*Pic: FIG 5 ~ The new entrance statement for Ross on the Midlands Highway, made of real sandstone
The town of Ross has a really special place in the heart of anyone who visits this historic heritage village, so when the Council in charge decides to build a new toilet block, approves the use of sandstone in its construction (FIG 1), and then attempts a conjurer’s trick of replacing real sandstone with imitation sandstone concrete blocks (FIG 3), is the sacred trust to care for the precious heritage of Ross being breached?
The Tasmanian Government recently trumpeted Tasmania’s tourist success in attracting an increasing number of visitors to our magical island, and how visitors would be directed to the “regional areas” in the future ~
‘Massive Growth in Overseas Visitors’
The Mercury, 6 September 2017
“Hoards of big spending American tourists have helped Tasmania record the nation’s highest growth in overseas visitors - with a 13 per cent jump last financial year. Tourism Research Australia’s International Visitor Survey has revealed a record 253,000 international visitors flocked to Tasmania in the year to June, spending a record $457 million.” ~ “Premier Will Hodgman said the strong result demonstrated the increasing strength of the Tasmanian brand overseas. “We have outlined ambitious new targets that would see an increase in the number of visitors staying overnight in our regional areas to 70 per cent (of all visitors to the state, meaning more visitors to our regions and a boost to our regional economies and local jobs,” he said.”
Ross, in the heart of Tasmania, is in one of those “regional areas”.
It is one thing to have Besser Block buildings in Ross from half a century ago, as with the Tasmanian Wool Centre, but a higher standard is expected now, if adding built structure with an historic appearance.
We can ask, why didn’t the Northern Midlands Council use imitation sandstone concrete blocks in the entrance statements at the north and south of the town on the Midlands Highway? (FIG 5)
Real sandstone has qualities of texture that bland concrete blocks do not offer.
So when a new toilet block is being created in Ross to have the appearance of an old building, with a “traditional materials palette of sandstone” (FIG 1), why would the Council change the script?
In a letter from the General Manager of the Northern Midlands Council, Mr Des Jennings, I have been told “The picked face blocks that Council is using on the new amenities building will give a sandstone look to the building that is complimentary of the Ross Town Hall building on site and other sandstone buildings in the precinct.” (FIG 2)
The documents that the elected Councillors voted for can be seen in the Council Agenda and also in the attachments ~
Council Agenda ~ 16 November 2015 ~ page 77 ~
Council Attachments ~ 16 November 2015 ~ page 1-401 ~
Is this the magical thinking that believed that Besser Block is close enough to sandstone to look historic, as seen in the Tasmanian Wool Centre?
Heritage is fragile, built on details, which when breached degrades the appearance of a heritage town.
If a new building in Ross, constructed by the Council and paid for by the ratepayers, is going to masquerade as sandstone, why not just use sandstone?
If sandstone is an excellent choice for the entrance statements for Ross, why isn’t sandstone seen as appropriate for the new toilet block in Ross?
Sandstone that was heralded in the development application.
Sandstone that was applauded by all residents of Ross who made a representation on this development.
Sandstone that was approved for use by the elected Councillors of the Northern Midlands.
This magic switch is a slap in the face for the residents of Ross, and yet another insult from the Council.
If imitation sandstone concrete blocks had been spelt out in the development application, and residents had objected to this in their representations, and the elected Councillors had approved imitation sandstone concrete blocks, then anyone who had made a representation would have had a right to appeal that decision.
The right to appeal has been stolen away by the Council’s magical thinking, which now justifies the use of imitation sandstone concrete blocks, as if we were living in the 1950s, when concrete Besser Blocks were all the rage.
Can the Northern Midlands Council be relied on to protect Ross?
Then there is the cost blowout.
The new Ross toilets were approved at an estimated $150,000 ~
Council Attachments ~ 16 November 2015 ~ page 1-402 ~
Now we can read how the “Ross Public toilets will receive a $300,000 upgrade”
How could the estimated cost double in less than 2 years?
As with a thousand cuts adding up to a savage assault, the imitation sandstone concrete blocks is only the latest in a series of insults to the heritage of Ross, including ~
Allowing, or turning a blind eye, to illegal development on Crown land, which is public land, with a garage next to Daniel Herbert’s cottage being built on Crown land. At another location in Ross an entire Crown land road reserve has been taken over by a neighbouring resident with development and farming with electric fences. I have a public right of access through that land. It is stolen land. The Council, Crown Land Services and the Minister have been informed.
Having the heritage listing of the historic cottage of Daniel Herbert given as the wrong address, and therefore then losing the Tasmanian Heritage listing of Daniel Herbert’s cottage. How clumsy is that. Last time I looked, the Council had not fixed this heritage listing error, or applied to the Tasmanian Government for the heritage listing of Daniel Herbert’s cottage.
Failing to have a Development Plan made for Ross in 2012, as made for other towns in the Northern Midlands, which would have provided a detailed vision document for the care of Ross heritage ~
Failure to include a Scenic Management Area for the sensitive southern slopes of Ross in the Interim Planning Scheme 2013, which are highly visual from the south and include the iconic Uniting church, the Convict Female Factory and the Old Military Burial Ground.
Selling the old Ross School for no good reason, a gift to the people of Ross by the Tasmanian Government, which could have served as a town park, community and arts centre, tennis club, art gallery and the base for an artist-in-residence program in Ross.
Buying more land in Ross for a new town park, when the Council already own land in Ross suitable for a town park, with the old school oval, located next to the Town Hall, public toilets and the 42nd Parallel memorial. There are also a great many hectares of land by the Macquarie River and around the Ross Bridge, which could be developed as parklands. There are 11 kilometres of Crown land unmade road reserves in and around Ross, all around 28 metres wide, where walking trails could be developed and trees planted. The land purchased for a new town park would be better used as a public car park, which is one of the pressing needs of Ross. Twice in the past year the prospect of using the old school oval for parking has been raised. This was one of those times ~
Failure to apply for the National Heritage listing of the Ross Bridge in 2016, claiming that the Council could not afford the services of a heritage consultant to do the work. The Council could, however, gleefully afford the services of a heritage consultant to justify the new town park in Ross, which is not part of the history or heritage of Ross.
Approving a new building on the southern slopes of Ross with a white tin roof that is too large for this sensitive heritage landscape. Having failed to include a Scenic Management Area across the southern slopes of Ross in the Interim Planning Scheme 2013, there was less scrutiny of the location.
Approving the development of a new house next to the Old Military Burial Ground in Ross, where convicts are buried, which is beyond the urban growth boundary, and when there is plenty of other land in Ross for residential development. This development has impacted on the visitor experience of the convict heritage of Ross, which includes the Convict Female Factory, which can no longer be easily seen from the Old Military Burial Ground. Having failed to apply a Scenic Management Area across the southern slopes of Ross, there was less scrutiny of the location.
Is Ross too far from the seat of power in Longford, where the Council meets?
Is Ross too far from Hobart, where the Tasmanain Government meets?
Being tied up with northern concerns, the Council appears to be unable to see the needs of the sensitive heritage of Ross.
Having a long-distant view from the north may explain why the Council failed to see the need for a Scenic Management Area across the south of Ross. The last time I looked, the Council had still not rectified this error.
The Tasmanian Government allows the Council to run Ross, and will not intervene with the care of the heritage needs of Ross, allowing bad decisions to become really bad realities that do harm to the heritage of Ross.
Should Ross have more Tasmanian Government oversight with its sensitive heritage, as happens with Port Arthur, and the Convict Female Factory in South Hobart?
Part of the problem for Ross heritage, is a triple failure of governance.
First, the Tasmanian Government has a hands-off approach, relying on the Northern Midlands Council to be the primary heritage caregiver.
Second, the Northern Midlands Council in many ways has a hands-off approach with governance in Ross, relying on a special committee of Council, the Ross Local District Committee, to give advice, and frequently following the advice of the Ross Committee. This gets serious when planning is involved.
Thirdly, the Ross Local District Committee is comprised of a few Ross volunteers who nominate and are then selected by Council officers to be on the committee. The Ross Committee work like a mini-Council, but are not elected by the Ross community and ratepayers, do not have a mandate from the people of Ross to be on the Ross Committee, as would happen with an election, operate in the shadows, as they are not subject to community scrutiny, and being selected by Council officers, may see their mandate as coming from Council officers rather than the Ross community. Ross Committee members are not trained in Council governance. The Ross Committee does not run any form of community consultation. The Ross Committee does not speak for the Ross community, but the Council uses them as if they were the Ross community, when requiring any form of community consultation.
When contacting elected Councillors of the Northern Midlands with any matter of concern since moving to Ross in 2015, I have been repeatedly told to take my concerns to the Ross Local District Committee. Why were the Councillors elected, when they are refusing to serve? Some Councillors come to Ross for Ross Local District Committee meetings, or photo opportunities, and then go away again. Councillors do not hold community meetings in Ross.
Northern Midlands Councillors drive around Ross in a bus once a year, but do not stop to meet the Ross community. This is an annual spectacle.
Twice now I have offered to serve on the Ross Local District Committee, if the Council runs an election. The Council have refused to run an election, twice now.
There is currently a vacancy on the Ross Local District Committee. When this is advertised, I will offer to serve, if the Council runs an election.
Should we wonder if the Council is dropping the ball with Ross, now that Ross is part of the Upper House seat of Prosser, which runs south from Conara Junction and through the Midlands and along the East Coast from Bicheno to Port Arthur? This is because it may only be a matter of time until the southern boundary of the Northern Midlands Council is that of the Upper House seat of Prosser, which falls north of Campbell Town, at Conara Junction.
If this happens, Ross would shift to the Southern Midlands Council, which may be seen as a better outcome with moves to create larger Councils in Tasmania. Ross is closer to Oatlands than Longford, and has more in common with Oatlands than with Longford.
The Legislative Council Redistribution Committee ~ “endeavoured, where possible, to utilise locality and local government area (LGA) boundaries when altering the boundaries of existing divisions.” ~ and ~ “Consider the creation of a new central/southern Legislative Council division that has a recognisable community of interest link or regional identity.”
Would the Southern Midlands Council value the heritage of Ross more than the north, which are dropping the ball yet again, this time with the new Ross toilets?
For the municipal fathers and mothers in Longford, Ross is seen as a “retirement community” with a population that must be “stabilised”. In the Interim Planning Scheme 2013, Ross is the only town to be described as a “retirement community” with a population that must be “stabilised”.
Is this why there are so many empty shops in Ross, and so few shops open for business, in a town that attracts many thousands of visitors every year? The Northern Midlands Council demonstrates a total lack of vision for Ross, unable to see the value of the heritage of Ross, but willing to force a new town park onto the Ross community, on land that they did not need to purchase.
The situation in Ross is a total contradiction of planning, and a tragedy of errors by the Tasmanian Government, The Northern Midlands Council and the Ross Local District Committee.
Democracy has broken down at the grass roots in Ross, which may be why the Council feels so confident in pulling a really cheap trick of switching real sandstone for imitation concrete blocks. Ross is a magical town, but magic like that should stay in Longford.
What Ross really needs is a public car park, to cater for the high volume of visitors to this heritage town, which is only going to get more pressing with the success of tourism in Tasmania, and the Tasmanian Government openly directing more visitors to Ross. That new land purchased by the Council next to the Man O’Ross Hotel for a new and unnecessary public park, would better serve as a public car park.
Ross needs elected representatives in Tasmania who will fearless fight for what is best for Ross.
Membership of the Ross Local District Committee should be determined through elections, as they are run as a mini-Council, and members should serve with a mandate from Ross residents and ratepayers, and be directly answerable to the Ross community.
The Northern Midlands Council has effectively created another level of government in Tasmania, but the Tasmanian Government does not have laws to govern how this new level of government should be working. The Special Committee of Council provision in the Local Government Act 1993 is a suitable way to run a Council owned hospital or retirement community, but did the law-makers imagine that the provision would be used to create another level of government in Tasmania?
The days of British military rule in Ross are long gone, but democracy has been taken away by Council stealth at the grass roots in Ross.
At the Ross Bridge Festival this year, Ross heritage will be in the spotlight ~
Saturday 21 October 2017
10am ~ Walk around the old Convict Garden, and consider if it qualifies for Tasmanian Heritage listing ~ meet at the Ross Bridge.
1pm ~ Meeting in the Town Hall to consider the National Heritage listing of the Ross Bridge, hear stories about the old bridge, and consider the creation of a community arts centre in Ross, with a role in history. We could also wonder where the public car park should be located in Ross.
FIG 1 ~ Council Attachments ~ 16 November 2015 ~ page 1-407 ~
FIG 2 ~ Letter from Mr Des Jennings, the General Manager of the Northern Midlands Council
FIG 3 ~ Imitation sandstone concrete blocks behind the Town Hall in Ross, waiting to be used
FIG 4 ~ The new toilets in Ross under construction
FIG 5 ~ The new entrance statement for Ross on the Midlands Highway, made of real sandstone
Kim Peart was raised in Howrah in Tasmania, is a visual artist, writer and researcher, launched a Viking Society in 1975, joined the space settlement movement in 1976, founded the Southern Cross L5 Society in 1981, which is now called the National Space Society of Australia, has had studio galleries in the Salamanca Arts Centre, Murdunna and Bellerive, ran in the Federal election in Franklin in 1996, also ran in a number of Council elections in Clarence, organised an event in Ross as part of Tasmania’s Bicentenary in 2004 with a focus on Jorgen Jorgenson, believed to be the king on the Ross Bridge, was included in “The A List” by the Mercury newspaper in 2007 of Tasmania’s 200 movers and shakers at 115 in regard to, “An urban bushland conservationist who has worked tirelessly over the years to maintain walking tracks and protect wildlife from the encroachment of bush-front housing developments.”, opened a Tasmanian Space Centre on Rosny Hill in 2007, proposed an event to remember the Moon landing at the moment it happened globally in July 1969, called First Step, founded Space Pioneers in 2011 to develop a space program using the virtual worlds, including Second Life, and now lives in Ross, where he holds a bonfire every mid-winter to burn a Viking dragon boat, and is planning for his 77th birthday in an orbital space city in 2029.