Opinion pieces

Moving out for visitor accommodation

Like many cities around the world that are popular with tourists, Hobart decision-makers are having to confront the challenge that long term housing is being replaced by tourist accommodation.

Tasmania’s Tenants Union estimates say that 995 out of 25,000 rentals in Greater Hobart are used for short stay visitor accommodation, which is 4% of the total stock.

While this seems like a manageable number, the City of Hobart Council area, with its attractive inner city suburbs, is under the greatest pressure.

University of Tasmania (UTAS) housing experts have found that 57% of visitor accommodation listings are in this part of Hobart, even though we only have 28% of rental properties in the Greater Hobart area. Read more…

Averting climate catastrophe – Panel discussion

I think one of the reasons I was invited to speak is that I am a relatively newly elected Mayor, and am someone that also spent many years working in NGOs in the early days of raising awareness about climate change.

When I established the Climate Action Network Australia in 1998, my first task was to get the environment movement to understand and focus on this issue and put campaign resources into it. About 10 years later we reached a tipping point of interest with NGOs and the public and politicians very focused on the issue – and even competing to be seen as the leader in this space. There were some changes  made in politics and policy….but nowhere near enough. Read more…

Flammable Hobart

As I write, around 120 fires are burning in Queensland and New South Wales. It’s an unprecedented fire emergency so early in the year. Houses have been lost, including the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge. Precious Gondwanan rainforest, normally fire-resistant, is aflame. 

As we continue to see extreme natural disasters of this kind, it is clear that Australia and the world’s climate is changing dramatically. No longer can we count on what we thought we knew about fire. It is now impossible to ignore the severity of the predicament we face.

It’s important to speak truthfully about the serious threat that bushfire poses to Hobart in this time of increased climate emergency. Read more…

Climate emergency

May 2019 – On Monday night, a Hobart City councillor rose to his feet and proposed a motion that has been passed by 549 local, state or national governments representing more than 65 million people.

This motion to acknowledge we have a climate emergency is part of a movement started in 2016 to communicate alarm about increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – which according to ice core records are at a level not seen for 3 million years, when our planet was 5 degrees Celsius hotter than it is today.

Hobart is extremely vulnerable to the climate change caused by global warming. Drying winters create tinderbox conditions, and hotter summers with gusty winds that fuel fires and spread dangerously into our suburbs. Read more…

Homelessness + development

May 2019 – A week is a long time in politics, especially if you’re sleeping rough in a Hobart winter.

It was heartening to see recent unanimous support from the Hobart City Council to acknowledge the reality of the housing and homelessness crisis.

However, since then a group of elected members have attempted to link homelessness to the debate about high-rises and building height limits. Read more…

Civic Square

June 2019 – Many people don’t realise that the entire city block bounded by Morrison, Argyle, Davey and Elizabeth Streets (where Mawson’s Huts and Lark Whisky are) is owned by the Council on behalf of everyone.

Known as ‘Civic Square’, this block is a valuable public asset with heritage buildings (some as old as Salamanca) located close to the waterfront. It has incredible potential for developing into a civic space that needs careful planning and investment to realise.

A few years ago, Council developed a Master Plan for the block, based on its “pivotal role in the evolution of the city” that preserves views of the city, water and mountain. Read more…

Lobbyists move in as stakes go up

March 2019 – Lobbying plays a critical role in our representative democracy. The range of issues that Councils deal with every day means that hearing from affected parties can help to improve decision-making.  However, lobbying also presents dangers. There is potential for local government to be captured by special interests, and for powerful voices to dominate and skew good city planning.

In Australia, the Property Council and its state branches employ well-funded, full-time lobbyists who represent large property owners, developers and real estate interests. Their job is to lobby for more generous regulatory settings that will deliver higher profits for their 2200 member companies across the country. Read more…

Life in a flammable landscape

January 2019 – In a TMAG exhibition about the 1967 Tasmanian Bushfires, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. It was a map drawn at the time by resident Keith Roberts that shows the extent of the fires in his wider neighbourhood of South and West Hobart.  I was shocked to see his jagged red lines surrounding the area where my family now lives. Houses burned in Huon Road just fifty metres or so up the hill from our old weatherboard house. The South Hobart post office was destroyed. Across the valley, the forested hillslopes below Forest Rd were razed….Read more

Standing firm on city height limits

December 2018 – In a way, we have a lot to thank the Fragrance Group for. Their overwhelmingly tall tower proposals, way out of scale with the Hobart cityscape, galvanised the community to press for stronger controls on building heights. Now we have a choice. We can direct the future shape of our city by fitting in with our landscape, designing it for people and protecting what we love. Or we can simply bend to the will of the development lobby and leave CBD decisions to the high-rise tycoons….Read more

A conversation worth having

December 2018 – Finding new funds for tourism infrastructure seems to be controversial, but it’s still a conversation we need to have.  Tourism levies are not part of an anti-tourism agenda. On the contrary, the idea is about recognising the importance of visitors to our economy by working out how best to fund the infrastructure and services to maintain a good experience….Read more

Are we really better off with a high-rise city?

A community that’s nervous about giant Fragrance towers may feel somewhat relieved by talk of CBD heights that don’t sound quite as big. However, these changes still start from a view of ‘well, we must have high-rise somewhere’. It doesn’t have to be this way. … Read more

Campaign Launch speech

Thank you all so much for your support in being here today and in the many ways that you help me and help Hobart. I would like to acknowledge that the Tasmanian aboriginal people are the traditional owners of this land which was taken from them forcibly … Read more …

Speech to rally about development of kunanyi/Mount Wellington

I am here today to speak from the perspective of the day-to-day manager of the mountain – and how this manager has been shut out and ignored by a state government obsessed with supporting a private developer. … Read more …

Hobart’s big issues needs the new government to act fast and work smarter with Council

As the dust from the election settles, I think there are a number of important issues that the new state government needs to work with Hobart City Council on to ensure good results for the city and its residents. Read more …

Code should enhance not dampen democracy

People often ask me why their representatives on Council aren’t more outspoken about the big issues that shape our city. Read more …

Changing the rules for Hobart’s Heart

Community interest in the future height and shape of Hobart city is strong – as are opinions about the Fragrance hotel proposals. Less well known, but no less important, is the potential impact of Hobart City Council’s proposed new rules for the height and character of the Central Business District (CBD). Read more …

Light rail can help to deliver more affordable housing for Hobart

At the recent announcement of a City Deal for Hobart, Prime Minister Turnbull enthused about the potential for ‘Transit Oriented Development’ along our rail corridor. What does this term mean, where has it worked well, and how could it benefit Hobart? Read more …

Street parties to plan better suburbs

Five street parties are happening this weekend in Hobart and they’re more than just fun local outings. They also signal new ways of thinking about our city, part of a move by Hobart City Council to harness the desire for more people-friendly local neighbourhoods. Read more …