Don’t be a statistic

Next week you’ll get a ballot paper for the council election in the mail (if you live in Tasmania). If you post it back you’ll probably be in the majority – but only just.

I’ve been looking at the Election Report for the 2014 council elections. In Kingborough the Tasmanian Electoral Commission sent out 25 940  ballot papers and only received 13 955 back. That’s 53.80%. I wont fill this article with number, but the short version is that the over 65s vote a lot and the under 45s not so much. Then there were 193 people who voted but the TEC rejected their vote because they tore the wrong bit off the envelope (97) or didn’t sign it (84) or other reasons (12). Then a there were people who filled it in and posted it properly, but messed up in other ways – for example blank (2), ticks or crosses (13), scribble (33), two or more first preferences (20), not enough numbers (146), repeated numbers (313). 615 in total.

I get that some people decide not to vote, but what a shame that there are a bunch of people who went to the trouble to vote, even found a post box to put the envelope into, then their vote didn’t count.

Okay, enough numbers, what’s my point?

  1. Please vote, it’s your chance to decide who’s on council. Post it back by 30 October 2018.
  2. Please vote for me for mayor and councillor. Yes, you have to vote for me on both forms. If I don’t get elected as a councillor then I can’t get elected as mayor, I need both.
  3. Please vote 1 for me as mayor.
  4. If you want to, vote for other people as mayor 2, 3, or 4.
  5. Vote for who you think would make a good deputy mayor.
  6. Please vote 1 for me as councillor.
  7. Please vote for Amanda Midgley and Gideon Cordover as councillors as well.
  8. Vote for at least 10 people as councillors. For your vote to be formal you need to number at least 10 boxes.
  9. After 30 October, don’t tell me that you were going to vote for me, but didn’t get around to it. I really need every vote.
  10. Please celebrate after the count. If you all vote for me, then we can celebrate the first Greens mayor in Tasmania and you can celebrate that you were there when it happened and that your vote counted.

What does the mayor do?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

At election times you’ll hear some mayoral candidates making sweeping statements about what they’ll change. It might make you feel cynical, and rightly so, if you understand what a mayor does.

How much power does a mayor actually have? If things are working properly, then not all that much. If you read the papers, or listen to some mayoral candidates, you’d think that a mayor can dictate the direction of council. They can’t really do this. In fact that’s not really the mayor’s role. The functions of the mayor are covered in the Local Government Act Section 27. It comes down to leadership, representation, governance and ceremony.

Let’s look at these in reverse order.

Ceremonial functions are things like citizenship ceremonies. This is, for some people, their only interaction with council and the mayor is the figurehead who provides a public face for the bureaucracy.

Representation is acting as spokesperson and accurately presenting the council’s position (regardless of how the mayor personally voted on an issue). Mayors still only get one vote the same as all the other councillors. The mayor might have a personal opinion on something, which they are quite welcome to express, but their role as a representative of council is to communicate the council’s opinion, not their own.

Governance is ‘doing things right’. There are all sorts of rules, whether in legislation or regulation, that are there to make sure councillors and council officers are doing things right. Unless these rules are adhered to, and seen to be adhered to, there is room for corruption, cronyism and nepotism to corrode good governance. The councillors employ a general manager to oversee management but retain an oversight responsibility to ensure that things are being done right.

Leadership is ‘doing the right thing’. Councillors are elected by the community to represent them and to make decisions on their behalf. A great deal of trust is being placed in those elected members. The mayor has a role in leading the council to ensure that it is doing what the community expect from it.

So, at this October’s council elections, take a look at the promises of your mayoral candidates. By all means, hear what they believe, what they are passionate about, what gets them up in the morning. Those are the things that will make them a councillor who you can support. But also listen to what they say they can bring as a mayor. Are they talking about governance and leadership, or about pushing their own barrow?

Disclaimer: I’m standing for Mayor of Kingborough in the October 2018 local government election. If you think I’ve got things wrong here, or that I’m not living by the values that I’m promoting, please let me know.

Closed meetings – what’s going on in there?

Closed sign

What goes on in ‘secret’ closed council meetings?

In my four years on Kingborough Council the reality hasn’t been nearly as exciting as the newspapers would have you believe. The topics for debate are listed in the open agenda, available to the public. Let’s have a look at last Monday’s meeting:

  • Confirmation of Minutes
  • Applications for Leave of Absence
  • Kingston Park Land Release Strategy – Assessment of Development Proposals
  • Tender Assessment – TS2688 Barretta Landfill Gas Extension
  • AB1808 Provision for Traffic Management Services.

Also listed are the reasons that these items are in a closed meeting. They’re Regulations 34(6) and 15(2) of the Local Government (Meeting Procedures) Regulations 2015.

Regulation 35(6):
At the next closed meeting, the minutes of a closed meeting, after any necessary correction, are to be confirmed as the true record by the council or council committee and signed by the chairperson of the closed meeting.

Regulation 15(2) lists reasons that council may consider matters in closed session. Last meeting the important points were (c), (d) and (h). (h) regards requests for leave of absence. This is standard and protects councillors’ privacy. (d) protects commercial information. This was the two tender assessments. If you tender for a job we don’t let the world, and especially your competitors, know what price you put in. Seems fair. Maybe (c) is juicer:

(c) commercial information of a confidential nature that, if disclosed, is likely to –
(i) prejudice the commercial position of the person who supplied it; or
(ii) confer a commercial advantage on a competitor of the council; or
(iii) reveal a trade secret;

That was what took the Kingston Park assessment into closed. Council had invited potential developers to present their proposals for the Kingston Park site. They did this on the grounds that council wouldn’t share their information with their competitors. It is worth noting here that the topic isn’t a tender assessment, as it was portrayed by some.

Was it a surprise to anyone that this would take place in a closed meeting? No. The process had been agreed to by the council, in open session back on 13 February 2018. (No need to take my word on this, it’s on the council website.) It should have been well known to all the councillors that this decision was going to take place around late September and that there would be confidential information that would be discussed in closed session.

 

What I’ve been reading

I’ve been quiet on this site for a long time, mainly because other things have taken my attention. Council has been engrossing, as usual, especially the preparation for the budget approval.

My day job also demands much of my time and energy. Then there’s the everyday demands of running a household, seeing a daughter through year 12 and sending her off to university, and spending time with friends and family.

The state election earlier in the year took up a fair bit of time, running as a candidate for The Greens, as well as helping and supporting other candidates.

I’ve also been away for some weeks. It was my first trip overseas for many years and a welcome jolt from my normal routine. I really think I see things more clearly and with a broader perspective by getting away. I certainly feel like I’m back with more energy.

What I really want to write about today, though, is what I’ve been reading. Anyone who’s visited me has seen that I like books and that they tend to pile up around the house, in particular next to my bed. (They don’t see all the ones on my Kindle. Adding those would leave no room to sleep.)

I’ve just finished Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. (http://www.sarawb.com/technically-wrong/)

The subtitle was enough to intrigue. My working life has been in tech and I’ve a passion for social justice so this was right up my alley. The book didn’t disappoint. Wachter-Boettcher combines up-to-date anecdotes about today’s big tech companies and how they operate with insight into the narrow demographic who are designing computer software that is influencing our lives. If Facebook has sent you a reminder of something from your past that you’d sooner forget, or personalised ads creep you out then I’d recommend this book.

This leads me to Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil.(https://weaponsofmathdestructionbook.com/) Although I’m only half-way through this one, I’m loving it. O’Neil spend her childhood calculating prime factors of car number plates during long family drives. Unsurprisingly, she studied mathematics and went on to work on big data for a hedge fund through the GFC. This lead her to question how data is being used and abused to create systems that are increasingly deciding who gets to study, who gets a job, and who goes to jail. She has the inside knowledge, the expertise and the conscious to tell this story. I can’t wait to get back to it.

A few weeks ago I went to the Ferntree Tavern to hear Richard Denniss speak about his Quarterly Essay, Dead Right: How Neoliberalism Ate Itself and What Comes Next. (https://www.quarterlyessay.com.au/author/richard-denniss) Denniss is Chief Economist and former Chief Executive of the Australia Institute and I’ve previously read and enjoyed insightful articles by him in various progressive parts of the Australian media. He was joined on the evening by First Dog on The Moon, who has recently moved to Tasmania. (You can read the details here.)

Denniss’s clear understanding of where or country is going and how we’re being led there is worth a read, if only for the explanation that the Westpac Rescue Helicopter isn’t paid for by Westpac.I haven’t finished this one either, so I’d better stop writing and start reading.

Before I finish, I should include some fiction. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler. I bought it second hand a few years ago and only just picked it up again. It caught my eye because in Room With A View, the Reverend Mr Beebe finds it at the house of the Emersons and says “never heard of it”. First published in 1903, the Introduction to my copy starts with ‘The Way of All Flesh is one of those rare books which are loved as much for their effect on their readers’ lives as for themselves. Since it first appeared over sixty years ago Butler’s novel has seemed to thousands of people peculiarly exciting and liberating.’ I can’t wait.

A bit about the job of a councillor

When I decided to stand for council I wasn’t completely sure what it would be like. I want to share with you a bit of what the job is like.

I’ve been a Kingborough councillor for nearly three years. Local government is different from state or federal politics; there is no government and no opposition in local government. The councillors on Kingborough Council have to cooperate. I can’t make anything happen if there aren’t other councillors to vote with me. Things don’t always go my way, of course; every decisions belongs to the whole council.

Most councillors don’t do this job full time. Some are retired; some, like me, have another job; others have caring responsibilities or do volunteer work. I don’t have staff that I can direct to research a policy or write a speech, I’m not  provided with an office to work from. As a councillor there’s very little support available. I can only do this job with the help of the other councillors and of the council staff. If I start to treat the other councillors and the council officers as the enemy then I’ve missed the point; I’m part of the council.

Before each council meeting I receive the agenda, typically 200 to 300 pages. There might be development applications; tenders for civil works; a policy, say on weed control; and a sporting club wanting to build on council land. It’s my job to sift the facts and compare them to how Kingborough people want their place to be. I need to understand expert advice from staff, listen to the other councillors, add my opinion to the debate and help come to the best decision. To be an effective councillor I have to be involved in a broad range of issues. It doesn’t work if I have a few pet projects and don’t care about the rest.

So how do I ‘achieve’ anything on council? Part of my job is bringing ideas and responding to ideas. Ideas that I bring to council come from listening to friends and strangers, from reading what’s been tried in other places, from looking where we are and hearing where people would like us to be.

Of course, I don’t know everyone in Kingborough, no councillor does. That’s why there are ten of us. Hopefully that’s enough diversity that between us we represent all our community; and you get to chose us by voting us in.

I can’t do this job without you. Please phone, email or stop me in the street if you want to talk about council business or there’s something you think your council is doing well or badly.

Finally, the next council election is in 2018. If you’d like to know more about the job because you’re thinking of standing for council then I’m happy to share what my experience has been so far.

Richard Atkinson cr.richardatkinson@kingborough.tas.gov.au 0408 411 941.

[Also published in the Kingborough Chronicle 25 July 2017. kingboroughchronicle.com.au]

 

Kingston Beach Public Toilets and a Surf Lifesaving Club

Tomorrow evening, 13 June 2017, the Kingborough Council is expected to vote on DA-2016-442, what is sometimes called the ‘Kingston Beach Surf Lifesaving Club DA’.

Public Pressure

Osborne Esplanade Public Toilets

Since this item was published on the Council agenda there’s been an article in The Mercury ($), comments on social media, and one state MP has even started an online petition. I’ve received 9 emails from people emphasising the importance of the surf club and their disappointment with the existing toilets.

There is some misunderstanding that this is a popularity competition; that applying pressure to the Councillors should influence their vote.

Land Use Planning

Surf Club

What is missing from this conversation is what is actually happening on Tuesday evening; the Council will be voting on whether to approve the Development Application.

When we vote on a DA we are ‘acting as a Planning Authority’. There is only one question we’re answering: Does this Development Application comply with the Planning Scheme?

Council does take into consideration what people in the community think about a development application. When this application was advertised, Council received 63 representations from the public. Some were in favour and some were opposed. All were read and responded to in the report written by the council staff. Advertising the application and having a fixed time for the public to respond makes the process fair. Anyone for or against the proposal can write in, and both have the same time to respond. By having a response from the planner in the report, the councillors understand whether this issue should affect their decision or not.

It doesn’t matter if Councillors think the development is good or bad. We should ignore any knowledge we have of the developer. It doesn’t matter if we know people in the surf lifesaving club, or if we know people who live near the development who are concerned about how it might affect their home, or if we have a relationship with any other affected business owner. All we’re voting on is whether the application meets The Scheme.

There’s a formal process when you, or I, or anyone else wants to undertake development. It’s laid out in the Land Use Planning Approval Act 1993. There’s a clue there in the website URL, ‘http://thelaw.tas.gov.au’. This is the law. Not some optional advice. Council has advertised the development application. The public have been given a chance to write representations either for or against the proposal. Council has received the representations and council staff have considered them in the report.

What do I think?

I may or may not think a surf lifesaving club for Kingston Beach is important. I may or may not think that Kingston Beach would benefit from more commercial development along the beach front. I certainly do think that the public toilets on Osborne Esplanade need replacing (which is why Council sought expressions of interest to replace them and propose other uses for the land at 25A Osborne Esplanade). None of this will matter on Tuesday evening (although I’m happy to discuss it in another forum).

How will I vote?

On Tuesday evening Council will be acting as a Planning Authority and will be deliberating on whether this application meets the Kingborough Interim Planning Scheme 2015. In making this decision we will take into account the qualified advice provided by Council staff who are planners employed by Council to provide professional advice.

I will be voting based upon the advice provided by staff in the report, answers to questions put to staff during the meeting, and the arguments put by my fellow councillors. I will be voting on whether this proposed development meets the planning scheme.


The Recommendation

You can download the council agenda and find the report on page 13.

The recommended motion from the Council planning staff is:

That in accordance with Council Policy 1.1 – Delegated Authority Policy, the Planning Authority resolves that the report of the Manager Development Services be received and that the development application Kingston Beach Surf lifesaving (KBSLSC) clubhouse, restaurant and takeaway coffee and icecream bar and public toilets at 25A Osborne Esplanade, Osborne Esplanade and Adjacent Crown Land (CT216121/1) and 9 Albert Street (CT169748/1), Kingston Beach for Ireneinc Planning be refused for the following reasons:

1. The proposal is not in accordance with Purpose Statement 10.1.1.2 of the General Residential zone which seeks to: To provide for compatible non-residential development that primarily serve the local community, in that the proposal seeks approval for non-residential uses which are not considered compatible with the General Residential zone of the site and surrounding residential uses. The uses proposed will not primarily serve the local community and the development as a whole is likely to lead to a significant loss of amenity for surrounding residential properties.

2. The proposal is not in accordance with Desired Future Character Statements 10.1.3(a) for Kingston Beach in the General Residential zone: Kingston Beach should retain its existing seaside village character, in that the proposed development is not in keeping to other development within the General Residential zone so far as scale of the building, its proposed external cladding materials, its bulk, its minimal setbacks and the extent of hard landscaping covering the site.

3. The proposal is not in accordance with Desired Future Character Statements 10.1.3(b) for Kingston Beach in the General Residential zone: Commercial use or development within residential areas should be limited to low impact uses, in that the proposed development cannot be considered in any way to contain ‘low impact uses’, and will have a detriment impact on the residential amenity of surrounding properties. Furthermore, the proposal fails to comply with building envelope, hours of operation, commercial vehicle movements, building setbacks, and minimum car parking requirements for development in the General Residential Zone, all of which are likely to exacerbate the impact on surrounding residential properties.

4. The proposal seeks approval for a use (Function centre) that involves the use of the premises for meeting, entertainment social occasions for a sporting club that reasonably constitute ‘functions’ which are a prohibited use in the General Residential zone. Additionally, it is considered that the design of the building enables the use of the building for such a prohibited use. Policing of the premises to ensure prohibited uses are not occurring would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Council.

5. The proposal fails to comply with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause 10.3.1.A1 – Hours of Operation in that the proposal fails to demonstrate that it will not have an unreasonable impact upon the residential amenity through commercial vehicle movements, noise or other emissions that are unreasonable in their timing, duration or extent. It is considered that the uses proposed, the proposed hours of operation and the associated activity and traffic generation is likely to result in a significant loss of amenity for surrounding residential properties.

6. The proposal fails to provide sufficient documentation or details to demonstrate compliance with Clause 10.3.1.A3 – External Lighting for non-residential uses in the General Residential zone.

7. The proposal is not in accordance with Clause 10.3.1.P4 of the General Residential zone: Commercial vehicle movements (including loading and unloading and garbage removal) must not result in unreasonable adverse impact upon residential amenity, in that the proposed development will create significant unreasonably impact on the amenity of the surrounding area by way of pressure on existing on street parking, noise associated with traffic generation activity and the creation of safety hazards for pedestrians and motorists alike due to traffic generation. Additionally, the proposal fails to provide noise reducing structures between vehicle movements areas and neighbouring dwellings and will create significant levels of conflict with other traffic in Osborne Esplanade and particularly Albert Street.

8. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause 10.4.2 for 4.5m front boundary setbacks. The proposal fails to provide a front setback from the Osborne Esplanade frontage that is compatible with existing dwellings and additionally has not identified any topographical constraint as justification for the proposed setback of 2.6m.

9. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P3 Performance Criteria for Clause 10.4.2 for building envelope and side and rear boundary setbacks, in that the proposed development will create a significant and unreasonable loss of amenity to neighbouring residences on an adjoining lot by overshadowing to habitable rooms as well as private open space and an unreasonable visual impact caused by the apparent scale, bulk and proportions of the building when viewed by neighbouring residences.

10. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause 10.4.3(c) for having a site area of which at least 25% in free from impervious surfaces. The proposal fails to provide reasonable space for the planting of landscaping which will exacerbate the impact on the amenity of surrounding residential properties as well as the character of the surrounding area.

11. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E13.8.1 Demolition in Heritage Precincts. The proposal will not result in a development that is more complimentary to the heritage values of Kingston Beach which includes an area characterised by large setbacks and generous landscaping, small dwellings constructed with external timber cladding and a strong beachside character with strong residential amenity and character.

12. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E13.8.2 for Buildings and Works in Heritage Precincts. The proposal will cause a detriment to the historic cultural heritage significance of Kingston Beach due to the scale and intensity of the proposed building and uses proposed, the loss of green space and landscaping and the resulting unreasonable impact on the amenity of surrounding properties. Furthermore, the development fails to take into account or incorporate the characteristics that make Kingston Beach significant.

13. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P3 Performance Criteria for Clause E5.5.1.A3 for Existing road accessed and junctions. The proposal will cause an adverse impact on the parking and traffic flow for residents of Osborne Esplanade and in particular Albert Street, resulting in declining road safety and traffic flow at respective accesses and associated road junctions.

14. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P2 Performance Criteria for Clause E5.6.2 for Road accesses and junctions. The proposal will cause a detriment to traffic flow and road safety as the development will result in vehicles reversing onto roads. Additionally, the proposal does not demonstrate satisfactory internal truck manoeuvring within the property boundaries to enable such vehicles to leave the site in a forward direction.

15. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E5.6.4 for Sight distances at accesses, junctions and level crossings. The proposal will cause a detriment to traffic flow and road safety as the development will result in vehicles reversing onto roads and thereby compromising safe sight distances.

16. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E6.6.1 for Number of car parking spaces. The proposal does not provide a sufficient number of car parking spaces to meet the reasonable needs of users, resulting in unreasonable impacts to road safety and traffic flow in the surrounding area.

17. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the A1 Acceptable Solution for Clause E6.6.2 for parking spaces for people with a disability. The proposal does not provide sufficient and accessible car parking for people with a disability.

18. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E6.7.2 for Design of vehicular accesses. The proposal fails to provide safe and efficient access for all users and is likely to result in an increase in the likelihood of conflicts between users as well as creating unreasonable interference with traffic flow in the surrounding area.

19. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E6.7.3 for Vehicular passing areas along an access. The proposal will result in traffic being unable to pass in Albert Street, causing significant detriment to traffic flow and road safety.

20. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E6.7.4 for On-site turning. The proposal fails to provide safe, efficient and convenient access and additionally fails to provide satisfactory on-site turning.

21. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E6.7.5 for Layout of parking areas. The proposal fails to provide safe layout of parking areas with parking areas unable to provide convenient and safe access, ease of access and egress and convenient and safe manoeuvring.

22. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E6.7.13 for Facilities for Commercial Vehicles. The proposal fails to provide adequate loading, unloading or manoeuvring for commercial vehicles and as a result, is likely to compromise the safety and convenience of all road traffic and users.

23. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the A1 Acceptable Solutions for Clause E6.7.14 for Access to a Road. The proposal fails to provide adequate access to the road network.

24. The proposal fails to demonstrate compliance with the P1 Performance Criteria for Clause E7.7.1 for Stormwater Drainage and Disposal. The proposal fails to provide effective and satisfactory disposal of stormwater from the development.

The cost of shoes and scoreboards

Twin Ovals viewed from the road with sign in foreground

Twin Ovals

“How much did those shoes cost you?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Back in the 80s I was attending a training course and the presenter told a story about someone at a Total Quality Management function (remember TQM?). His colleague was admiring his sharp dress sense, asked about his shoes and received an enigmatic reply. The point being, there’s more to something’s cost than what you pay for it. But I digress.

Build it and they will come

Move forward a couple of decades and pull on your footy boots. To quote an ALP senator at the time:

‘The upcoming official opening of the Kingston Twin Ovals signals the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the development of sports facilities in Kingston.’

This was back on 10 June 2011 when the Rudd government was doing a good job keeping Australia from following most of the world into the Great Recession (which we like to call the Global Financial Crisis).

In case you aren’t from ’round here, Twin Ovals is a Australian Rules Football ground and a Cricket Ground located near the Kingborough Sports Centre. They are very well constructed grounds that are maintained to a high standard. Between the grounds is a pavilion which includes the cricket scorers box.

Twin Ovals Pavillion and AFL Ground

Twin Ovals Pavillion and AFL Ground

So what did Twin Ovals cost? We don’t know yet. According to the LGAT Newsletter:

‘The project received almost $4 million from the Federal Government’s economic stimulus package, $1.6 million from the State Government, and $500,000 from the AFL. The remaining $1.6 million in funding was provided by the Kingborough Council.’

Each year a bit more gets spent on various capital projects, from Council (either directly or through community grants) and from the Tasmanian Government. Then there’s the operating costs. To keep a first class AFL ground and a first class cricket ground match-ready isn’t cheap and that all comes from Council.

If you want an idea of the cost of recreation facilities it’s in the Annual Plan, Kingborough spends around $3M a year on recreation and reserves of which around $510 000 is on maintaining the sports precinct, which includes Twin Ovals.

The State Government put in another $199 000 for grandstands in May 2015 and promise that the same again is on its way.

‘Stage two includes the completion of coaches boxes, a concrete area fit for corporate marquees and improved lighting on the juniors’ ground, and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The second stage also includes $60,000 for concept plans for a major grandstand will provide more AFL-standard facilities.’

Now here’s the kicker

Twin Ovals Scoreboard

Twin Ovals Scoreboard

This Wednesday, 31 March 2016, there’s a proposal for the Kingborough Council to pay to replace one of the electronic scoreboards at the ovals, The two boards cost $47 636 (plus installation) in 2011 and they’ve been faulty ever since. The proposal is for Council to pay $40 000, together with $30 000 from the Kingborough Tigers football club, to replace the AFL scoreboard.

How much money should Council spend on Twin Ovals? The report in the Council agenda says:

5.3 Council’s contribution of $40,000 can be accommodated from savings in the 2015/16 Capital Works budget, primarily associated with the deferring of the project to rehabilitate Beach Road Margate. A further report will be submitted to the next Council meeting by the Executive Manager Engineering Services outlining the proposed changes to the current (2016/16) budget, due to the deferral of the Beach Road, Margate Construction.

5.4 An amount of $25,000 had initially been listed in the Draft Capital Works budget for 2016/17 for the scoreboard replacement. This amount could be reallocated to an alternate project if Council was to accept the proposition from the Tigers Football Club and commit funds from the current financial year.

Don’t be so reckless

This raises some issues for me. I think Council should spend money responsibly. Part of this process means that we budget, weighing the importance of competing items, their contribution to our strategic plan, and the available funds. On the face of it, the report is recommending that we spend $40 000 that is not budgeted in 2015/16 and in return we don’t spend $25 000 planned to be budgeted for 2016/17. I don’t recall any mention of the scoreboards when we were determining the 2015/16 budget; this project is queue jumping.

The reason for the urgency is the National AFL Underage Carnival:

5.1 The Tigers Football Club has offered to put $30,000 towards the cost of replacing the
scoreboard on the condition that Council’s contribution is provided in the current
financial year to enable the unit to be ordered and installed in time for the National AFL
Underage Carnival matches to be held in June.

This makes me wonder how long the club knew the Underage Carnival was coming. They knew the scoreboard has been faulty for nearly 5 years, and yet only ask for its replacement with a couple of months to go. It feels like the urgency is self-induced.

Strategy and tactics

The report refers to the strategic plan:

Strategy 1.3.2 Support increased participation in physical activities, through the planning, delivery and advocacy of appropriate recreation and sporting services and facilities.

So part of the decision is a judgement on how much an AFL scoreboard at Twin Ovals contributes to supporting increased participation in physical activity for people in our municipality.

The Kingborough Council Sport and Recreation Facility Strategy 2013 lists the top 10 physical activities participated in by Tasmanians in 2010.

RANK ACTIVITY 2010 PARTICIPATION RATE% 2009 PARTICIPATION RATE
1 Walking (other than Bushwalking) 38.4% 41.4%
2 Aerobics/Fitness 17.7% 16.5%
3 Swimming 11.5% 11.6%
4 Cycling 11.1% 8.9%
5 Walking (bush) 9.0% 7.7%
6 Running 8.0% 7.8%
7 Golf 6.0% 6.6%
8 Australian Rules Football 4.4% 5.3%
9 Fishing 4.1% 3.9%
10 Tennis 4.1% 3.8%

Now I don’t know whether there’s been a resurgence of AFL in recent years, but six years ago (interestingly just before Twin Ovals was built) only 4.4% of the population was playing and numbers seemed be be dropping.

The report identifies risks:

7. RISK

7.1 The continual problems with the existing AFL scoreboard are a source of embarrassment to both the Tigers Football Club as the anchor tenant at the ground and to Council.

7.2 There is a risk that the reputation of the Twin Ovals as a high quality facility will be compromised if the scoreboard problems are not addressed. This may result in a loss of bookings for the facility, particularly for major events that have the potential to bring in revenue for Council.

Embarrassment I can cope with. Reputational risk is more difficult to judge. I don’t know what the current and forecast bookings are for the AFL ground, but these are things I’ll be asking about at the meeting.

My underlying concerns are that a lot of money has been invested in Twin Ovals by the Federal Government, the Tasmanian Government and Kingborough Council. I’m not convinced that the money that the Council is spending is good value.

We’re told that the ground can’t attract the big matches until it has proper grandstands and all sorts of other bells and whistles. The ground is in direct competition for major events with Blundstone Arena at Bellerive, Aurora Stadium in Launceston, North Hobart Oval, King George V in Glenorchy. Blundstone Arena and Aurora Stadium have had much more money invested in them, are closer to the CBD of Hobart and Launceston, and have a higher public profile.

Do big matches increase participation in physical activity? The only justification cited for attracting them is the somewhat intangible economic activity that comes with them.

Street sign for Twin Ovals Road, Lightwood Park and Twin Ovals

Where next?

Conclusions, I have few. I know I’ll be asking lots of questions on Wednesday night and listening very carefully to the answers and the debate before I cast my vote.

If any of this interests you or you have an opinion, don’t hesitate to contact me, or leave a comment, or better still come to the meeting (or at least listen to the recording online). After all, we’re spending your money.

[I note that the ABC has picked up this story, with a quote from the Mayor. Also the ABC 936 News on Tuesday 29 March had a sound bite from the Tigers management.]

[Edit 1 April 2016 (No, it’s not a joke)

The initial motion failed:

That the offer from the Kingborough Tigers Football Club of a $30,000 contribution towards the replacement of the AFL scoreboard at the Twin Ovals with an LED Gen2 Solid Display System be accepted, with Council’s contribution of $40,000 to be sourced from savings in the 2015/16 Capital Works budget.

The resolution passed on the night was:

That the Kingborough Tigers Football Club be advised that Council will consider its request for a financial contribution towards a new scoreboard as part of its 2016/17 budget deliberations.

]

 

November

I’d planned this to be a much more detailed post, but time has got away from me, so I’ll summarise and get it out the door. It’s long, dry, and no picture. I’ll try harder next time, promise.

13 November – Community Recycling Network

Community enterprises and recycling are both things that interest me, as is breakfast, so on 13 November I went along to part of Community Recycling Network Australia‘s national forum. The speakers were:

I went away excited and inspired. I like hearing about people getting on with good things.

16 November – Long Term Financial Plan and Council Committees

Monday’s council workshop was on our long-term financial plan and on how our meeting and committees are scheduled – more to come.

18 November – International GIS Day

Geographic Information Systems (GIS to his friends) is my idea of fun. I grew up in a family of map lovers and I work with data in my day job, so GIS is a great fit for me. Wednesday 18 November was International GIS Day, a much-neglected celebration. I dropped in to the Hobart City Council GIS department who were holding an open day, ate their cake and saw some exciting things they’re doing with data about the city. I left with my head buzzing with ideas about how to measure the places we live to make better decisions about land-use, infrastructure maintenance, climate change mitigation, and much more.

18 November – Cycling South AGM

Active transport matters to me. I drive most days of the week, but I dream of a world where we have more choices for how we get around. Cycling South is the organisation that coordinates cycling between the greater Hobart councils (Clarence, Glenorchy, Hobart, Kingborough, and Brighton) and with Bicycle Network and Department of State Growth. We meet every two months and Wednesday was our AGM.

The Cadence Award is Cycling South’s annual award to someone who has made a major contribution to cycling in southern Tasmania and this year it went to Rae Wells of the Bonnet Hill Community Association in recognition of her work advocating for the shoulder widening on the Channel Highway. Rae was the first non-cyclist to receive the award, important because cycling infrastructure is as much about removing cyclists from dangerous roads as it is about providing us with attractive places to ride.

19 November – Southern Tasmania Councils Authority AGM

‘Tis the season for AGMs. Thursday 19 November was the Southern Tasmania Council Authority (STCA) AGM. The guest speaker was Shane Gregory, General Manager State Roads with the Department of State Growth. His presentation was encouraging, including public and active transport in his idea of transport, and talking about maximising value from existing infrastructure, rather than planning to build more roads.

21 November – ALGWA AGM

I joined the Australian Local Government Women’s Association because I want to see more women elected to local government. At our AGM her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AM spoke about women in public office, discrimination and all sorts of other interesting things, but you had to be there.

22 November – Diversity Rally

On Sunday there was a rally in Parliament Gardens to promote diversity. It was gentle, fun, and welcoming. The Tasmanian Police did a great job of keeping the small group of unhappy shouty flag-waving types away in the forecourt of PW1, where their shouts were drowned out by the wind.

23 November – Council Meeting

At the council meeting we discussed, amongst other things:

You can read the agenda and minutes for more details.

25 November – Culcha

Wednesday night and Loud Mouth Theatre opened their Hobart season of  Those Who Fall In Love Like Anchors Dropped Upon the Ocean Floor. I’m not going to spoil it, just brilliant. Go and see it if you ever get the chance.

26 November – Landcare and Coastcare

The Kingborough and Huonville Landcare and Coastcare groups had a Christmas function at Peverata Hall. Another humbling event, lots of lovely people who give up their time for the community. Council staff from both councils talked about working with children law and climate change.

26 November – Community Grants

Twice a year Kingborough Council community grants provide up to $5000 to groups for capital works. This round the recipients were:

I enjoy the presentation of these grants; people from a wide range of community groups who are working hard for things they care about, and Council joining in to help build community. Each group told us a little about what they do, perhaps the highlight being hearing that Show Jumping Tasmania welcome anyone “who owns a horse, or can steal a horse”.

28 November – LGAT Planning Workshop

A pleasant drive to Launceston and a day hearing and asking questions about land use and planning approvals, what else would you do on a Saturday? The Local Government Association of Tasmania run training courses for local government elected members and staff from time-to-time and this one seemed important to me as planning is going through some big changes at the moment.

29 November – Climate Change March

To draw attention to the IPCC Conference of the Parties 21 in Paris, many groups around the world organised events. The ‘march’ in Hobart was in Parliament Gardens and was organised by Climate Action Hobart. 4000 people turned out and listened to some interesting speakers, including farmers, wildlife carers, divesting students and a priest.

2 December – Spies

A night off on Wednesday. Bridge of Spies at the State. Well produced cold-war spy exchange story. I went because Bob Ellis recommended it and enjoyed every minute. (I can’t link the review, he’s pulled it down.)

5 December – Community Consultative Forum

Every 3 months, on a Saturday morning, the Council invite community members, mostly from community associations, to a presentation and discussion on what we’ve been up to. This month was another lively discussion about the new planning scheme, the sewerage pipe through Howden. For more, read the agenda and the minutes.

10 December – Bruny Island Advisory Committee

I’ve never had a bad day on Bruny, and last Thursday was no exception. BIAC is a council special committee that brings forward issues of concern to the Bruny Island community to Council. After the meeting the Bruny Island CWA hosted a delicious cooked lunch in the Bruny ISland Community Centre hall at Alonnah. It was a bit disconcerting to be greeted by of the committee members with “you’re Ian’s son and you used to work for Telecom”.

10 December – Infrastructure and Recreational Services

Waste, sport, bikes, road safety, works capital works. Always an interesting meeting with informed and informative staff present. You can read the agenda and minutes (or even listen to the audio) if you want details.

And then…

Apart from that I’ve visited and spoken with some constituents, mainly about planning issues, attended Greens meetings and finally done something about divesting my superannuation and savings into ethical schemes.

 

Bicycle Lanes and National Greens

Last week started with a briefing from the Department of State Growth on the Bonnet Hill Safety Lane and finished with the Australian Greens National Conference and a committee meeting.

Bonnet Hill Safety Lane

Channel Highway at Bonnet Hill

Channel Highway at Bonnet Hill

Bonnet Hill Shoulder Widening

Department of State Growth staff are well underway with the design work on widening sections of the shoulder of the Channel Highway between Kingston and Taroona to make it safer when cars are passing bicycles and pedestrians. The local community have been lobbying for this project for several years. In June 2015 the government announced that funding would be made available. It’s one of several similar projects around the state. The government are taking advice from Bicycle Network on which ones are priorities.

The work for this year is planned to take place in four stages. Part A is the south end, up from Proctors Road. This should start in December and take around a month. Then they’ll move on to Part B at the north near the Shot Tower. Part C is that nasty left hand bend before the long straight and part D is the bus stop at the top near Sedgebrook Road at the top of Bonnet Hill. They’re planning to keep the work outside peak commuting times so as not to block traffic and buses too much. Hopefully the first two parts will be completed within the school holidays. All this might change, literally with the weather. The best place to find details is on the transport website.

Australian Greens National Conference

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Greens senators taking questions from the floor

From Friday 6 to Sunday 8 November I attended the Australian Greens National Conference in Adelaide. I’ve recently become a state delegate for Tasmania. This was my first National Conference. I met several people who I’d only dealt with by phone, email or Skype. I also got to know interstate delegates and observers and broadened my knowledge of how the party operates and the issues faced by members in other states. Nearly all the Greens senators attended for at least part of the time, as well as the federal member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, and some state and local elected representatives.

The national Greens leader, Richard di Natale spoke convincingly on several current issues and the senators present spoke about initiatives in their portfolios. The conference was a mixture of discussion panels, policy workshops and budget discussions. The discussions on indigenous constitutional recognition, work in the 21st Century and power-sharing government I found particularly interesting.

One thing that struck me was how much influence members can have on policy. There were no faceless men scheming in back rooms, here were members representing the views of their fellows and holding a civilised debate. Also of particular note was the quality of facilitation of the discussions. The Greens make decisions by consensus rather than vote and it was heartening to see this practice adhered to and working so well.

November Planning Authority and Development Committee Meeting

On Monday 9 November Council had our monthly Planning Authority and Development Committee meeting. The agenda was short with only two items to consider. I was happy to see several members of the public present and even a question from the public.

The first agenda decision was over rezoning of some land at Margate. This was not controversial and passed after a short debate.

Kingston Hotel Apartments Shadow Diagram

Kingston Hotel Apartments Shadow Diagram

The second item was more difficult. It was a development application for units to be built next to the Taroona Hotel. This was a difficult one for all the Councillors. If you want to hear the whole debate it’s up on the Council website pretty soon, if not already. For me the issue was whether increasing housing density was appropriate in Taroona. The counter-arguments were one of neighbourhood character and overshadowing. The overshadowing was controversial as there were several iteration of shadow diagrams from both the applicant and representors that differed in what they showed.

In the end I voted for the development. I could see no reason not to trust the qualified advice from our planning staff that the shadow diagrams they used were correct and so the application complied with the planning scheme. I also believe that the Channel Highway through Taroona is well provided with transport options, being on a main bus route, having a cycle path soon to be extended through to Hobart by the Hobart City Council, and within walking distance of some local shops. This is exactly the sort of area where we want to increase residential density. Increasing number of residents may also result in more local shops opening. Other Councillors took into account the chance of losing an appeal and that the developer had an existing approved development application for the site that they thought less desirable. The development was approved unanimously.

November Council and Community Events

 

November Council Meeting

Annual General Meeting

November’s Council meeting was preceded by the AGM. Council AGMs are famous for their lack of popularity; in fact there were moves to remove the need to hold a public AGM. Personally I think it’s a good thing that they’re held, although it is disappointing that no one comes. If you missed the Kingborough one, as you almost certainly did, you can listen to the recording, or just read the annual report.

Former Kingston High School

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Former Kingston High School

The former Kingston High School and the Council land at Kingston Beach are two big capital items for Council and they were both on Monday’s agenda.

Anyone who’s been around Kingborough for the past several years would know that the Council has agreed to purchase the former High School site from the State Government. At Monday’s Council meeting there was a report on the agenda covering all the activity that’s taken place up to now. It’s worth a read. Obviously most of the buildings have been demolished. The development plan has been on the Council website for over a year and a few months ago a video went up that flies you through a mock-up of the proposed buildings. Less obvious is the planning and design that’s taking place. The project is being run by Council in a similar way to a commercial development. What’s different is the dependency on other parties. If you or I had the money and had bought to site we’d build whatever we wanted and whatever the Council would let us get away with. Council had to cooperate firstly with the State Health Department and secondly with the community.

Council hasn’t yet paid for the site. Payment will be triggered be the State Government starting work on the Kingston Integrated Health Centre. The delay between a Government project being announced and built is elastic, to say the least.

Things that interest me are how much involvement the Council will have in the residential and commercial developments in the site. At one extreme we could sell off parcels of land and, provided they meet the planning scheme, allow whatever development comes along.  Another way would be to make some specific requirements, enforced through the planning scheme or through covenants on the land. I wonder if we could make the former Kingston High School an excellent case of sustainable development; if we ensured that all building were built to the highest environmental standards to maximise their suitability to a changing environment, not just to make the maximum short term profit.

25A Osborne Avenue

Kingston Beach Shower

Kingston Beach Shower

At Kingston Beach, near the shops, at 25a Osborne Esplanade, the Council has a toilet block. Built of concrete blocks it’s showing its age. I enjoy the way one can watch the beach through the perforated blocks while standing at the concrete urinal and the brutalist style of the change room has a distinct charm reminiscent of Eastern European architecture of a simpler time. It no longer, however, meets community expectations and so will be replaced.

The block of land on which it stands is large and in a prime water-front position. Further, council has purchased the rear of an adjoining block to give access from another street. Council asked, whosoever can come forth and build us a toilet to alleviate the masses, may reap the spoils of this sublime place. Accordingly several people did come forth and Council liked some of what it saw. Council is now developing a memorandum of understanding with the Kingston Beach Surf Club and a group of restaurateurs.

There are still lots of details to be agreed, but at least now the discussions are in the open session of Council so the community can hear what’s going on.

There were several other items that you might find interesting at Monday’s evening, Mayors for Peace, Adventure Bay Toilet block, extension of a permit for a subdivision at Blackmans Bay that doesn’t meet the Interim Planning Scheme, and the Tasmanian Planning Scheme. The agenda, minutes and recording are on the Kingborough Council website.

Colin Russell in conversation with Nick McKim

I want to mention a couple of excellent events I went to this weekend.

Collin and Chrissy Russell speaking with Nick McKim

Collin and Chrissy Russell speaking with Nick McKim

First is the Conversation with Colin Russell, hosted by Senator Nick McKim last Friday evening. Colin was the radio operator on the Arctic Sunrise when it was boarded by the Russian special forces while Greenpeace was protesting against oil exploration in the arctic. He became one of the Arctic 30 and spent 72 days in Russian jail before being finally released. Chrissy, Colin’s wife, was in Woodbridge and only receive intermittent updates on what was happening to her husband on the other side of the world as he negotiated the Russian legal system. This was a fascinating event. If you ever get a chance to hear Russell speak about his ordeal I highly recommend going along.

Sustainable Living Festival

Sustainable Living Tasmania held their annual Sustainable Living Festival on Saturday and Sunday. As always it was a well run event with stalls ranging from the Hobart ‘Tip Shop’ Co-op to environmentally sustainable coffins.

Walk Together

Walk Together, Hobart 2015

Walk Together, Hobart 2015

Walk Together is an annual event held around Australia to celebrate our cultural diversity and to show community acceptance of new migrants. The walk in Hobart this year was from Princes Park to Franklin Square. It was heartwarming to listen to the Governor, State MPs, the Lord Mayor of Hobart and local people both first and fifth generation speak about the warm welcoming place that Tasmania can be.

TasPride Festival

The rainbow flag is raised over Hobart City Hall for TasPride Festival 2015

The rainbow flag is raised over Hobart City Hall for TasPride Festival 2015

This Saturday was the start of the TasPride Festival, the annual LGTBIQ celebration in Tasmania. The Hobart City Council recognised the occasion by flying the rainbow flag over the town hall. I went to hear the Lord Mayor, the Governor and Tasmanian Australian of the Year, Rodney Croome AM, speak about the massive progress that has been made in legal and social recognition of gender and sexual diversity in Tasmania.

And so ends quite a busy week. The other news this week was that the Legislative Council passed the Land Use and Planning Approvals Act with amendments so it will now go back to the House of Assembly. This is the enabling legislation for the new Tasmanian Planning Scheme. More to come.