Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Arm End: Reserved for the Public or a Private Development?

There is a battle underway over the control of a recreational reserve in a corner of Tasmania. The story deserves to be more widely known, as the issue of the privatisation of public assets affects all of us.

At the tip of South Arm in Southern Tasmania lies the Gellibrand Point Nature Reserve, a beautiful coastal area known as ‘Arm End’. Since its acquisition by the State of Tasmania in 1995, the former grazing property has been enjoyed by locals and visitors for its natural and heritage values. Now there is a proposal to transform the area into a golf course, with a 50-year lease to the developer.

See: “Golfers ready to light up long-awaited Arm End course, south of Hobart ” in The Mercury, 22 September 2014.

Naturally, this proposal to effectively privatise public land is controversial. The proponents argue that the golf course will bring jobs and tourism, the public will still be able to continue to use the land as a recreational area, and that the land will be better managed. These assertions are contested by Friends of the Arm, Inc. (FOTA), a community organisation which aims to preserve and maintain the unique and beautiful character of the Arm End Reserve. FOTA has also raised other concerns, such as public safety around golf courses, which are largely being ignored by the proponents. (For more information see the FOTA website here)

In a recent article on the controversy, “Golf course plan stirs ireThe Mercury (11 January 2014) gave most space to the claims of the proponent without including responses from Friends of the Arm. Nor did it choose to publish a follow-up letter from FOTA, which made the following points.

The underlying issue is that this is public land. It is the ‘commons’ if you like, set aside as a recreational reserve for us all to enjoy. History has shown consistently who benefits from any enclosure of the commons and it has never been the ‘commoners’. The proposal here is to lease all but a small section of this very valuable strip of land giving effective control to the lessee for 50 years. Irrespective of the proposed purpose, this virtual gifting of public land should be questioned and open for broad public debate.

The proposal for the golf course also raises a number of concerns that have not been satisfactorily addressed. These include the potential overuse of ground water and the resulting salinity of the local aquifers; the increase in road traffic on roads that are already suffering from overuse; safety issues, the fact that golf balls and people don’t mix; and the potential for access to become restricted.

It is claimed in The Mercury article that there is ‘no-one there’. On the contrary the land is constantly used by many recreational groups and individuals and the local Coast Care group and school have put much effort into weed eradication and regeneration. This land lends itself to continued public ownership and FOTA has suggested that, rather than becoming a golf course, the land be managed by a partnership of interested community groups, Parks and Wildlife and Clarence Council in order to achieve continued and unfettered access by all. Indeed with political will and imagination and with its unique location, Arm End could become an inspired showcase of publicly owned and managed recreational reserve for all to enjoy.

Alternatively it could ultimately become an exclusive domain for wealthy golfers. As a Tasmanian, what would be your vision in fifty years?

FOTA welcomes new members. See our website here

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  1. John Biggs

    February 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    This is a lovely walk, which it wonlt be with golf balls whizzing around. No Steve I donlt agree they have a small footprint. The greens requires huge amounts of water and herbicides: effects of run off into Derwent? Who knows?

    Then of course the gifting of public land to private developers is not good, but above all is the process. A Government decision with little or no public consultation.

    But take heart: if the Libs gain majority govt this will be happening all the time. Cutting green tape don’t you know.

  2. Steve

    February 8, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    As someone not familiar with the area I can see both sides of the argument; golf courses bring employment and economic activity. Properly planned they can have a fairly gentle footprint compared with some of the alternatives. Equally so, I can fully appreciate the argument that public nature reserves should remain just that.

    My problem with all these proposals is the way they go about it. Decisions about the use of public land should be made by the public, not by politicians purporting to speak for the public. Such decisions should not be made lightly. Rigorous public consultation, ultimately followed by a referendum of the local electorate, should be the minimum bar.

    Too much public land finds itself under private control with not much more than a nod and a wink to signify it’s passing.

  3. William Boeder

    February 8, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Unfortunately Doug, this is something peculiar to government ministers, more especially Tasmania’s lot of shifty-eyed ministers, mostly because it is not theirs to begin with.
    Anything at all that is owned by the people of this State, (barring those that have become Lib/Lab politicians) is ever always up for grabs to deliver same to the opportunistic entrepreneurs that mingle and circulate among the aforementioned non-representative political rodents.

  4. john hayward

    February 8, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Tasmania still has a little catching-up to do to achieve the sort of enterprise freedom they enjoy in places like Cambodia or Sarawak, where aspirationals can obtain title to vast stretches of public land with little more than a business plan, a thick envelope, and a few connections.

    We can be sure that any weed problem would be robustly addressed by golf course proprietors, who typically have a high-tech zero-tolerance approach to invasive things.

    John Hayward

  5. Doug Nichols

    February 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    I have to say I agree with FOTA. We have here an area that has the potential to be a real drawcard for reasons of its inherent character: the end of a quiet peninsula, coastal all around, accessible from the water and remarkably close to a capital city. Why is it not possible to imagine a future for Arm End that preserves all of this, attracting people seeking solitude, quiet walks, bird watching and so on? Instead we will get yet another b***** golf course.

    Golf courses can go anywhere. Why do they have to choose somewhere that is geographically unique and that has heaps to offer in its current form?

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