Speech to Rally about development of kunanyi / Mount Wellington

6 May 2018

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.

While some times it may seem that governments and politicians are just an amorphous mass of bureaucracy, working together – mostly its not like that at all…and in this case its definitely not how it is

I am an elected representative of the Hobart community….and the Council that I am part of – the Hobart City Council, has been actively looking after the eastern face of this great mountain since 1906, when it was proclaimed a public reserve.

I am also the Chair of the Council’s Parks Committee. But the mountain isn’t just another of Hobart’s parks – it IS Hobart – the mountain makes up a whole one 1/3 of the total area of our City. Especially the Organ Pipes…the face of the mountain and of our city.

Kunanyi is the people’s mountain, and as the level of government closest to the community – we aim to manage it for the people.  

Every day, right now there are 30 staff and contractors working on the mountain – building new tracks, cleaning the toilets, managing weeds and firebreaks. Doing all the work that is needed to make the mountain accessible to the public, protected and preserved.

We also have 50 volunteers who are working regularly on the mountain. Council are the caretakers, we are the day-to-day custodians on behalf of the community.

So you would think, you would hope, that given this history and these boots on the ground….our role as the managers of this great city icon would mean something.

But last year I picked up the newspaper to find that the state government had other plans – they had a new law in mind, called the Mount Wellington Cable Car Facilitation Bill.

This is a law that takes away your Council’s right to manage the developer of the cable car, as they do the work for a development application.

This is a law that will, if its found that land is needed for the cable car project…will allow the state to take that land away from the Council and the people of Hobart.

Council raised its voice against this law when it was introduced mid-last year – we told the Tasmanian Parliament 3 things…

  1. that the law treats kunanyi/Mt Wellington as though it is land to be accessed for a mining lease…not a landform that has many environmental, social and cultural values.
  2. that we have grave concerns about the precedent being set by the state in compulsorily acquiring public land for the benefit of private development…in fact such a precedent that it has never happened before in local govt in Tas
  3. there is no need for the legislation because the Council was not actually holding anything up…in fact the developer last had contact with Council in 2014, 4 years ago when Council told the developer that its was constrained by what it could do because of the zoning rules of the Wellington Park Management Trust.

Council was and is quite prepared to do its job of objectively and fairly assessing a proper proposal put before us. That’s part of our job too. But that proposal needs to be detailed, and carefully assess the full impact of such a massive project on the people’s mountain.

We are all now watching this farcical situation where the state government does not appear to have the expertise or will to oversee the work being done. Council just has to sit and watch this as it plays out in the media – we are shut out – we had no say in the permit issued by the Minister and now we are not entitled to notice of works occurring on the mountain…no notice at all, even though we have roads and tracks we manage that could be affected by drilling and the like

Please be assured that the Hobart City Council is feeling as locked out of this process as you are.

And also be sure that demonstrations of community opinion like this are essential to ensure that Council continues to act on its mandate as guardian of the mountain for the people.

Thank you.