Image for HCC: Timber talks, heightened sensitivities

Hobart City Council
Open Meeting
Monday 25th January 2010
Aldermen Present:
Lord Mayor Rob Valentine, Deputy Lord Mayor Helen Burnet, Darlene Haigh, Marti Zucco (briefly), Jeff Briscoe, Eva Ruzicka, Peter Sexton, Ron Christie, Philip Cocker, Bill Harvey, Elise Archer.
Leave of Absence: Damon Thomas

Before the meeting got under way Zucco asked that Item 18, Special Council Committees – Appointment of Chairmen – be deferred because he was about to leave to attend to ‘family matters’. Haigh, Ruzicka and Cocker were amongst those who objected.

‘You can’t run a Council like this’, Cocker said.

‘We’ve been doing it for years’, a chorus replied. With which, it was done again.

Zucco had managed to make it to the earlier closed portion of the meeting, where at least one of the agenda items affected both Burnet and Archer, who remained outside for its discussion.

Some items that were dealt with in the open meeting:

Salamanca Place – Proposed Shared Zone, was brought to Council by Helen Burnet. She asked that a report be prepared, in the interests of safety and streetscape, on Salamanca Place south of Gladstone St.

Consideration would be given to one-way vehicular traffic, a shared zone for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles and removal of parking from the building side.  Council now added consultation with stake-holders, specifically Salamanca business operators, to the report brief.

Burnet referred to the contemporary urban planning movement towards shared space in which cars deferred to more vulnerable users, suggesting a 30kph speed limit.

Debate covered the present potential harm to outdoor diners and drinkers. Images were evoked of chairs’ occupants being nudged by cars and of truck vibrations causing coffee spills. Toxic fumes and the damage that might ensue if a driver were to hit forward instead of reverse were described.

Sexton granted that the proposed scheme had merit but anticipated strong opposition from individual business owners. Harvey regarded Salamanca as the perfect spot to trial a shared area and Cocker urged Council to develop a broad vision rather than being swayed by one or two individual objectors. He referred to the much lauded Salamanca area as being a dodgem circuit.

Christie referred to the likelihood of the reduction in parking being made good by the planned development in Montpelier Retreat with its 300 plus spaces.

Valentine felt that the shared space concept might also be successful in some parts of the CBD but urged caution and consideration in keeping the needs of all users and stake-holders in perspective.

Burnet urged that the evidence showing that businesses do better in such areas be re-iterated in consultations with those in Salamanca.

While the area is in the jurisdiction of the Sullivans Cove Waterfront Authority, both parking and occupational licenses are Council responsibility, and, as Valentine pointed out, an application for change has to come from somewhere.

The preparation of a report received unanimous support.

513 Sandy Bay Road, Sandy Bay – Alterations and Partial Change of Use to Restaurant/Take-Away Food Shop.

Debate on this was painfully convoluted and repetitious. It devolved around whether the proposed use would be more in conformity with the future desired character of the area than its previous use or less, as the council officers’ report advised.

Sexton, who at times is able to cut through verbiage and confusion, now seemed to wallow helplessly in his own.

The issue of traffic was touched on, particularly in relation to the clients of the ballet school across the road. Harvey, in his own time warp, felt ‘the ballet mums’ would enjoy frequenting the café while waiting for their children’s classes to finish.

Haigh reminded those aldermen who were keen to see yet another café servicing yet another bike lane, that they were restricted to the present Planning Scheme, not the one in the pipe-line. 

The recommendation to refuse the application was upheld despite some aldermen feeling that in this case the community would be enhanced, not detracted from, by the proposed change of use.

181 Pottery Road – Lenah Valley – Objection to Application for Private Timber Reserve

The owner of this land has applied to the Forest Practices Board for a Private Timber Reserve. Debate was on whether to endorse Council’s General Manager’s letter of objection, and whether to authorize him to appeal should the application be granted.

Haigh evoked images of timber jinkers moving through the intersection of Pottery and Creek Roads, which she described as the busiest in Hobart. The route would take log trucks past schools and day care centres, with potentially catastrophic results. To be honest, she said, she couldn’t think of anything that would cast more fear into the minds of those concerned. She included herself, living not far from the site.

Haigh was the first to say that she didn’t feel the owner really wanted to log the land – a view supported by other aldermen who had received, and had time to read, a recent email from him.

Briscoe pointed out that the owner’s failed application to have the land accepted as a Forest Reservation proved his credentials as a conservationist. Further, Briscoe stated, that for other aldermen to have gone to the media without the full facts had done the owner a disservice. All he wanted to do, if a tree were to fall over, was to mill it with his own portable outfit. Where, Briscoe asked, was the harm in that?

Harvey queried whether land needed to be made a private timber reserve to allow that level of activity. Council officer advice was that modest activities were allowable on private land.

Cocker asserted that the Private Timber Reserves legislation was specifically intended to eliminate council control of affected land.

“It’s brilliantly efficient legislation but is, in my view, corrupt. It is corrupt because the rules that apply to everyone else do not apply on private timber reserves. I make no comment on the owner’s intentions.”

Burnet reminded aldermen that this was not an application to Council and that what they needed to think about was what was wanted for the city. She pointed out that the owner had put in his application to the Forest Practices Board at the quiet time over Christmas.

Christie’s view was of a molehill, not a mountain. The owner was facing difficulties in relation to fire prevention management and was seeking only light selective harvesting for firewood. Christie would not support the motion.

Briscoe asked why Council had identified this particular parcel of land as significant. The officer response, from Mr Noyes, was that it was one of many such sites in Hobart.

Ruzicka asked if, once classified as a private timber reserve, it could ever revert. The officer answer was ‘unlikely’. Ruzicka sympathised with owners who had bought land with a particular purpose in mind only to find that changed circumstances made their land valuable for other reasons – such as the discovery of endangered species.

Sexton supported both parts of the motion before Council but suggested adding a third, which was to discuss options with the owner, including Council’s ability to allow limited milling and firewood collecting. Briscoe added offering Council assistance in relation to a fire management plan.

Christie, congratulated Sexton on his ability to apply ‘a neat political bandage’, and now supported the motion which was passed unanimously.

Financial Donation – Haiti Earthquake Appeal

As chair of the Finance and Corporate Services Committee Elise Archer delivered its recommendation that Council donate $15,000 to the appeal. Her only regret was that the amount could not be more.

Ruzicka delivered a trademark homily on both the mess Haiti is in and on the need to help.

Valentine supported the motion, as did all aldermen, but warned of more earthquakes to come, as an unavoidable result of this recent tectonic plate shift .

Closer to home Valentine’s attempt to prevent pointless debate on the withdrawal of an agenda item fell awkwardly. Archer took his comment to be adverse to her and could not be convinced otherwise.

Hopefully Valentine is no better at predicting earthquakes in the Caribbean than he is at detecting heightened sensitivities on the Hobart City Council.