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Macquarie Point Development Corporation Amendment Bill 2018

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 18 October 2018

Tags: Macquarie Point, Legislation

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.