Hobart City Council
Open meeting: Monday 30 January 2012
5pm   Hobart Town Hall     Macquarie St

Present:  Lord Mayor Damon Thomas, Deputy Lord Mayor Ron Christie, Aldermen Marti Zucco, Rob Valentine, Jeff Briscoe, Eva Ruzicka, Peter Sexton, Helen Burnet, Philip Cocker, Bill Harvey, Sue Hickey, Leo Foley.

Open Council Meetings start with the Closed Portion of the Agenda, although it is listed last. Members of the public and the media wait in the foyer. Some leave when they realise the wait is of indeterminate length.

On this occasion it was over half an hour before the Open Meeting got under way.

Given that so many of the public present were interested in Ancanthe Park it was agreed that the item relating to it, and another Motion of which Notice has Been Given relating to heritage preservation, be brought forward on the agenda.

First the following items were zipped through.

296 and 270 Lenah Valley Road had its application for re-instatement of a house and parking space approved unanimously.

26 View St Sandy Bay got its house and parking space approved with only Ruzicka naye-saying it.

40 Hill Street (Caldew Park) West Hobart will have a new shade structure.

38 Argyle St Hobart’s new signage will go up, for a Woolworths Supermarket.

Things then slowed down as ...

23 and 25 Kirksway Place Hobart’s application for partial demolition and two flats was discussed. The Development and Environmental Services (DESC) Committee had considered it under the Sullivans Cove Planning Scheme.

There had been nine representors, mainly neighbours, opposing the application.

DESC recommended approval, finding the proposed development sympathetic to the area and its heritage values.

In discussion Valentine opined that while there may have been concerns about the new building dominating the area it “looks as if as it’s not as much as might have been expected. It looks all right.”

Briscoe said that objectors had felt unrepresented by the Sullivans Cove Plan. They were also dismayed by the loss of views of Mt Wellington.

“Our hands are tied on this – loss of view is not grounds for objection.”

Briscoe did express concern that any add-ons to rooves, such as aerials, would compound the loss of view. Advice only, asking the developer to minimize such effects, was added to the approval.

The noisy reality of neighbouring a construction site for a year was also covered by Briscoe, who said that the worst would be first. It will take a month to remove solid rock.

Briscoe expressed his powerless concern for those who would lose views.

“If it went to the Planning Appeals Tribunal we would lose.”

Ruzicka relayed the objectors’ distress at finding they had less protection under the Sullivans Cove Plan than either the Hobart or Battery Point Plans would have afforded them. She also made it clear there was nothing to be done except express sympathy.

Cocker flagged the need for Council to think carefully about planning protections as it pursued its stated aim of increasing density around the city.

Burnet summed up, as Chair of DESC, pointing out that the developer had shown careful consideration in relation to curtilage and the protection of a spotted gum tree.

The application was given unanimous approval.

Macquarie No. 2 Shed, 18 Hunter St Hobart applied for Partial Demolition, Alterations. Signage, Alterations to Parking and Traffic Circulation and Change of Use to Commerical Port.

This application also considered under the Sullivans Cove Planning Scheme, was recommended for approval by DESC and received enthusiastic support in discussion.

Ruzicka gave the project “high praise”.

Christie was particularly pleased at the return of this domain to Council, the Sullivans Cove Water Authority having overseen “a staggering waste of money”, with little to show beyond a few planter boxes, he said.

Christie asked whether the project’s roof would be a new, transparent one, or asbestos. The answer was asbestos.

Valentine agreed with everything that had been said and the application was approved unanimously.

Land Surrounding Ancanthe Park – Possible Purchase

Ruzicka introduced her motion with a vision of a “Kew Gardens of the South”, where Friends of Ancanthe Park would play a role similar to supporters of the Botanical Gardens. There was potential for a win-win situation, she said.

Sexton suggested, in relation to both Ancanthe Park, and 44 Montpelier Retreat, Battery Point, (former domain of the Reverend Knopwood) that Council needed a clear policy response to public requests for it to buy private land in future.

And so began the first of many related issues, distractions and diversions that first bogged, then buried the Ancanthe item, at least from public view.

Relations between Knopwood and the Mouheneener People, the desirability of a permanent form of acknowledgment to the latter, conflicting views on Knopwood’s worthiness, the fact that Council already has a policy on land purchase and the number of public parks already servicing the Battery Point area were all trawled over.

When Briscoe suggested Knopwood was a “drunken parson, sent to Rokeby because Hobart residents couldn’t stand him,”  Zucco’s exasperation provoked him to query the debate’s relevance.

Heading back to the point, Briscoe said he supported Ruzicka’s motion but felt it lacked urgency.

“We should start a dialogue now.” he said.

Sexton urged caution until the land’s status, and consequent value, was clearly established but Zucco demanded caution full stop.

“This matter is now in tribunal – General Manager – should we be doing this – initiating dialogue?”

“No.” said the General Manager.

Briscoe referred to dialogue that had occurred between Council and the owner of Porters Hill, despite its development being before the Tribunal.

Zucco insisted he was on higher ground. He would not see, he said, any individual alderman, or the Council itself, in the wrong, legally.

“Should we go to Closed Meeting?” asked Zucco.

And so they went, leaving the interested public to return to the foyer to debate that issue, and what they thought of proceedings generally, amongst themselves.

Half an hour later, at 7pm, the meeting was opened again.

Significant discussion could not be shared. A report was to be prepared in respect of parcels of land significant to council, state or national interests. This suggestion itself was now discussed and finessed at length before being accepted and the next Motion (of Which Notice has been Given) addressed.

This was from Harvey, who proposed a Revolving Heritage Fund.

Briscoe pointed out that such a fund already existed, containing upwards of one million dollars.

Zucco started his contribution by saying,

“I’ve often laughed at Alderman Harvey’s –’”

Harvey interjected, objecting to the use of derogatory language.

“But he doesn’t know what I’m going to say!” – Zucco.

“Go ahead then.” – Thomas, in the Chair.

“I’ve often laughed at Harvey’s suggestions – but this is a good one.” – Zucco

“Withdraw the first remark.” – Thomas.

Zucco complied.

Christie, who was not alone in checking his watch, now crystallised what all were suffering – the fact that in three hours twelve aldermen had managed to get through only six of the agenda’s 26 items. He added that Motions with Notice should only be used in emergency situations. The usual course of going through committees should be followed.

Irritating homilies, rabbit hole pursuits, statements of the bleeding obvious, unedifying wrestling with the English language,  entirely predictable grandstanding along with nasty little personal spats had combined to put this meeting well beyond the realms of efficiency or relevance by 8pm.

It was enough for this writer, who left.

Minutes of the entire meeting are available on the Council web-site, HERE.

Committee Meetings. These do address many of the side issues, personal views and historical references that hamstrung this meeting. Time can be given to Council officers to source required information and an already scrutinised motion can come to full Council. It is likely that the need to refer Ruzicka’s Ancanthe Park motion to a Closed Meeting would have been spotted earlier.

Hand-wringing.  The meaningless whine of “We sympathise, but our hands our tied,” needs to be dealt with. In relation to planning and loss of views, for instance, it could be worth looking at what Councils have done in other cities where topography ensures conflict – eg. Wollongong.

Some sympathy for Sue Hickey, one of the newest aldermen. Her demeanour was reminiscent of a school girl who has managed to wag the most boring class of the week only to find herself, inexplicably, at something worse. Whether she is going to contribute anything to improving the situation remains to be seen.

At the End of the Day.  Given that it is precisely that, by the time these Council meetings start eroding the will to live, is there any chance of banning that expression from them?

First published: 2012-01-31 02:26 PM