Tasmanian Times


Neo-colonial enclosure

Andrew Wilkie speaks at that wonderful rally last year in Cascade Park, Pic Rob Walls

MWCC former chairwoman Jude Franks has claimed MWCC’s proposed development to build a cable car and pinnacle centre on kunanyi/Mt Wellington will be the “ultimate ecotourism project” and the MWCC’s CEO Adrian Bold calls himself an “eco-capitalist”.

Internationally recognised principles of ecotourism include: holding ecocentric values & ethics in relation to nature; community involvement & consultation; and recognition of the rights & spiritual beliefs of indigenous peoples.

MWCC continue to claim consultations have taken place which have not; they have three times cancelled meetings with residents most affected by the proposed development; and have ignored requests to remove false information and imagery about consultations from their website. The company has expropriated the Palawa kani name, kunanyi, for its own commercial purposes and has ignored Aboriginal community pleas to understand that the company’s proposed development would be harmful to their culture and sense of being.

Last year MWCC dropped the subterfuge of inclusiveness and defiantly announced that the company would “win the war” with the community which it hypocritically called “corporate terrorists”.

The MWCC has referred to the proposed development site on public parkland, for which no development application has been submitted, as “its site” revealing the companies sense of ownership and entitlement.

Recently Adrian Bold referred to the local indigenous community stating that “we are investing a significant amount in the architectural layout to tell their story, when they are ready to engage”.

The company’s misuse of the terms “eco” and “sustainable” to deceive and manipulate public opinion have now been exposed as a greenwash. Rather than “eco-tourism” or “eco-capitalism”, “neo-colonial enclosure” may be a more appropriate term to describe the company’s proposal and behaviour:

Private take over of public parkland and reserves by corporations that seek to deceive local communities with the aim of exploiting the people, expropriating their culture, and developing former public land and the environment for the economic benefit of the company and its shareholders. The process is enabled by neoliberalism and by governments legislating to bypass existing protections, planning and development processes, under the subterfuge of “ecotourism” and “sustainability”.

MWCC’s latest proposal includes clearing an area equivalent to more than four soccer fields along the proposed 2.4 km Link Road through rare Peppermint Forest home to a number of threatened species right on Hobart’s door step well and truly puts an end to MWCC’s tenuous claim to be in the ecotourism business.

MWCC’s proposal to turn Hobart’s most valuable common amenity into property is an unfortunate continuation of Tasmania’s colonial history and practices characterised by domination of nature, embedded historical privilege and an extraordinary sense of entitlement. The neo-colonial corporate behaviours of MWCC are tearing our communities apart.

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  1. PLB

    March 13, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    “The company’s misuse of the terms “eco” and “sustainable” to deceive and manipulate public opinion”

    Manipulation of public opinion ?

    As a number One voter for the Sustainable Party, could someone please explain where this project is unsustainable?

    • Ben Jones

      March 16, 2019 at 7:36 pm

      BLP. I don’t know anything about the politics of the Sustainable Party, but understand sustainable development as development that meets human development goals while at the same time protects the natural environment, human and ecological health, and does not compromise peoples way of life. It is difficult to see how any form of mass tourism such as cable cars could be considered sustainable. Similarly it is difficult to see how privatisation of public parkland (that was originally created to protect natural and cultural values), to enable a private developer to build a large commercial centre and to profit from “high-value” tourists, could be seen as sustainable. Considering the current poor state of the public health system, shortage of affordable housing, and traffic congestion in Hobart, should a cable car on kunanyi/Mt Wellington even be being considered as a development goal for Hobart and Tasmania?

      According to MWCC’s website the company’s vision is that its proposed development will be “economically-sound, environmentally-beneficial and socially inclusive” and that the success will be measured with a “quadruple-bottom-line ethos, balancing our focus equally between environmental care, social inclusion, cultural vitality and economic returns”. The company strives for “outstanding environmental stewardship, fair social practice and strong corporate responsibility”.

      However, reality does not reflect the company’s rhetoric:

      1) Economically Sound?: The MWCC has not released any economic data or analysis for its current proposed development departing from the Main Fire Trail to support its assertion that it’s development will be economically sound. However, the company did release financial modelling for its earlier proposal departing from the Cascade Brewery, that relied on a number of questionable assumptions and unlikely high rates of growth beyond Year 1 of of operation. Visitation data for businesses based on viewing or lookout type activities such as MWCC’s proposal typically have their peak visitation in the first year of operation, when they are new and exciting. Visitor numbers then progressively decline over subsequent years until the businesses become distressed, and have to be rebuilt/reinvented to regenerate interest, repositioned, restructured or demolished.

      2) Environmentally Beneficial?: It is difficult to see how anybody could consider building a 2.4 km long access road through a rare silver peppermint forest and a 4,000 m2 commercial building on the fragile alpine pinnacle area of the mountain as environmentally beneficial. The forest through which the company plans to build its access road is home to a number of species on the Commonwealth threatened species list including the eastern quoll, swift parrot, eastern barred bandicoot, and masked owl as well as Tasmanian devils, echidnas and wallabies. The mountain’s summit area is home to goshawks and wedged tailed eagles. These species will all be significantly impacted by the proposed drilling work and even more so by the road, massive steel towers up to 55 m tall, cables, and Skytrams each carrying 80 passengers if the development is ever built.

      The MWCC have argued that its proposal will remove traffic from the congested Pinnacle Road and therefore reduce CO2 emissions. The proposed large commercial development including bars, cafes and restaurants will actually attract more people to the mountain’s summit for longer stays. Due to the prohibitive cost of the cable car it is likely that the majority of these visitors will travel to the summit by car increasing, not decreasing congestion on the Pinnacle Road. More visitors and longer stays would necessitate an enlarged Pinnacle car park. Visitors’ cars that do use the 2.7 km cable car to ascend the mountain will admittedly be removed from the Pinnacle Road. However, these visitors will still have to use the proposed 2.4 km Link Road to arrive at the proposed base station on the Main Fire Trail, so this traffic will just be transferred from one road on the Mountain to another road. Increased traffic in South Hobart would make congestion on Cascade Road and Davey Street much worse compromising the local residents way of life.

      It is unlikely that the massive power requirements of MWCC’s proposed cable car will be met by Tasmanian hydro, as the entire output is already used by existing consumers. The cable car’s energy needs will have to be met either with gas or diesel generators, or by importing electricity via Basslink. When one considers the many tonnes of raw materials that will need to be extracted to manufacture the large quantities of concrete and steel that will be needed to build MWCC’s proposed infrastructure, the carbon price of these materials, the increased traffic on the Pinnacle Road, the new traffic on the Link Road, the energy used to power the cable car, and the carbon released back into the atmosphere from clearing an area of bush equivalent to more than four soccer fields along the proposed 2.4 km Link Road, claims of reduced CO2 emissions are fanciful.

      3) Socially Inclusive?: Rather than being socially inclusive the MWCC has cancelled planned meetings with local residents, labelled them as “corporate terrorists”, and pronounced it is at war with the community.

      The companies corporate behaviour to date has been far from fair and responsible. It has expropriated the Palawa kani name, kunanyi, for its own commercial purposes and ignored the Aboriginal community’s pleas to understand that the company’s proposed development would be harmful to their culture and sense of being. Even before being built the company’s proposal and conduct have had a significant negative impact on the local peoples way of life. Both have been the source of much acrimony and are tearing the community apart. The local Aboriginal community has said that the proposed development will be a “scar across the mountain and a wound across our hearts”.

      Five years after announcing its proposal the MWCC has still not provided evidence to support its vision that its development will be economically sustainable and meet its “quadruple-bottom-line” ethos. Perhaps you should be asking the company to explain where the project is sustainable?

      • MJF

        March 18, 2019 at 12:19 pm

        “The mountain’s summit area is home to goshawks and wedged tailed eagles. These species will all be significantly impacted by the proposed drilling work and even more so by the road, massive steel towers up to 55 m tall, cables, and Skytrams each carrying 80 passengers if the development is ever built.”

        Which goshawk Mr Jones ? If the grey goshawk then extremely unlikely this is the home to such a bird as it typically is found below 600mASL in altogether different habitat to a bleak, windswept and open mountain top at 1250m

        If you mean brown goshawk, then take comfort these birds are found all over Australia in a range of habitats and on many islands, big and small. These adaptive birds are not on any threatened list and numbers prevalent suggest not at any risk.

        I doubt very much either if any self respecting WTE would also claim this prominent outlook as it’s home. Perhaps from midway to 2/3’s down the lower lee slopes may provide more suitable habitat for nesting and ensuing foraging but not on top.

        Any observations from the summit of these species you mention would be of transient birds enroute to somewhere else more suited to their requirements.

        If your claim was true, would such birds not be impacted already by daily traffic and human movement at the summit ?

        How could you establish current levels of impaction anyway and then quantify any additional post MWCC development other than just make a prediction ?

        Interesting point re power consumption. Are you sure Tasmania is at peak production at any time ? I thought it wasn’t and capacity to generate was always available by one method or another for additional demand. We now know Basslink export capacity has now been wound back to something more conservative.

        Why couldn’t MWCC just enter a contract to supply and tap into the grid ?

        • miscpurposeRob

          March 31, 2019 at 7:48 pm

          I can confirm that WedgeTail Eagles do indeed frequent the summit on a regular basis – unless screaming gales keep them at home. The cables will form a new and dangerous obstacle for these birds. Eagles do fly fast through mist and cloud and there will be eagle deaths if Bold’s scam is ever realised by the purchaser of his company, once he is issued “just build it” permits and sells the company to someone.

  2. Russell

    March 13, 2019 at 9:48 am

    It smacks of the cancerous arrogance and sense of self-entitlement and privilege that diseased Gunns to the point that it died from it.

    This in itself will be the cause for MWCC’s undoing, let alone the illegalities of how they are conducting their business.

  3. Lyndall

    March 13, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for this. Curiouser and curiouser. You’ve revealed some more dodgy-looking details about the dubious MWCC process to add to the red flag list. The sense you get from MWCC is that it’s been ‘in the bag’ from the very beginning so no matter how well (or not) they conduct community consultations (or not) or try to meet with council approvals (or not), they confidently push through the process regardless, it would seem.

    When I previously read the Aug 2018 ABC news item quoting MWCC chairwoman Jude Franks and her complete confidence in gaining planning approval, I then worried about what MWCC had planned for the then upcoming council elections:

    “Hobart City Council voted to deny the controversial proposal access to council-owned public land. … Mount Wellington Cableway Company (MWCC) chairwoman Jude Franks said the decision would not stop it being built, and the company would continue to push ahead with a development application.
    “ “Our plan is to continue with the ministerial authority, progressing with that, and getting in front of the Council. Between here and October there’s a lot that can happen.” (What exactly does that mean, I wonder).
    “She said the company would wait for the October elections, hoping a new council could mean a change of outcome. “We always knew this was going to be an election issue and I think now it is even going to be more so,” she said. The company will lodge a development application despite the motion to prevent their access to public land on the mountain, and will not be considering any other routes.
    “This is our site,” Ms Franks said. … “. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-21/hobart-city-council-votes-to-block-cable-car-land-access/10144014

    Forgive my growing paranoia and political cynicism, but given the ‘in the bag’ ‘come what may’ type of confidence coming from MWCC proponents and even from supporting government ministers, I wonder if any new ‘independent’ candidates suddenly came out of nowhere to stand for the Hobart City Council elections? If so, did they happen to be MWCC supporters; and to go a step further in my political cynicism towards this, do they just happen to be associated with the Liberal Party (or its Ministers) in any way?

    • Lyndall

      March 13, 2019 at 8:53 pm

      OK, so I was being a bit paranoid in this particular aspect of the case after all. So I should correct the implication I left hanging in my previous comment.

      I’ve just checked out Kevin Bonham’s blogspot about the 2018 Hobart City Council candidates. As it turns out the ratio of Greens to Liberals is virtually 4:4 or 4:5. So there is no indication that the council is heavily politically biased in any way, and no sign of any sudden stacking of pro-cable car candidates in the 2018 election. The majority of councillors were incumbents. Of the four new councillors one is an ex-Green and another is a heavily connected Liberal; the other two (father and daughter) are presenting as neutral in their bios and assessment by K. Bonham.

      You can check out Kevin Bonham’s council election bios & assessments here: http://kevinbonham.blogspot.com/2018/09/hobart-city-council-elections-candidate.html

      Needless to say, I still think issues of probity and transparency have been associated with the development & approvals of the MWCC project proposal, and this remains an ongoing trigger for distrust and cynicism towards the project and the state government as its champion.

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