Once again (15 December, 2014) Hobart City Council Aldermen have taken yet another leap of faith on a planning matter, and approved the first stage of transitional planning amendments for the site on the Hobart waterfront known as Macquarie Point, contained in the Sullivans Cove Planning Scheme. You may know it as the old Railyards. It is also known in planning circles as Activity Area 3.0.

Tellingly, this leap of faith was in the absence of even the sketchiest of draft Master Plans for the site.

The planning technocracy argued that to wait until even March of 2015 for a draft Master Plan will lock up the site from all human activity, despite also their contra advice to the Development and Environment Services Committee that development applications for temporary works could be lodged as needed.

So anyone who argues that festivals, or tram renovation or men’s sheds or art displays would be excluded between now and March, when a draft Master Plan is first expected to emerge from its chrysalis, clearly has a comprehension deficit. Seriously, it’s as if people have never heard of delegated planning authority for certain minor uses and activities. Oh, but that was considered too hard to do, even for three months or six months, while the draft Master Plan starts to gently fan its drying wings prior to taking flight in the area of public consultation.

This now means that controls on heights, landscaping and uses have all now been put aside or watered down. So where will any capacity of comparison of past, present and future reside?

It has been claimed that temporary buildings will only be temporary for 5 years and this will be “set in stone”. Forgive me, but given the planning, building and plumbing requirements for a building, who would spend any money on a development if they knew it would be removed in five years? Of course, extensions would be sought. Hobart City Council has a proud history of granting extensions for all sorts of things.

This is where a little history of Tasmania’s economy and state of governance has to be taken into account, as there’s a lot of awful historical buildings in Hobart (and we’re not talking Georgian sandstone here) that has persisted through the preservative effects of economic depression.

Great plans, lots of fanfare, pollie photo ops, and then the Australian economy cycles down again. Or some developer tries to seize the planning debate with a state of the art convention centre and hotel and we all get locked up in adversarial planning tribunal proceedings and nothing is eventually achieved, other than the economy resurging from all the fees paid to lawyers and planners and experts.

And given the state of the Tasmanian and Australian economy, who is to say any development needing significant planning discretion will not be promoted by a government wanting to be seen to be “open for business” well before the sealing of any Master Plan of the rail yards as a key site? Mind you, “open for business” is getting a whole new meaning in Tasmania lately (as the Cenotas proponents), but even so, the risks are enormous of yet another convention centre/marina/hotel/time-shared apartments development horror when a government is desperate for a good news story.

And give the quality of governance that comes to real estate development by Tasmanian governments, who is to say what uses will or will not prejudice the future long term development of the area?

(Watch and learn, oh gentle reader, when the impending kerfuffle over the Mawson Hut Museum development becomes public as its temporary planning permissions expires and it is made to shift off site over at Key Site 5. I sense an impending media offensive against the Council’s current refusal to extend the lease beyond the original temporary time limits.)

Back at the Railyards site, pounds to peanuts, there will be …

Read the article on Eva Ruzicka’s Blog, here