LAST WEEK I had cause to visit Acton and, not being in any great hurry, I decided to lunch in Lauderdale en route to Hobart via Howrah and the Pass Road.

I found a pleasant restaurant near the canal and enjoyed a delightful lunch looking on to Ralphs Bay and, inevitably, my mind turned to the current fracas over the plan of the Walker Corporation to build a seemingly high density housing estate on Ralphs Bay.

I would not describe myself as a belligerent anti-developer — nor even an amiable one — and I rarely get sufficiently concerned to express a view publicly. However, in the case of Ralphs Bay I am prepared to make an exception and, having thought about it, I do not support any development on Ralphs Bay, let alone one that threatens to be as intrusive as that canvassed by the Walker Corporation and detailed in the Tasmanian media in the recent past.

Ralphs Bay and the adjacent area, including Lauderdale, may not be an area of spectacular beauty but to me it does have an engaging tranquillity about it, especially the bay itself. After the cheek-by-jowl housing of the inner eastern shore — from Lindisfarne through to Rokeby — this is the stuff of Ginger Meggs and my own childhood, the sort of place where neighbours are also friends, where footies are kicked in the street, where you can catch a flounder on one side of the neck and a flattie on the other.

The sort of place where you know most of the people in the bar or dining room of the pub and they are that great Australian democratic mix of bureaucrats and nurses and shopkeepers and labourers and businessmen together with a few Hydro workers, an off-duty cop, a couple of tarts and two old dears drinking port and lemonade.  Lauderdale is the kind of place in which old blokes like me grew up and that makes it the kind of place that one should get back to from time to time to recharge the batteries and catch up with John my Greek mate and my former colleague Bill who was a fine public servant who didn’t deserve some of the dingalings to whom he reported. Lauderdale is neither twee like Battery Point nor precious like “the Bay” nor intellectually self-abusive like North Hobart. Lauderdale is quintessentially Australian and all the better for being so.

… ill-informed politicians who are sometimes too quick to fall for the blandishments of corporate carpetbaggers

Although only a few minutes from the more densely populated area that starts with Rokeby and runs north from there along the eastern shore of the Derwent to Lindisfarne and beyond, the Ralphs Bay area is at the centre of a quite different ribbon of more sparsely populated areas — a ring of satellites, as it were, that separate greater Hobart from the bush. That outer ring begins as far north as Richmond and winds its way south through Cambridge, on to Acton and then through Lauderdale and on to Sandford, Cremorne, Opossum Bay and South Arm. This is not the territory of intensive development. People are happy to live in the Lauderdale/Ralphs Bay area because it is what it is — an amiable village on the fringe of a city, unpretentious but proud, understated, honest and not to be pushed around.

As for the plans for Ralphs Bay so far revealed by the Walker Corporation, the idea of an estate jutting into Ralphs Bay appals me. This is the sort of stuff that made the so-called “white shoe brigade” famous on Queensland’s Gold Coast some decades ago and now, it seems, that which is reportedly on the nose elsewhere is good enough for Tasmania. If I accept, as I must, the publicly stated views of ornithologists and other “experts” that any such major man-made intrusion into Ralphs Bay would be environmentally damaging then that is an important count against the project. For my part, however, it just doesn’t fit either our sense of aesthetics nor our needs. It smacks of developmental gimmickry. “Jeez, livin’ in a fancy place on the water. That’d be bonza. Woodenit? Eh?” Well er, no, I don’t think it would. We have made some appalling environmental and architectural mistakes in Tasmania over the generations — Hobart is littered with them — but some of those mistakes occurred when fashion took the wrong turn and others happened when we had deficient planning processes or idiot planners or boof-headed politicians or deranged and tasteless aldermen or councillors or all of the above. Poo happens, as they say.

Mistakes may well happen again in the future but we can perhaps hope with modest optimism that, as we grow older and wiser as a community, the mistakes will be fewer and less intrusive. Ralphs Bay is an attractive feature of the Derwent estuary — whatever the tide, whatever the weather, whatever the season. It doesn’t require tarting up in a way that would be incompatible with its natural assets. All it needs is to be managed with good sense and sensitivity and by people who will be alert to rapacious developers, bumbling bureaucrats and ill-informed politicians who are sometimes too quick to fall for the blandishments of corporate carpetbaggers with a line of patter that may often be even bigger than their line of credit.

I am hopeful that the result of the resource management and planning process will be that Ralphs Bay is well looked after and otherwise left alone.

Nick Evers, born in November, 1937, has been a diplomat, trade policy advisor, economic/management consultant, university lecturer, Premier’s Department head, Liberal Government minister (1986-89) company director, Chairman, TT-Line Company Pty Ltd (1995-05), chairman of Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (2004-05), occasional consultant, columnist and writer.

Earlier:
Ralphs Bay: Peter Tucker muddies the debate
Canal project lesson
The Bully and Ralphs Bay

Nick Evers

I would not describe myself as a belligerent anti-developer — nor even an amiable one — and I rarely get sufficiently concerned to express a view publicly. However, in the case of Ralphs Bay I am prepared to make an exception and, having thought about it, I do not support any development on Ralphs Bay, let alone one that threatens to be as intrusive as that canvassed by the Walker Corporation and detailed in the Tasmanian media in the recent past.

Ralphs Bay and the adjacent area, including Lauderdale, may not be an area of spectacular beauty but to me it does have an engaging tranquillity about it, especially the bay itself. After the cheek-by-jowl housing of the inner eastern shore — from Lindisfarne through to Rokeby — this is the stuff of Ginger Meggs and my own childhood, the sort of place where neighbours are also friends, where footies are kicked in the street, where you can catch a flounder on one side of the neck and a flattie on the other.

The sort of place where you know most of the people in the bar or dining room of the pub and they are that great Australian democratic mix of bureaucrats and nurses and shopkeepers and labourers and businessmen together with a few Hydro workers, an off-duty cop, a couple of tarts and two old dears drinking port and lemonade.  Lauderdale is the kind of place in which old blokes like me grew up and that makes it the kind of place that one should get back to from time to time to recharge the batteries and catch up with John my Greek mate and my former colleague Bill who was a fine public servant who didn’t deserve some of the dingalings to whom he reported. Lauderdale is neither twee like Battery Point nor precious like “the Bay” nor intellectually self-abusive like North Hobart. Lauderdale is quintessentially Australian and all the better for being so.

As for the plans for Ralphs Bay so far revealed by the Walker Corporation, the idea of an estate jutting into Ralphs Bay appals me. This is the sort of stuff that made the so-called “white shoe brigade” famous on Queensland’s Gold Coast some decades ago and now, it seems, that which is reportedly on the nose elsewhere is good enough for Tasmania.