The Lord Mayor stated in The Mercury on 22 August that the Hobart City Council’s expectation is that UTAS will restart consultation on their intended relocation and requested that UTAS remove their blinkers and allow all options to be considered. While this is a fair (but late) request, the Council needs to take its own advice about considering issues holistically, listening to the community and giving all options fair consideration.
The Council’s role is to represent and promote the interests of the community. This duty cannot be fulfilled if elected members are fixated on their own personal view. Examples where Council is applying a stubborn tunnel vision to important issues that are facing and shaping our city are stacking up and doing a disservice to our city and community.
Since at least 2019, the Council’s leadership has been meeting with UTAS under the guise of an ironically named Governance Forum. The meeting notes from this partnership have recently been released and show the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor speaking on behalf of the community about UTAS’ relocation. Given the Council has never asked the community its views on UTAS’ relocation and that the Council has never voted on whether it does or does not support the full relocation, it can only be their personal views that our elected representatives have been championing.
It’s not only the UTAS relocation that Council is exposing their tunnel vision on. When it comes to housing affordability, the Council’s draft Affordable Housing and Homelessness Commitment document failed to even acknowledge the fundamental role the Council has when acting as a Planning Authority on affordable housing and homelessness. Given the supply of housing is a key lever that has a dramatic impact on housing affordability and, therefore, homelessness, this is a troubling oversight, highlighting a disturbingly narrow perspective.
Moving to the hire escooter ‘trial’, it’s obvious that some councillors have already predetermined the trial will be a success and do not want to hear – let alone seek out – information that does not support their view. Even though international research is clearly demonstrating that you are more likely to be injured riding an escooter compared to riding a motorcycle or while you are driving, cycling or walking, the Council’s attempt to capture information about the true incidence of accidents and injury associated with the hire escooters is lame.
In response to being asked what criteria the Council is assessing this so-called ‘trial’ on, the Council points to the Traffic Crash Reporting system operated by Tasmania Police as its source of accident and injury information. And looking at this data, there’s no problem. But apply a hint of common sense and it’s obvious that one is not going to have a few drinks, forgo the helmet and end up losing teeth or breaking bones then hop online to tell the local authorities about it. Yet another sign of a Council close-minded to the full picture.
The Council’s determination that only selected views are valid continues with the recent decision to remove the William Crowther statue. Again, the Council has shown that only select opinions are valid. Clearly some councillors had already made their mind up to remove the statue and the so-called engagement process was a sham, especially given the community weren’t asked to comment on the actual concept of removal.
These are just a few examples of where tunnel vision is dangerous for our city and must be stamped out in our Council. The community needs the Council to take their blinkers off so that issues can be properly and fairly explored and resolved.