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Cable Car (Kunanyi/Mount Wellington) Facilitation Repeal Bill 2021

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Tags: Cable Car, kunanyi/Mt Wellington, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, for kunanyi, for Tasmanian Aboriginal people and every Tasmanian who loves kunanyi wild, just the way it is, and on behalf of the Greens, I move -

That the Cable Car (kunanyi/Mount Wellington) Facilitation Repeal Bill 2021 be read the second time.

In doing so, I want first to acknowledge the deep spiritual connection Tasmanian Aboriginal people have to that beautiful mountain, which they know and now we know by its true name, its first name, kunanyi.

The Cable Car (kunanyi/Mount Wellington) Facilitation Repeal Bill 2021 obviously repeals the Cable Car (kunanyi/Mount Wellington) Facilitation Act 2017. That act was an abuse of parliament. It was developer-driven and contemptuous of the lack of social licence for the project. It was contemptuous of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, which had overwhelmingly rejected the very notion of a cable car to the summit of kunanyi, across the Organ Pipes, the privatisation of the pinnacle. That act was an abuse of parliament.

Mr Speaker, 852 people made submissions to the 2017 public consultation on the draft bill, which we are seeking to repeal today. Of these, 501 submissions commented on the draft bill and 80 per cent of these 501 submissions opposed the bill. That is a damning set of numbers. When the development application was lodged to Hobart City Council, 71 per cent of the 17 000 submissions opposed the cable car.

People love that mountain, clearly, and that again is a stunning and comprehensive rejection of the Mount Wellington Cableway proposal. The cable car facilitation act did three things. A complete corruption of good process: it eliminated the requirement for a cable car proponent to seek landowner consent in relation to land owned by council or the state before lodging a development application. So it sought to shut out the Hobart City Council from that decision. It enabled the minister to sign off on access to public land for a cable car proponent to perform assessments and investigations in relation to a development application. It treated a cable car project, perhaps most damningly of all, as public infrastructure for certain purposes in the Land Acquisition Act of 1993, effectively allowing the Government to acquire council land, public land, and gift it to a cable car proponent. Primarily in this case, that is the pinnacle or any other public land that is associated with this divisive and now rejected project.

Thus far, the act has been used on 11 February 2019 to allow Mount Wellington Cableway Company Proprietary Limited to access land adjacent to Wellington Park to undertake site investigations. On 22 March 2019 the act was used to allow Mount Wellington Cableway Company to access Wellington Park to undertake site investigations. In June of 2019 it was used to allow Mount Wellington Cableway Company to lodge a planning application without landowner consent.

Peter Gutwein, as the then state growth minister, issued drilling permits for the company that were never used. The act requires a cable car proposal on kunanyi/ Mount Wellington to be treated as 'infrastructure' under the Land Acquisition Act of 1993. This in effect treats a commercial cable car proposal as public infrastructure required for the delivery of public services. That is what the Land Acquisition Act 1993 is all about - roads, water, communications, education and health infrastructure, hydroelectric infrastructure. It bypasses the usual requirements of land acquisition for infrastructure to be operated by the private sector.

The Land Acquisition Act 1993 is a controversial and necessary piece of legislation that confers significant power to the executive for the delivery of key public services. The drafting of the Land Acquisition Act 1993 'conferring privileged status to necessary public works' is deliberate, but that act was misused to favour a single proponent that wanted to - probably still wants to - desecrate kunanyi, put a cable car up the mountain, across the Organ Pipes and privatise the pinnacle with about 13 or 14 different structures on the top. What a shame you're not wearing a mask, Mr Barnett.

Dr Woodruff - Yes, thank you very much for putting us all at risk by sitting in here.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, all of us at risk, everyone in here who is not wearing a mask. I thought I was working with smart people but each day I wonder more, except for Dr Woodruff, of course, who is very, very clever.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the Land Acquisition Act of 1993 and previous iterations of these laws, were written to ensure essential works could occur. It was not intended to be a tool to transfer land from an unwilling seller - that is the Hobart City Council on behalf of the people of Hobart - to a commercial proponent in order to facilitate a commercial development. That is exactly what the Cable Car (kunanyi/Mt Wellington) Facilitation Act 2017 was designed to do. It needs to be repealed.

Bless you too, Dr Broad, sitting there sneezing, unmasked.

The proposal from the Mt Wellington Cableway Company is, as we understand it, the eighth proposal for a cable car on kunanyi/Mt Wellington. It is the only one to have a development application assessed and it was rejected by both the Hobart City Council and the TASCAT. The proposal has comprehensively failed under the Liberal's own planning scheme. There is no justification for parliament to maintain a facilitation act. The TASCAT decision confirmed 18 grounds of non-compliance with management and planning provisions, including noise and visual impact, geo-heritage, and on biodiversity grounds.

Some of the matters that were noted by the tribunal in its decision included, and this is directly from the decision:

The appellant has failed to adequately demonstrate, either a significant long-term economic community benefit or a significant long-term social community benefit.

Another part of the decision:

The long-term impact on vegetation values insofar as they form habitat for threatened species will not be remedied.

Construction of the Pinnacle Centre would result in long-term or permanent changes to, and loss of visibility, of landform features.

The visual amenity loss is demonstrated by the manner in which tower 3 and the cables - with or without cable cars - project from the landform above the Organ Pipes escarpment, and the cables traverse over the face of the Organ Pipes from a wide range of public and well-used locations.

Again, in the decision:

The form, scale, design, and location of the Pinnacle Centre does not harmonise the site.

For northern members who sometimes treat the hopes and aspirations of people who live in and around Hobart with a degree of contempt and who were not aware of the scale of this proposed development, it would have a base station in the foothills of the mountain at South Hobart that has three levels, partially excavated into the slope. It would have a pinnacle centre comprising three stepped levels with a total floor area of 2256 square metres -

Dr Woodruff - Wow.

Ms O'Connor - On the pinnacle. On sacred land to Aboriginal people. On public land. That would include a rooftop garden; lookouts; a café and lounge that would have a combined floor area of 393 square metres; a pedestrian walkway; and on and on it goes - about 13 or 14 separate structures. There would be three towers constructed to support the cableway. A cableway comprising six cables spanning a distance of 2.4 kilometres would run between the base station and the pinnacle centre via the three towers. As I said earlier, the cableway would go straight across those beautiful dolerite columns of the Organ Pipes.

I quote from a fantastic community organisation that Dr Woodruff and I are proud to support and know - the Residents Opposed to the Cable Car - following the TASCAT decision. ROCC welcome today's decision. Let us not forget that this community organisation put untold volunteer hours into defending the mountain. They funded the planning appeal process, they have worked so hard and at such individual cost. We, in the Greens at least, are extremely thankful to that community organisation. They said:

In the wake of this decision, it is clear the developer has an obligation to abandon its proposal and leave the mountain cable car-free.

A quote from Vica Bailey, spokesperson for ROCC:

We are relieved that this decision is yet another comprehensive rejection of the cable car and thankful to the thousands of people who stood up for kunanyi, donated to our legal fund and cared enough to take action to protect what is such a special place for so many. This is a clear signal to the proponent, its shareholders and supporters to give up on their vision to privatise the summit of the mountain and abandon this or any alternative cable-car development -

because we will fight it every single time. We will never give up on kunanyi. Mr Bailey goes on:

This saga has cost the community dearly, in time, energy, cohesion and money, and it is time it ended. The developer is the only one that can do that and the onus is on it to accept this decision and allow the community to move on.

The decision confirmed on 18 of 26 grounds of non-compliance with management plans and planning provisions, spanning noise, visual impact geo-heritage and biodiversity.

The final word from Mr Bailey:

This is a comprehensive formal rejection of a development that has never -

and this is true, Mr Deputy Speaker -

has never had a social licence.

This statement from the excellent people at the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, and we thank them as well:

The Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has delivered its ruling on the Mount Wellington cable car. The tribunal upheld the Hobart City Council's refusal to issue the company with a permit. Eighteen of 26 grounds were upheld, including visual impact, natural and cultural values, biodiversity impacts, traffic issues, building design and building siting, use and noise, were all upheld as reasons for refusal.

This is a huge win for all those who love the mountain and its wild natural beauty. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Residents Opposed to the Cable Car, Respect the Mountain, South Hobart Progress Association, the Bob Brown Foundation and a number of other private individuals were party to the appeal. The Tasmanian Conservation Trust understands that the Mount Wellington Cableway Company and its backers have 30 days to launch a review of this decision in the Tasmanian Supreme Court. Of course, if the developer is foolish enough, arrogant enough, dismissive of community feeling and of our planning bodies enough, to launch an appeal, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust will consult with other parties and consider joining the case. I bet you they do.

It is also true that the proponent treated Tasmanian Aboriginal people and their deep connection to kunanyi, a place they regard as sacred, with utter disrespect from the very beginning. The proponent registered the domain name, How disgraceful is that? They made attempts to publicly position the Aboriginal community regarding the development despite consistent criticism from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and other Tasmanian Aboriginal stakeholders.

In the original development application, the proponent tendered an Aboriginal heritage desktop review - again, how disrespectful - as evidence it will not impact on Aboriginal heritage on the grounds that there is no stone or bone under the actual footprint of the development. The council requested more information, the Hobart City Council saying an Aboriginal heritage assessment must be conducted. The proponent, for reasons that remain mysterious to me, appealed this request to the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal, predecessor to TASCAT, and lost.

Seriously, the Mount Wellington Cableway Company is the biggest loser in Tasmania at the moment.

Dr Woodruff - They have been given so many handouts.

Ms O'CONNOR - So many handouts, so much assistance from Government. A facilitation act put forward by the Liberals, supported by Labor, back in 2013. A bill put forward as a private members bill by my then-colleague in opposition, the Liberal member for Clark, Ms Archer, that removed the veto power over development on the mountain from the Wellington Park Management Trust. All the way through, this proponent has had government bending over backwards to get this development up, but it is such a crap proposal. It was rejected by the Hobart City Council. They lost in the Resource Management Planning Appeal Tribunal on Aboriginal heritage. And now it has been rejected by TASCAT. Mount Wellington Cableway Company is the biggest loser in Tasmania right now.

The proponent could not engage a local Aboriginal heritage officer, apparently, so they brought in a South Australian, who is an expert, as we understand it, in frontier engagement and history. Obviously, not the frontier here in lutruwita, frontier engagement and history somewhere else on the mainland. The resulting report was widely and rightly criticised by Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The TASCAT appeal did not explicitly consider Aboriginal heritage but evidence from Residents Opposed to a Cable Car, in relation to visual and noise impacts introduced three statements from Aboriginal people that discussed their connection and the impacts the cable car would have.

Just as an aside here, the Wellington Park Management Trust has a section on its website which talks about that Aboriginal heritage on kunanyi and the connection of Aboriginal people to the mountain. The statement on the website is:

Sandstone rock shelters and stone artifacts are visible reminders of the South East tribe, one of the nine tribes of Tasmanian Aborigines at the time of European settlement. Their country ranged from Storm Bay and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, including Bruny Island, to South Cape, New Norfolk and the Huon Valley.

Within the tribe, there were seven to nine bands or kinship units of 40 to 50 people. For the muwinina people, the area around present day Hobart was their country. They called the mountain kunanyi, a name that has been revived by Aborigines today.

As we know, because of the Greens in government, it is a name that is formally recognised through the Nomenclature Board and we regard it as the mountain's true name.

I digress. Back to the Wellington Park Trust statement:

The coastline of this country was rich with shellfish and the land with birds and wallabies. The Muwinina used fire as a method to clear vegetation and hunt wildlife. French expeditions in the late 18th Century reported extensive burning in the foothills of the Wellington Range by Aboriginal people.

Soon after the observations of the French explorers, Wooraddy, a member of the Nuennone band from Bruny Island, told Aboriginal conciliator George Augustus Robinson that:

'When the first people settle they cut down the trees, built houses, dug the ground and planted; that by and by more ships came, then at last plenty of ships, that the natives went to the mountains, went and looked at what the white people did, went and told other natives, and they came and looked also.'

The mountains from which they watched the activity may have been, or in all likelihood were, the mountains we now call the Wellington Range.

While the specifics of Aboriginal values and connection to kunanyi were not captured in the TASCAT decision, they are an undeniable reality.

It is also a matter of concern that the Wellington Park Management Plan will be up for review in two years, as we understand it. The Greens will be joining community groups watching very closely how this Government responds to the Wellington Park Management Plan review. We have already had the Tourism Industry Council's Luke Martin beating the drum for the developer and basically pleading with Government, the shill that he is, to do some more special favour for the proponent.

When you have a look at the TASCAT decision, it is very clear that a significant part of the reason this development did not fly is because of the robustness of the Wellington Park Management Plan. I want to remind members that in their report, Pathway to Truth-Telling and Treaty, Professors Warner and McCormack recommended that kunanyi be made an Aboriginal-owned and managed national park.

We will be watching any effort to distort the Wellington Park Management Plan in order to enable this development, which has fallen at every hurdle. It is unpopular and it has always been unpopular. It is not compliant with the protective measures in the Wellington Park Management Plan. It has failed on 18 of 26 grounds in the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

It is a dog of a project that keeps having life breathed into it by the major parties in this place, that are dismissive of community feeling, disregard the Aboriginal connection to kunanyi, ignore the fact that overwhelmingly, in and around Hobart, people want the mountain left just the way it is.

That is why we are moving this repeal bill. There is no need for the facilitation act anymore. We asked the Premier this morning to rule out any more enabling legislation for this developer, and he would not do it.

Mr Deputy Speaker, this project cannot stand on its own two feet without someone in government or some government agency propping it up or doing some special dodgy deal to give it life. We had the Premier running out an absolute furphy of a line this morning about access to the mountain. Is he so out of touch that he thinks people would rather pay $50 or $60 for a ticket to go from South Hobart to the pinnacle on a cable car, than get up there in a car or a bus? Access? That is a furphy. This cableway is not being put forward as an access solution. It is not being put forward as a climate solution. It is being put forward to profit from wildness and beauty.

What we took home from the Premier's answer this morning is that maybe, just maybe, we will see another abuse of parliamentary procedures, and another piece of legislation that facilitates this development. Not that I think it needs any more facilitation than what is already in the facilitation act. We are very concerned about the signalling from the Premier this morning to that proponent. We are concerned, and we will be watching very closely - as will many people in and around Hobart - about the management plan review.

It is striking listening to the Premier's answer this morning, listening to him talk about the stadium, that there is a lack of understanding and a disregard for the residents of nipaluna/Hobart. We do not want a stadium at Macquarie Point. I encourage the Premier to leave his office on the 11th floor occasionally while he is down here and talk to the locals. It does not matter how they vote, overwhelmingly people hate that stadium. It is dismissive of the people of Hobart to say, 'Here, have a stadium', in the same way as it is dismissive to say in his answer this morning that he thinks I am paraphrasing him. I am sorry, Mr Rockliff, you are not here to correct me, but he thinks most people would like to see a cable car. How on earth would he know?

Honestly, we see from the numbers of people who have made submissions to the Hobart City Council, to the facilitation bill when it was being consulted, that overwhelmingly people feel passionately about leaving the mountain just the way it is.

We do not have to have human footprints on every square millimetre of this planet. There are some places - there are many places - that just need to be left as wild as we can, because in this world, this damaged planet, that is rare and precious thing.

We encourage the Premier, and Labor, to refocus on the Springs on kunanyi. There is a footprint there already. It has the most stunning views. You can stand at the Springs. You can see down the Channel. You can see over to Bruny and South Arm. You can see across to Storm Bay and as you look to the left, the Meehan Range, and up into the Midlands. The view from the Springs is magnificent.

We do not have to possess a mountain, encrust it with machinery in the interests of profit - and profit only - when we have a place there like the Springs, that is ready to go, and has the support of the majority of members - certainly on the previous Hobart City Council, and I posit that it would be the majority of members still now - who support good development at the Springs that provides access to the mountain and recreational experiences. You can buy a coffee, have a beer. Have a look at the Springs, because that will not divide the community in the same way that the cable car proposal has and continues to do.

We do not know yet if the proponents are going to appeal. We hope they call it quits, because the appeal will certainly cost them more money. For now, we celebrate a win, because a win is a win - and the opponents of the cable car have had a very significant win.

As I understand it right now - and Dr Woodruff and I wish we were there with them - that community of people who love the mountain just the way it is are celebrating in the foothills of kunanyi right now at Cascade Gardens. And so they should celebrate. On behalf of the Greens, I say again say thank you so much to that fantastic little community of people who gave it all - but still have more to give if they have to - to defend a place that is wild, beautiful and sacred to Aboriginal people, and beloved by the people of nipaluna/Hobart, and people who come here as visitors and look at the backdrop to our city and are awestruck.

Mr Deputy Speaker, perhaps people who just drive down here every now and again from the north of the state might take that mountain for granted, I do not know - but surely of all the cities in the world we have one of the most spectacular natural backdrops, and we should keep it just the way it is.

So, we are moving to repeal the Cable Car (kunanyi/Mount Wellington) Facilitation Act, because it is unnecessary. The proponent has lost. There really is no way back from here, unless they get another special deal from government. We hope our colleagues understand that the cable car project is finished. It should not get one more moment of help from the Government - or from the Opposition. I know there are members of Labor who do not want to see a cable car up the mountain. That is what they say, for example, when they are out doorknocking in and around Hobart, a bit of hand-wringing, saying how worried they are about the cable car but then came in here and voted for the facilitation bill in 2017.

In politics, you always have to have conviction. If you are going to go out there and tell the locals that you do or do not support something, be straight with them. Say, 'look, I do not like it personally but if push comes to shove, I will vote for it because I am from the Labor Party. We do what we are told and we usually roll over and we usually do basically what the government of the day does when it comes down to inappropriate developments.'

Dr Woodruff and I very strongly commend this repeal bill to the House.