negotiations with the Community and Public Sector Union - CPSU - and the Government on a new wage agreement, which will guarantee staff a certain number of hours in summer and winter. That is something we have not been able to do in the past. We have to be really careful in how we do this because we need the capacity for visitors to come and to pay their revenue in terms of ticket sales so we can pay the employees.

It is a major employer; we are growing with visitation increasing. It has been really good this year. The last couple of years we struggled to get enough staff for summer, but this year we have been inundated with applications.

Ms STANDEN - With an increase in the visitor economy, it seems to me there is an opportunity to invest more in full-time staff. I would have thought that would give more of an opportunity to locals for employment. Do you have figures on the proportion of staff who live locally versus Greater Hobart, even interstate?

Mr LARGE - A large majority of the staff live on the peninsula or Dodges Ferry. Quite a few of the staff live at Dodges Ferry, but certainly regionally we have a few who travel down from Hobart, but most are there. I don't know whether you have been to the site, but one of the things we have done for our staff -

Ms STANDEN - Many times, I'm Tasmanian.

Mr LARGE - Okay - been to the site since we expanded the new visitor centre.

Ms STANDEN - Yes, I have.

Mr LARGE - The amenities for staff have really improved - not only for staff but also for visitors. That's a brand new building, it was a $14.5 million project which, I should add, the site financed itself. We are paying for that a bit now, but it's been a great project and we are very pleased. There are some real opportunities for us to do more with that particular building and revenue generated from our visitors.

Ms STANDEN - Specifically, do you have figures about the proportion of staff who live locally and the proportion of local suppliers as a proportion of your contracts?

Mr GUTWEIN - I don't have that detail, but I am happy to take that question on notice and provide what we can.

Ms McVILLY - If I may, for our recent tourism award submission we gathered all this data. I think 87 per cent of our staff live from Sorell down. A lot of people in that area are finding it more attractive to drive south rather than into the city traffic.

Ms STANDEN - I wonder why.

Ms McVILLY - From memory, but I can come back to you, 60 per cent of our suppliers are local again from Sorell going south.

Ms STANDEN - Has that been an improving figure?

Ms McVILLY - Not on the previous year because the previous year we had a $40 million spend in the Visitor Centre. Where possible, our procurement for our food, beverages and retail is definitely local.

Ms STANDEN - That is very good to hear.

Mr GUTWEIN - At a higher level I can indicate that 74 per cent of total purchases were from Tasmanian businesses.

Ms O'CONNOR - I wanted to go back to the work that PASHMA did with Parks on the heritage site at Maria Island. I take it that the joint report to the minister is not a public document.

Prof. SULLIVAN - I don't think so, but I am guided by Stephen Large.

Mr GUTWEIN - Is that the original report that went to Mr Groom?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes.

Mr GUTWEIN - I would have to get that report and have a look, but if it can be released I would be happy to release it. I'm not certain whether it has been made public.

Mr LARGE - No, it hasn't been released.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you able to, or Professor Harrington maybe, whoever worked on that report and I hold the view that it should be a public report - was there any advice in that report on how to best maintain the heritage values of that site? Was there any contemplation in that report that there might be a commercial operation on that heritage site?

Prof. SULLIVAN - I would say in general terms that the report, as I recall it, was phrased as the conclusions were a number of options about looking after the heritage, and there was quite a lot of discussion and some options about increasing the commercial activities on the island generally and how that might be done.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am just trying to get an understanding here, Professor Sullivan, of the impact on World Heritage values of an activity as is detailed in the EOI proposal, which is for Adkins House to be rebuilt for tourist accommodation. There is a site at Darlington, which is a World Heritage site, and there's a proposal here to commercialise that site by building a private 'remake' of Adkins House.

Prof SULLIVAN - I am not aware of the details of that.

Ms O'CONNOR - So there's been no consultation with PAHSMA about it?

Prof SULLIVAN - There may have been. I just want to make a general comment and then I will defer to Jane. Because it's part of a World Heritage site, and its specifically listed for heritage values, then the process that we have just gone through for the female factory would need to be followed. That is, there would need to be a rigorous heritage impact assessment which would examine exactly for what heritage values that place had been listed and whether such a development of which you speak would have an impact on those values.

Mr GUTWEIN - Obviously any investment or development on that site would need to take into account the fact that it is a World Heritage-listed area and there would be a heritage impact assessment. The overarching management plan would provide the initial guidance in that regard but then there would be all the necessary state and federal planning processes that would need to be taken into account.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you have any plans, minister, to rewrite the -

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, that is the last question for you.

Ms O'CONNOR - I have only asked two questions.

CHAIR - No, you've actually asked about four in this session.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you have any plans to rewrite the 1998 Maria Island Management Plan to accommodate this development? It is quite explicit about maintaining the heritage fabric.

Mr GUTWEIN - As minister, I have no advice before me.

Ms O'CONNOR - You're the minister, you make these decisions.

Mr GUTWEIN - I just said I don't have any advice before me suggesting that that needs to be updated but there are obviously a number of management plans that have been in place for a long time, and -

Ms O'CONNOR - Which your Government is rewriting as needs be.

Mr GUTWEIN - I would say that the Government is updating to -

Ms O'CONNOR - Enable commercial development.

Mr GUTWEIN - to ensure that they are contemporary. In this regard, I have no advice before me in respect of it. The other point I would make is that I have had discussions in recent times with the chair and the CEO in terms of what was proposed back in 2016 to the then minister, and I have asked for some work to be done to bring me up to speed in terms of what was - you are talking about Maria Island?

Ms O'CONNOR - The report.

Mr GUTWEIN - Yes, in terms of the report - to bring me up to date to consider that, because there was at the time, I understand, an investment that was proposed which the then minister, off the back of that report, made some commitments in the 2017 state budget and some investment was made. I have no other line of sight than that. We have begun a conversation and we're working through it.

Ms O'CONNOR - I encourage you not to turn Darlington into Darlington Disneyland.

Mr TUCKER - Minister, does PAHSMA hold any special community events or support the local community in any specific ways?

Ms O'CONNOR - That's a pretty weak Dorothy.

Mr TUCKER - I knew you'd love it.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, it's pathetic.

Mr GUTWEIN - No, it's an important one and the answer is yes, it does.

Ms STANDEN - What a surprise. I'm pleased to hear it. Please proceed.

Mr GUTWEIN - You don't think they should support the community?

Ms STANDEN - Of course I do.

Ms O'CONNOR - We know they do and have done over many years. It's manifest.

Mr GUTWEIN - Let me just provide, for the benefit of the committee, some information and background. PAHSMA is very linked and intertwined with the local community. They offer a range of support for the local community, including free entry to local ratepayers and residents, a Port Arthur talks program, and a Mother's Day community event which is held at the Cascades Female Factory and Historic Site. They support exhibitions by local artists and hold market stalls for cruise ship visits. There is a local providore section in the Port Arthur Historic Site gift shop. There is the Boxing Day woodchops, which I understand is very well attended, and carols by candlelight, to name but a few. Importantly, the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority recognises and understands the importance of community and is deeply intertwined with its local community.

Ms STANDEN - Minister, I notice that the annual report says that the cost of consultancies is around $70 000 for the financial year. I presume that includes the organisational transform review. It seems like quite a lot of money. I understand that the operation has been running at a loss and I wouldn't be surprised, therefore, if there were issues around morale and so on. Could you elaborate on the cost for consultancies and what that investment has returned in terms of recommendations and how that is then fed through to staff?

Mr GUTWEIN - I will pass over to the CEO and he can provide some more granular detail regarding consultancies. The site has gone through an incredible period of investment and redevelopment over the last 18 months. Obviously, that has meant there have been some changes, but importantly also some management challenges and opportunities. It would be unfair to characterise the site as having a morale issue. The fact that it continues to be an award-winning heritage site both nationally and world renowned speaks volumes for it. In terms of the consultancies I will pass on to the CEO.

Mr LARGE - Certainly we needed to do the review because of the growth of the organisation and the pressure that was being put on staff. The consultant we engaged to help us through this process did a very extensive consultation program. She had one-on-one interviews with the board, the senior management team, the middle management team, and ran a number of forums for all the staff to get as much information as she possibly could. She has been working closely with the executive team in some of the issues we were having coping with the growth and also with the middle management forum. There will be meetings on 16 and 17 December for her to take all the staff from the authority through where we are at in terms of the organisational structure and some of the things we are doing to make us a more effective business in terms of communicating and also giving staff ownership of what we do. We want everybody to be able to promote Port Arthur Historic Site as a World Heritage experience and them feel part of it, whether it is somebody selling a pie in the café or somebody in charge of a tourism operation.

Ms STANDEN - Thank you, Mr Large. I have a further question about product developments. I note that the Point Puer tours have been discontinued and there have been a number of other changes like spending a significant amount of money, up to $200 000 I am advised, on upgrading of the magistrate's residence, only to see it close six months later. Garden tours and water supply track tours are ending. There is the introduction of a new kind of top-end tour for $900 a head, I am told, which I would have thought would be a struggle to attract that market. I'm wondering about the strategic vision for product development for the site and how staff are being brought on a journey around all of that.

Mr GUTWEIN - In an operational sense, Stephen should speak to those matters. I come back to the point that Stephen made and I also touched on. There has been significant growth in visitor numbers over time and significant investment, and change can be challenging. It is important in terms of the operational review but also in the investment of assets that what the board and the management have been attempting to do, and I think quite successfully, is to ensure that the very strong gains that have been made means there is a strong foundation to move forward. Having conversations about organisational restructures can be difficult and challenging but I think the board and the CEO have been very ably leading the organisation through this period which puts it into a very strong position. Stephen, do you have anything else?

Mr LARGE - No, I think you've summed it up well, minister.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, can you confirm that the decision to allocate funding to the Maria Island proposal in 2016 came after an expression of interest was lodged by Mr Johnstone, like Bruny Island?

Mr GUTWEIN - I couldn't confirm that, but I am happy to take it on notice.

Mr TUCKER - Minister, can I ask what awards -

CHAIR - The time for scrutiny has now expired. Thank you all.

Mr GUTWEIN - I place on the record my thanks, and I am sure the thanks of the committee, to Professor Sullivan for her work.

Ms O'CONNOR - And also to PAHSMA for that submission and evidence you gave to the firearms inquiry. Thank you so much.

The Committee suspended at 10 a.m.