Author Archives: Richard Atkinson

About Richard Atkinson

Councillor on Kingborough Council since 2014 for the Tasmanian Greens.

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 0408 411 941.

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


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, ‘’. 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 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.

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:


7.1 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.




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


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


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.

What I’ve been doing – 19 Oct 15

Kingston Beach Sunrise

  • Spoke with a resident about issues with wood smoke and controls on passive solar design in the planning scheme.
  • Various emails and phone call with another Councillor.
  • Submitted 2 motions for next week’s Council meeting.
  • Attended a council workshop for two-and-a-half hours on community resilience, ground water and inundation modelling.

What I’ve been doing – 18 Oct 15


Channel Heritage Memorial Wall Opening

Channel Heritage Memorial Wall Opening

A lovely sunny afternoon. I went down to the Channel Heritage Centre at Margate where Premier Will Hodgman and Kingborough Mayor Steve Wass opened the Channel Heritage Memorial Wall.

I also picked up some tomato seedlings, thank goodness, as I haven’t been organised enough to plant any this year.


Food Growing Workshop with Rosalie

Food Growing Workshop with Rosalie





After that it was down to Rosalie Gorton-Lee’s house for the tail end of her workshop on how to grow your own food. Cups of tea, scones and some good conversation with residents about all sorts of community issues.

Are Tasmanians Illiterate?

This post is quite long, so I’ll summarise:

  • The PIAAC 2011-2012 statistics do not give enough information to say if Tasmanians are more or less literate then the Australian average.
  • The definition often quoted of functional illiteracy is vague and possibly misleading.
  • The figures were widely misrepresented (directly before the Tasmanian state election) and used to incorrectly imply a failing of the Tasmanian education system.

The story hit the headlines

The ABC broke the news in September 2013:

One in two Tasmanians aged 15 to 74 are functionally illiterate, and more than half are functionally innumerate.

No source for the figure here, but the next report gave a bit more information; Background Briefing 22 September 2013:

A report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 2011-2012 shows half of all Tasmanians aged 15 to 74 are functionally illiterate, and more than half are functionally innumerate—meaning they don’t have the skills needed to get by in the modern world, like filling out forms, or reading the instructions on their prescription.

The Guardian were soon onto it:

To those mainlanders whose notions of Tasmania conjure boutique wineries, posh B&Bs and MONA weekends, recent news that half of adult Tasmanians are functionally illiterate and innumerate was an enormous shock.

SBS picked up the story too, from AAP:

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show half of adult Tasmanians don’t have the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed to get by in the modern world.

It even made it overseas:

New research has revealed shocking statistics on literacy and numeracy levels in Tasmania.

Half of all Tasmanians are functionally illiterate and innumerate.

Then it became folklore:

The moronic, overpaid, subhuman animals running Australian education seem to be consistent. Recent findings indicate that about half of the state of Tasmania is functionally illiterate and innumerate, and the rest of the country’s not much better.

And since then I’ve heard it repeated over and over. Usually with a look of quiet desperation – as a reason for simplifying wording on a sign, or an explanation as to why we can’t expect the masses to vote with any sense.

The bad news

So, I went searching for the data. What I found on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website was the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). The ABS give an excellent explanation – basically they survey a sample of people testing their literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments (PSTRE). This is then combined with demographic information about the participant and their score is used to place them into one of 5 levels.

The ABS site has overall figures and breakdown by sex, age, and state or territory.

Ah, now I was getting somewhere, and there was the grim graph with Tasmania’s shame in black and white (or purple and orange).

Proportion at literacy Level 3 or above, By state or territory of usual residence and sex—2011–12

Australian literacy by state from ABS

It certainly looks like 50% of us are illiterate.

Hard data

Now time to download the data. The ABS provide a series of Excel spreadsheets with the cold hard numbers, broken down in more ways than I needed, but it was all there.


Literacy Proportion (%)
Level 1 and below 15.3
Level 2 33.5
Level 3 35.9
Level 4/5 13.9

So, looking at this if we combine anything less than level 3 we get 48.8%. That’s near enough to half for a headline.

How do we stack up against our smarter cousins to the North? Looking at the Australia wide figures:

Literacy Proportion (%)
Level 1 and below 14.1
Level 2 30.6
Level 3 37.9
Level 4/5 15.6

So for the whole country we have 44.7% below level 3. Clearly we’re under-performing.

PIAAC Australian and Tasmanian literacy levels

Statistics 101

There are some other numbers amongst all those ABS spreadsheets too, though. These things called RSE of Proportion (%) and 95% MOE of Proportion (± percentage points). What do they tell us? Luckily the ABS explain this all very clearly too. I refer the reader to the ABS site for the full explanation, but here are some juicy bits:

Two types of error are possible in an estimate based on a sample survey: sampling error and non-sampling error. Since the estimates in this publication are based on information obtained from a sample, they are subject to sampling variability. That is, due to randomness in the composition of the sample, the estimates may differ from those population values that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey. One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE). There are about two chances in three (67%) that a sample estimate will differ by less than one SE from the number that would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included, and about 19 chances in 20 (95%) that the difference will be less than two SEs. […]

In contrast to most other Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys, PIAAC estimates also include significant imputation variability, due to the use of multiple possible assessment tasks and the complex scaling procedures. The effect of this on the estimation can be reliably estimated and is included in the calculated SEs.

To cut a long story short, the MOE gives us the range of values that we can be 95% sure the real figure falls between.

When we plot the literacy percentages with the MOE shown as error bars, we get a slightly different picture:

PIAAC Australian and Tasmanian literacy levels with margin of error.Now we can see that in every case the Tasmanian figure brackets the Australian figure. That is, we don’t know exactly where either figure lies, but the Tasmanian and Australian figure may well be the same, or either may be higher than the other.


If we once again look at the scores for less than level 3, we can say with 95% certainty:

  • Tasmania 41.9% to 55.7%
  • Australia 40.1% to 49.3%

And that’s all I can derive from these figures. No assuming one is higher than the other, or taking the middle of the range. The point of these margins of error is that they tell us 95% certainty. If we want to be less certain, then we can reduce the margins, but we can’t have it both ways. One chance in 20 that we’re wrong is reasonably certain, although not definite.

More hope

I’m not going to delve into the figures more deeply here, but I did note that in some age groups the Tasmania percentage is higher than the Australian one. Where Tasmania performs well is in the 15 to 19-year-old and 55 to 64-year-old groups. These might be statistical anomalies or they might be to do with the demographic mix of the Tasmanian population, with some young people going interstate to work.

I hope that the 15 to 19-year-old figure shows that our education system is working well and that all this was a lot of media hype, coincidentally just before the state election.

Functional illiteracy

Before I close, I couldn’t find a reference to ‘functionally illiterate’ on the ABS site. I did find the descriptions of each level. As they’re lengthy, I’ll only quote level 2 and level 3, as this is the cut-off I’ve focussed on. You decide whether this is the point of functional illiteracy.

Level 2 (226 to 275)

At this level, the medium of texts may be digital or printed, and texts may comprise continuous, non-continuous, or mixed types. Tasks at this level require respondents to make matches between the text and information, and may require paraphrasing or low-level inferences. Some competing pieces of information may be present. Some tasks require the respondent to:

  • cycle through or integrate two or more pieces of information based on criteria;
  • compare and contrast or reason about information requested in the question; or
  • navigate within digital texts to access-and-identify information from various parts of a document.

Level 3 (276 to 325)

Texts at this level are often dense or lengthy, and include continuous, non-continuous, mixed, or multiple pages of text. Understanding text and rhetorical structures become more central to successfully completing tasks, especially navigating complex digital texts. Tasks require the respondent to identify, interpret, or evaluate one or more pieces of information, and often require varying levels of inference. Many tasks require the respondent to construct meaning across larger chunks of text or perform multi-step operations in order to identify and formulate responses. Often tasks also demand that the respondent disregard irrelevant or inappropriate content to answer accurately. Competing information is often present, but it is not more prominent than the correct information.


I have intentionally not looked at some other sources of data mentioned in some articles. I have also focussed on the literacy figure rather than numeracy, as this is the one I have heard quoted. If someone with stronger statistical skills than me would like to correct my analysis I’m most happy to hear from you.

Council meeting 10 November 2014

Tonight was my first Kingborough council meeting. I spent most some of the weekend reading over 200 pages of agenda for the planning meeting feels on the same night.

It didn’t feel all that strange walking in, as I’ve been in the room plenty of times before to watch meetings. The other councillors were welcoming and one of them showed me around, which I appreciated as I had no idea where the biscuits were. I knew I had a pigeon hole somewhere do it was a relief to have it pointed out to me.

The meeting itself was mostly procedural, setting starting times and nominating for committees. As I’d hoped, I’m on the Infrastructure and Recreational Services Committee and the Community, Arts and Environment Committee. I’m also now Deputy Chair of Community, Arts and Environment. All councillors are also on Planning and Development.

The Planning Meeting was intimidating, but not as trying as I anticipated. My main concern was that I hadn’t been to a planning meeting, so want sure of the format. To make it worse there as a ‘sealed plan’to deal with, whatever that meant. I as glad I’d done nearly all the reading.

The sealed plan was about removing a covenant on a block of land. This part of the meeting had the applicant and the appellant both having a chance to present their cases and be questioned by council and one another. As is apparently the tradition with these thing, the decision was deferred until the officers prepare a report.

The rest of the Planning Meeting was falling with Development Applications. There were two huge ones regarding Bruny Island Cruises new visitor centre and continuation of their current arrangements until it’s built. These were both passed with only slight alterations such as adding bicycle parking.

There was one unusual application from the Council itself to build a was at Woodbridge cemetery. The debate was around whether there were any graves under the proposed wall site. Although we were assured that Council has plans of the grave sites, several councillors (and me, because I watched the meeting) remembered quite clearly that they were previously told the plans were destroyed in the 67 bushfires and that ground penetrating radar was needed to be sure of the grave locations. The DA was pissed with an additional provision that it must be ensured there are no human remains under the wall site.

And that’s about it for my first official duties. Perhaps it doesn’t sound much, but it’s a huge milestone for me.