Image for Our Rural Roads (Part 8): Tourism and all that jazz

Another boom year for Tasmanian tourism in the winter is drawing to a close with the usual politicians and government funded spokespersons in line to tout their achievements.

Indeed the many events have been a credit to the visionaries, organizers, volunteers and workers. Governments, too, have an important role in consultation, facilitation and duty of care. It is this Duty of Care that becomes apparent in a series of seemingly unrelated articles.

ABC article dated 18 July 2016: Tourism numbers in Tasmania record another winter spike from festivals

Tasmania is on track to record its busiest winter tourist season in a decade, as operators look to expand their winter offerings for next year.

In 2015, the island state attracted 480,000 visitors between April and September, who collectively spent $690 million. Operators say they have been even busier this winter, with the organisers of the Huon Valley Mid Winter Fest at the weekend clocking up 13,000 visitors compared to 8,500 last year.

Speaking at the festival, Tourism Tasmania’s John Fitzgerald said the state would eclipse the 2015 tourist numbers this winter. “This has probably been our best winter for the last decade,” Mr Fitzgerald said. “Seventy-thousand people now say they’re coming to Tasmania to attend [one] event alone.

“Definitely Dark Mofo is the catalyst for travelling to Tasmania in the wintertime, and we intend to leverage this.”

Dark Mofo cash will mean expanded schedule

The Tasmanian Government has now allocated $2.1 million a year towards MONA’s Dark Mofo festival. The deal, which commits taxpayers to forking out $10.5 million in total for the event over five years, guarantees its future in the state. Dark Mofo creative director Leigh Carmichael said that before the deal with the state, MONA was still mulling over the festival’s future. “We wanted to know that the community backed the festival,” he said. “MONA held its position until this festival was finished to make a final commitment going forward.”

Mr Carmichael said MONA had already organised for the 2017 event to coincide with the arrival of a major cruise ship into Hobart. He also said the Museum would profile a different Tasmanian region at Dark Mofo each year for the next five festivals, and would commission more local art. “We are to choose a region each year and commit to that,” he said.

Tourists travelling outside main centres

One far-flung tourism operator is reporting spin-offs from festivals in the major centres. Julian Jacobs runs a hotel in Stanley in the state’s far north-west He told 936 ABC Hobart his winter visitor numbers had been steadily increasing in recent years. “Whatever happens in Hobart, things like Dark Mofo, Festival of the Voices, we get a spin-off,” he said. “The majority of people do go to Hobart but ... talking to people who have visited MONA three or four times and on their third trip they will start to go out into the state.”

Tourists and the government’s “Duty of Care”

The Hodgman government is currently undertaking a review of its Road Safety Strategy for beyond 2016. Like numerous prior reports it recognizes the usual multiple causes of road trauma such as driving to conditions, excessive speed, inadequate penalties, drugs and alcohol, inattention and the disproportionate number of young men, motorcyclists, cyclists and tourists represented in the statistics. There have been the usual calls for national consistency and even a new Ministry of Road Safety in the Turnbull government.

The following article again notes the 10% factor of tourists in motoring fatalities over the last five years in Tasmania. This is where the articles dovetail into Duty of Care. The government has been, and continues to be, well informed on the high proportion of tourists dying on Tasmanian roads. Tourists are more likely to be inexperienced with our road conditions. In fact, the government actively sought its own “Tasmanian standards” to replace national standards in order to prevent a blanket reduction in speed limits on many rural roads.

ABC article dated 15 July 2016: Road safety advocates alarmed by Tasmania’s 24pc increase in death toll

Car crash deaths in Tasmania have risen 24 per cent in the past financial year, with the state recording the second highest increase in fatal accidents in the country.

Tasmania’s road toll increased from 33 deaths in 2014/15 to 41 in 2015/16 in figures released by the federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The island state came second to New South Wales, which had a 28 per cent increase to 390 road deaths, Greg Rappo from Road Safety Education Limited said. “A 24 per cent increase [in] the number of people killed on the road in Tasmania in the last 12 months is certainly a real serious issue,” he said. Nationally, the road toll increased by 8.5 per cent and Mr Rappo said it seemed to indicate an end to steadily decreasing road death tolls. “This is really a reversal of what we’ve seen over the last 10 years where the road toll has been coming down and unfortunately there’s been a spike this year and it’s been consistent right across Australia,” he said.

Tasmania’s tourism boom has had a tragic downside, with tourists accounting for 10 per cent of road fatalities in the past five years. The Road Safety Advisory Council has now employed Tasmanian-made Bobbie the Bear as a mascot for road safety.

What preventive measures has the Hodgman and Hidding government achieved?

Funded by our MAIB premiums there have been a limited number of advertising campaigns, the most recent of which is Bobbie the Bear (refer the article below). The hard decisions relating to excessive speed, hooning laws, high range alcohol and drug offences, amendments to the Traffic Offences and Police Offences Acts, consistent and safer speed zones, vehicle confiscation and national consistency in penalties have been ignored.

ABC article dated 10 May 2016: Tasmania’s popular lavender bear used to drive home road rules to tourists

Tasmanian authorities are using the popular lavender-stuffed bears to improve road safety for tourists in the state.

A tragic downside of Tasmania’s tourism boom has been that tourists account for 10 per cent of total road fatalities. According to State Government figures, 18 tourists were killed on Tasmanian roads in the past five years and 147 were seriously injured. The Road Safety Advisory Council has now employed Tasmanian-made Bobbie the Bear as a mascot for road safety. Bobbie the Bear stands containing pamphlets have been placed in car rental offices with basic road rules translated into Mandarin. The bear, created by the owners of the Bridestowe Lavender Estate in northern Tasmania, was initially designed to be a solution to an excess of dried lavender at the property. But it soon became an international hit after glowing endorsements by visiting Chinese celebrities, including President Xi Jinping and model Zhang Xinyu.

Campaign provides basic rules for safe driving

Jim Cox, from the Road Safety Advisory Council, believes the bear’s popularity could be used to improve the driving behaviour of tourists. “It’s an increasing problem, we need to make them aware of our road rules, we need to make them aware that there are certain things that are expected of them,” he said. “You do drive on the left-hand side of the road, you don’t drive on the right-hand side, you don’t stop in the middle of the highway to take a photo of some form of wildlife. So there are just things that we would see as completely basic but unfortunately they don’t and we need to give them the information before they get into the car.”

The final article goes to the push for Wicked Campers to cover up with a tarpaulin. Out of sight road fatalities hidden in statistics are not as offensive as graffiti it would appear. Tasmanians can expect rapid resolution of this key tourist and road safety problem to appease our offended sensibilities.

There are many people working hard to improve road safety in Tasmania within the Road Safety Advisory Council and the Department of State Growth but without ministerial and government support to implement real change it is next to impossible beyond platitudes. The recommendation to reduce speed limits on many rural roads stalled due to Hodgman and Hidding not having the courage to implement change. Surveys we have conducted show public support at 85 to 95% for reductions and consistency in speed limits. Local councils and the state department endlessly shuffle decisions and budget constraints as the Minister stares across an empty desk.

PHOTO: The low-budget campervans have been the subject of complaints. (Supplied: Facebook)

ABC article dated 18 July 2016: Tasmanian council considering banning Wicked campervans with offensive sign writing

Campervans painted with offensive slogans could soon be banned from some campgrounds on Tasmania’s east coast.

The Break O’Day Council will today consider a motion to ban Wicked campers, or require users to cover offensive slogans, when using council camping facilities. Wicked has been widely criticised for offensive, misogynist and sexist slogans painted on the side of its low-budget vans. Councillor Hannah Rubenach-Quinn, who put forward the motion, said there was there was plenty of public support to have the vans banned. “A lot of people see them as offensive and also as promoting attitudes that could potentially contribute to domestic violence, inciting hatred and misogyny in the community as well,” she said. “I put a question up on my Facebook page ... and I’ve received quite a lot of comments and personal messages on Facebook, mostly supportive of me putting forward the motion. I’ve also had one-on-one conversations with people in the community and received quite a lot of support.” The council is not the first to consider a ban on the vans. In April, the Byron Shire Council in New South Wales agreed to prevent the vans from using council-owned caravan parks.

The company has been contacted for comment. But in a statement posted online in 2015, the company said it employed a team of “high-intelligent, socially conscious super monkeys to closely monitor the subject matter featured on [its] vehicles”. “[The] Moral Monkey Squad are dedicated to satisfying the whims and wishes of the humour-inept, self-righteous moral majority while wearing little monkey tuxedos and funny hats.” The company also said it would seek to prosecute anyone who tried to paint over slogans on its vans or manipulate the artwork in any way.

Impact on tourism ‘minimal’

Ms Rubenach-Quinn said the vans were quite popular in the region, particularly during the busy summer tourist season. “Over the summer and autumn period, we certainly see quite a lot,” she said. She was confident the move would not deter visitors to the region. “If we say, well, if you can just cover up with a tarp, then they’re allowed to be within our community, we just want to make a statement regarding the slogans and let them know they’re unacceptable,” she said. “I’m certainly aware of other private caravan park operators in Australia and New Zealand who have either totally banned Wicked campers from using their facilities or have asked them to cover up with a tarp on their premises.”

*All about Mark Temby: Too many accidents have resulted in political promises, deflections and no action. Too many opportunities to reduce speed limits have been foregone. The government claims to listen to the community expressing concern over fatalities and serious injuries too often being tourists, motorcyclists and our youth. The government has the Tasmanian Road Safety Advisory Council developing the “Towards Zero” strategy for 2017-26 but ignores its advice to reduce speeds on our rural roads. I will continue to hold Minister Hidding, Premier Hodgman and the government to account for promised improvements to our rural roads and act as a constant reminder of their inaction. It may require an insurance company or coronial inquiry to hold the state government culpable before it awakens from its apathy.