- Louise Elliot
Speak now or forever..... UTAS' takeover of a car-free Hobart.
“Facilitate and support the relocation of the University of Tasmania campus into the city centre”.
This is one of several concepts that is clearly spelt out in the discussion paper for a Central Hobart Precincts Plan that has been recently released by the Hobart City Council for community consultation.
UTAS’ seemingly unbridled purchasing power and influence has already had a dramatic impact on our city centre, but this is nothing compared to what is likely should the Council’s Precincts Plan provide an obstacle free pathway for their plans.
While UTAS has made their dream future state publicly available, large parts of their utopia cannot be brought to life without enough votes of support coming from the Hobart Council Chamber. For example, UTAS’ recently paused application to take over a large section of Melville Street – which is temporary in name only – can only happen if it is supported by the Council and receives landlord consent.
UTAS’ domination is not the only concept featured in the paper that will impact the daily lives of residents, the potential viability of our businesses, our attractiveness as a place to provide homes and employment opportunities, and our visitor experience.
An obvious tension the paper presents is continued growth in demand for housing, workspace, and visitor accommodation, but a desire to keep the city compact, maintain sight lines from all perspectives and implement maximum building heights. We already know we are chasing a train that has well and truly left the station in terms of meeting demand, so a dramatic shift in perspective by some elected members will be needed to provide for a population that is anticipated to at least double over the next two decades, and to deliver the 1500 additional hotel beds and 300,000 more square metres of commercial space forecasted as needed.
The plan also makes is distaste for cars very clear, which includes driving vehicles from key routes along Elizabeth, Collins, Liverpool and Melville Streets. Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is proposed, along with park and ride on the city fringes. As is embracing our appeal as a hub for festivals, food and wine, and arts.
Further development complexity and restrictions is a likely outcome and micromanaging what owners can and cannot do with their property as planning scheme changes and more policy layers are flagged as likely. Council have also highlighted that they’ll be looking to use their ‘levers’ to target private property that they view as underutilised, so, be warned.
There is a lot to like in the ideas put forward, but alternatives are not presented, nor are the potential consequences – for better or worse – of each. Hopefully the conditions that must be met before an idea can be brought to life will be clearly articulated to enabled informed feedback in the very near future. For example, it would be cruel and unfair to strip cars from the city when we do not have the economies of scale for state-of-the-art public transport, and when personal transport is essential for those of us with mobility concerns, making multi-stop journeys, needing to access our state’s largest hospital or who simply value their individual transport freedom.
My message is to speak up and be heard. This plan will be a significant document that will undoubtably be relied upon and referred to consistently as the rationale for an elected member’s yay or nay and broader Council’s decisions and priorities.
Feedback on the discussion paper closes Friday 10 December. Visit the Your Say section of the Hobart City Council’s website to view the paper and share your views.