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


‘Fragrance highrise a backdrop to community concerns over development laws’

First published September 29

A weakening of planning laws and community engagement, undemocratic ‘major project’ legislation and a taxpayer funded PR campaign are all targets of a community action today outside the potential Fragrance high rise hotel site in Collins Street.

The event was organised by the Planning Matters Alliance Tasmania (PMAT) a growing network of almost 50 community, environment and social justice groups working together to oppose the Hodgman Government’s gutting of planning laws.

Participants were wrapped in ‘hazard tape’, symbolising the lack of transparency, good governance and community say in the way Tasmanian development decisions will be made in the future.

“Premier Hodgman is spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on TV and newspaper ads that spin his weakened planning laws as cutting red tape,” said PMAT coordinator Sophie Underwood. “In reality Premier Hodgman is cutting corners, community engagement and longstanding planning protections for the things Tasmanian’s love, like privacy, sunlight, amenity, heritage and local character.

“These laws roll out the red carpet for property developers, at the expense of community engagement, good governance and a genuine vision for what Tasmania wants to be in the future.

“We’ve got our own tape, and it symbolises the dangers of lifting proper development controls, giving development decisions to a Minister alone and removing the voice of the Tasmanian community in development decisions in the places they love.

PMAT has printed 10 km of hazard tape for use by local groups at events and community engagement activities, to highlight the local impact of poor planning and governance at the local level.

“Planning-related conflicts have been emerging around the state, including the Fragrance high rises in Hobart and Launceston, privatisation of public waterfront land at Boat Harbour, legislation to give a leg-up to the controversial cable car project and more.

“The Tasmanian Planning Scheme is creating a planning hazard,” said Ms Underwood. “This event is about bringing people together and inspiring them to get involved by using the tape in creative way to highlighting planning issues that are important to them, and sharing the image on social media.

“The fact Premier Hodgman and Planning Minister Peter Gutwein is spending thousands of dollars of Tasmanian’s money to sell his planning reform is enough to raise suspicion. The ads don’t assist public understanding, invite engagement or explain complex planning changes, they simply spin so called benefits using the rhetorical ‘red tape’ analogy.

“The Fragrance high rise hotels in Hobart and Launceston have become emblematic of the problems with planning and major projects legislation in Tasmania.

“Way out of character, opposed by locals and non-compliant with planning regulations, greedy international developers are looking to exploit Tasmania and a Government that appears willing to prioritise development over good planning, governance and proper public engagement.

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  1. Robin Charles Halton

    October 3, 2017 at 8:34 am

    If you want a real shock of what is allowed to happen to the cities architecture then over the past week the Royal Gurkhas Institute Technology building at 162 Macquarie St has been painted BLACK and has detracted substantially from what was one of the best streetscapes with a combination of older and more modern buildings nearby in Hobart CBD.

    The streetscape is effectively ruined, so how it is the Hobart city Council would allow this to happen!

    Remember all that fuss about red awnings, wait till you see this one!

  2. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    October 2, 2017 at 2:11 am

    Chris Harries, you have nicely summarised the issues. But the solution is not obvious. The planning system never anticipated the coming of the Chinese.

    When I was in Sheffield in 2015, there was a fantastic second hand shop there with everything you can’t get on the mainland anymore in it, including pictures of Chairman Mao and Chou En Lai, to make the Chinese visitors feel welcome.

    Everyone has a bit to learn on this subject.

    Democratic politics is in some disarray and getting anything coherent by way of decent policy is almost by definition, a hopeless task. All the Liberals can see is the money. All the ALP can see is the next election and the oh so inclusive Greens can only see their own minoritarian constituency

    That is why I am suggesting something other than the politics of protest and objection, which will be an equally hopeless exercise.

    What I am saying is that quite small and not necessarily very representative groups can, using the corporate PR playbook, drive large agendas.

    What it takes is a vision of what Tasmania should look like in 25 years and a plan to get it done. Invite everybody and sell the damn thing like there was no tomorrow. The money and enthusiasm will follow.

    And if it is crafted with just sufficient in it for everyone to keep them interested and involved, they’ll get something out that will be not as much as they wanted, but not as little as they feared. And if everyone feels that way, it’ll get up.

    A powerful vision of the future is the best antidote to the pressures of present interest. The Singaporeans understand that. All Singapore Inc policy is run past the ‘what will it look like in 25 years?’ filter, which is why the place keeps attracting talent and capital. Some individuals and corporations might not like it in the short term, but they understand that the long term is what it is really all about.

    Fragrance Boy will get that. But in the absence of a Tassie Inc vision and discipline, like any other businessman, he is also an opportunist and will go for whatever he can…

  3. john hayward

    October 1, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    #8, Philip. How did you guess? A defamation action by the Tas Govt on the fox biz would almost certainly end up in a higher court where judges like Bongiorno can’t be relied upon to play for the Tas Inc team.

    John Hayward

  4. Chris Harries

    October 1, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Planning is a downright boring subject for most people. That is, until they are personally affected. Only then does it slam home how important a robust and fair planning system is to themselves and society at large.

    Once weakened, then there’s no going back. Our planning laws will define what Tasmania will look like 25 years on.

    For the citizens who who think mainly through the lens of money and prosperity, then regulation is seen as a nuisance. For people who think mainly through the lens of quality-of-life it is their protection.

    This duality has always been there and Tasmania’s planning system (RMPS), implemented nearly thirty years ago, struck a deliberate middle path and this robust system has been notably successful in allowing society’s values to be mediated and sorted out impartially.

    The one thing we need to beware of is that weakening the planning system to make it more open to political interference and control and to remove regulatory protections will be a one-way trip. Once weakened it will be well nigh impossible to restore public protection rights.

    This issue really ought not be an undercover, fly-by-night election issue, but one that takes in the confidence of the public through a very visible and open process outside of an election climate.

  5. PHilip Lowe

    October 1, 2017 at 2:58 am

    John Hayward No 6.Perhaps you could explain why the highly vocal critics of the Fox Task Force Fiasco haven’t been bank-
    -rupted by a cynical and malicious government.It couldn’t be
    Because the boys and mates club do not have a leg to stand on could it?

  6. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    October 1, 2017 at 2:13 am

    Singapore inc is a very team enterprise, and only team players are allowed. However, while it isn’t very ‘democratic’, there is a remarkable mass consent to its rule, because the system works.

    And the reason why such a ‘benevolent’ dictatorship exists and has been so relatively trouble free is that if it didn’t work, the place could very quickly sink into the South China Sea. Its only asset besides being a strategic spot is its human capital and organizational integrity that makes it a safe, well governanced and dependable place to put money or invest in a secure career.

    Singapore is a very rules based place and its people and organizations obey them because basically, it is in their long term interests to do so. The place is notable for its far sighted leadership, and that is what has secured its position as punching miles above its weight.

    Now the question is, how does a sloppy and sleepy little democracy like Tasmania going to deal with the investment boom that is likely to emanate out of places like Singapore. And the answer is, you have some really well thought out and pretty firm rules of engagement that reflect far sighted policy underpinned by a clear popular and institutional consensus.

    The process to get there won’t be nearly as streamlined as it is in Singapore, but it would nonetheless be fairly similar. While the Singaporean Peoples’ Action Party will make the final decision, they are renowned for the way they consult and build consensus before they make it, because they are very concerned to make sure that whatever comes out of the process runs well, as intended and for the long haul.

    It is a recipe for success, confidence and consent.

    Places like Tasmania need to be able to match that if they want to get beneficial outcomes from working with large new enterprises/industries.

    I am suggesting a mechanism which isn’t very ‘democratic’ either, in the sense that what is being being proposed is a long term marketing campaign that will shape public consciousness not with open debate, but a propaganda push that gets everyone on side with an agenda that represents quite small third party thinking and policy.

    I am saying to the protest constituency that right now represents almost no one but itself, if it wants to shift the way the state does business with a convincing vision of a sustainable industry development future, it has to consult the stakeholders, develop some plausible policy and then sell, sell, sell, so that it does get traction in the popular realm and institutionally.

    And if the homosexual lobby can do it, so can they.

    If they leave it to The Greens, it will immediately become politically partisan, contentious and be limited to pretty much the protest constituency, of around 13-15% of the electorate, which just won’t get over the line. Big change has to be a broad consensus; i.e., something of a compromise.

    That is how the Singaporeans do it. Hawke and Keating did similar transformative stuff in the ’80s, but those days are well and truly over with the ALP. And one is unlikely to get much sense out of the Lib/Nats at the moment, as they are all over the place like a dog’s breakfast.

    Institutional politics is in sufficient disarray to make the corporate sectional interest marketing and PR system the last structure standing that can actually do anything coherent. You don’t have to like it, but it palpably works.

  7. john hayward

    September 30, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    My dear Christopher, if your idea of a “firm and almost corruption free country ” is one where critics are typically bankrupted by libel suits from the aggrieved government, you have largely confirmed my point.

    In democracies, governments are expected to serve the public as a whole rather than the Trump class exclusively.

    John Hayward

  8. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    September 30, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    My dear John, you do rather let your prejudices do the talking rather than your powers of observation, like actually reading the material properly.

    You addressed absolutely nothing of what I said, which was how to construct some kind of real grass roots consensus around managing powerful economic forces, that had some hope of delivering sustainable governance outcomes.

    I put some context around how Singaporeans do business and why their system of firm and almost corruption free governance of very powerful forces works, and how it can work here. I only mentioned it because Fragrance Boy comes from Singapore

    And I mentioned the homosexual lobby effort as an illustration of how tiny groups can shift public opinion to great effect. And they have. I could just as easily have mentioned the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. It is the same copy book.

    It is not a copy book I am fond of, but in the light of the fact that in places like Australia, there is a very low and crude level of mass political engagement, even at election times, it makes sense to go down that road, if you want an agenda to get up; especially on a non partisan basis.

    Reactive protest politics is almost guaranteed not to work unless the powers that be do something massively stupid, or, like in Queensland, they get caught with their hands in the till. And the latter took a very long time to get going.

    Now am I right or am I right?

  9. john hayward

    September 30, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    When you hear a conservative, particularly of the Tassie variety, talk about slashing red-tape, you know it means open slather for mates on the make, and arbitrary choke points for any competition.

    Eastman-Nagle’s bias for the trans-national plutocracy above, including his non-sequitur shot at marriage equality, is a good demo of the Abetz Party’s idea of order.

    John Hayward

  10. Lynne Newington

    September 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    With the look of defiance on these your three amigos, Tasmania has a job ahead them and that’s not even taking into account Rene Hidding to keep law and order.

  11. Robin Charles Halton

    September 30, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Absolute nonsense, just another backward, selfish, inward looking, Green with slime oozing, back stabbing bunch of anti development laggards hindering Hobart from advancing its profile for the benefit of those who live here as well as visitors.

    Dont talk to me about destroying our heritage, just have a look at TASMAG and one will see for themselves the useless pile of junk that has now been created, meant to be the redevelopment that former Premier Lara Gidding praised Bleathmans work!

    Yeh, really not long after Bleathman pissed off and the politically correct … has the nerve to bullshit the public about the wonderful trash heap that TASMAG has become.

    Thank god they didnt get their filthy maulers on the Aboriginal section, although as a smaller display is without doubt is the best and hopefully will be extended to at least maintain some original character to TASMAG as a whole.

    The attempt to Monaise TASMAG was a stupid act taking away much of the original character of the public displays.

    Getting back to development, where these misinformed anti development buggers are standing is on the site of the more suitable proposed 83 meter tall Fragrance hotel and convention centre that should be allowed to go ahead at the old Roberts Ltd site.

    I am not so sure about the Davey St/ Brooke St Tower as that could be stretching the public friendship here in Hobart a bit too far.

    No one wants to destroy the city’s heritage but as we all know things have not always gone to plan, its reasonable to expect there are rules. Lets say for example on the waterfront, the redevelopment of PW1, MAC1 and the other one opposite the ugly Marine Board building are pretty good examples of transforming the post war boxed concrete storage sheds now adapted for their current use as accommodation, resturants and showcasing events.

    In my opinion as a discerning believer in balance, Robert Nunns floating pier shed is shocking example of architectural failure and out of place structure that goes well with the 1960’s Marine Board building to detract from the otherwise reasonably pleasing atmosphere on the water front as well as that monster the Grand Chancellor which is an architectural failure.

    Hopefully members of government and the Hobart City Council will come up with some sensible decisions for Hobart to put its Slowbart image behind it, do it soon before enthusiasm to do so wanes and opportunity loses momentum!

    Get on with it instead of fussing about like old chooks, build the Fragrance hotel on the Old Roberts site, as a low lying area with no heritage value within what is an ugly end of town, a tall new building would enhance the entry to the city.

  12. Christopher Eastman-Nagle

    September 30, 2017 at 2:03 am

    These arguments over development haven’t changed over the last seventy years, with the same old astroturf ‘community’ organisations who represent little more than themselves, slugging it out with governments that can only see the money.

    Business-as-usual democratic participation is no more active and effectual now than it was in the days of Rome.

    Having said that, the arguments over development are critical to the future. The astroturf ‘communities’ are looking at a much longer time frame than government ministers are wont to do.

    How does a charming little economic backwater deal with an economic tsunami, which is what Chinese tourism is going to be? Our fragrant friend won’t be the last of his kind by a long shot.

    In a nutshell, the existing policy framework for development is about as sleepy as the general society from which it comes, and it is not even vaguely ready to deal with the kind of slam dunk that is emanating out of Asia.

    What really needs to happen is a major conversation about how a very small and provincial population is going to cope with larger forces whose scale threatens damage as well as offering opportunity.

    And the answer to that is inevitably going to be a compromise and one that is shaped and sold to the larger political constituencies as a consensus deal that becomes part of the political culture.

    What that does is provide Fragrance and his successors with firm businesslike parameters that allow some limited flexible wriggle room, but within a framework that is clearly designed to preserve the long term sustainable value of forward investment in the tourist industry.

    The Singaporean government is like that itself, which is why the place is so successful. And Singaporean entrepreneurs buy that. They can see the benefits of good quality policy for the long term, even if it doesn’t always suit their present interests. But at the same time, they will quite happily play provincial dickhead bumpkins for a break if they can get away with it.

    I bitterly whinge about how a tiny minority sectional interest like the homosexual lobby has been able to foist its marriage equality fantasies onto an unsuspecting public using a well tried businesslike marketing template to get its message across. But it is undoubtedly effective and the astroturf ‘community’ organizations who want a better planning framework for their state need to do the same thing, if they want to head off the Bjelke-Petersonisation of the Deep South.

    The politics of noisy reactive protest is a futile gesture in a game they are just bound to lose. There are no short cuts to fundamental culture change. It requires raising significant amounts of money, putting in sustained disciplined effort and time, but not too much time, for this is a moving feast.

    By the time a Royal Commission into Corruption in Queensland had been assembled, it was too late….

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