Nathan Carswell seems to be a man of strong opinions: he loves the idea of building a cable car up kunanyi/Mt Wellington, admires cable car developer Adrian Bold and derides critics of the proposed project.
He has had comments published on Tasmanian Times as well as The Mercury website but – with one minor exception – only ever on the topic of the cable car.
Back in late 2012 Carswell even made a detailed submission to the Wellington Park Management Trust, urging the agency to change the management plan to accommodate the cable car. In his submission he even went so far as to argue against the practice of the Hobart City Council clearing the road to the summit of Mount Wellington after heavy snowfall.
Who exactly is Nathan Carswell?
Aside from his enthusiasm for a cable car on Mt Wellington, Carswell keeps a very low profile.
In some of his published comments such as in The Mercury, Nathan lists his address as being in Dynnyrne, an inner Hobart suburb which abuts South Hobart where the impact of the cable car project would be greatest.
However, the only Carswell listed in the White Pages in the suburb has no knowledge of anyone by the name of Nathan. However, that doesn’t mean Carswell doesn’t exist. A significant number of people only have mobile phones, have unlisted numbers or use unlisted voice-over-the-internet phone numbers and as a result aren’t listed in the phone book.
But Carswell does have a Facebook page. However, Carswell doesn’t have any Facebook ‘friends’ and there is just one solitary post from when Nathan joined Facebook on October 26, 2012 and added a graphic of “Face the Music: Music Industry Conference”. (The conference was an event held at the Arts Centre in Melbourne in mid-November 2012.) There is only one other site that he ‘likes’ – the Facebook page promoting the proposed Mt Wellington Cable Car.
Other than that, in the eighteen months since first joining Facebook Carswell has ‘liked’ nothing else, attracted no friends and not posted a single comment.
The only other information on the threadbare Facebook page is that Nathan “studied at the University of New England” and graduated in the “class of 2002.” However, the University of New England has no record of anyone by that name studying or graduating there.
So who is Nathan Carswell?
Perhaps Nathan’s online comments and his submission to the Wellington Park Management Trust provide some clues on how to find him?
The Phantom who writes
Early on the morning of the very same day that his Facebook page was created, Nathan Carswell dispatched a submission to the Wellington Park Management Trust arguing the case for a cable-car friendly management plan.
In it Carswell described himself as a “resident in the foothills of the mountain” and railed against the “prohibition” on commercial developments on the summit “that has scared off sensible development.” He objected to the idea that the former hotel site at the Springs should be “treated as the primary visitor node within the Park” and instead argued that the “commercial aspects would be better suited at the summit; if access can be improved and provided all year round without restriction.”
The cable car, Carswell argued, “is a must.”
As for the Hobart City Council’s practice of snowploughs clearing the road after snowfalls, Carswell was adamant it was the wrong thing to do.
”I don’t agree that the road should be plowed (and turned into mush) during and after heavy snowfall, just to allow access to the summit. This is a public expense which could be avoided if an alternative form of transport to the summit was available. The road, during snowfall, should be left unploughed to the enjoyment of visitors and tourists.”
Whenever it snows heavily on Mt Wellington, large numbers of people head for the top of Mt Wellington. For the proposed cable car, monopoly access to the summit after a major snowfall would be a major financial boost.
Private developers, Carswell also argued, “should be given or offered assistance in their proposal” to develop facilities for visitors. He also argued that the Trust should work “collaboratively with a commercial developer to continue and improve the preservation of the park.”
In closing, Carswell had a word of warning for the Wellington Park Management Trust:
“Don’t use the number of submissions to this draft plan as a consensus of whether the majority of Hobart want a cable car or not. I believe most people who support a cable car are simply too busy to bother submitting a response to you. If you really want to know the answer, request a referendum at the next election! Otherwise, start talking with the Mt Wellington Cableway Company. Find reasons to say YES to sensible development and not NO.”
The Wellington Park Management Trust was in an accommodating mood: they supported removing the prohibition on a cable car on the summit and incorporated Carswell’s suggestion that the trust work “in cooperation” with private operators to implement monitoring programmes in the park was accommodated.
The following week a comment by Carswell was published in Tasmanian Times praising the proponent of the cable car, Adrian Bold.
“Adrian Bold has been pretty clear that he wouldn’t be advocating for a cable car and summit amenities that would damage the very reason we love the mountain so much. SO many positives to consider. Mr Bold met with Dr Chapman too and now has financial backers to finally test the feasibility. What an astounding achievement for a young bloke amongst such negativity in this State!! Best of luck to the smart cookie, we need more people like Adrian, let’s not scare him off!”
In May this year Bold was publicly pressing the Hobart City Council (HCC) to declare ‘in principle’ support for the proposal even though no development application had been submitted. A motion proposing a detailed list of information the council would require before considering in-principle support for the cable car was moved but ultimately defeated. Instead, the council voted to take no action on Bold’s pitch for ‘in principle’ support and simply treat it as it would any other proposal and assess a development application when one was received.
On The Mercury’s website Carswell railed against those who had voted against the cable car being treated differently from other projects.
“Ha! So Ruzicka, Burnet, Cocker, Briscoe and Christie all approved the long list of expensive criteria required before they consider granting permission as landowner at the committee last week, then when Mr Bold said that it was a ‘positive step’ the NIMBYS on council realised the proponent was willing and able to fund the long list thrown at them. So now they vote against their own criteria to kill the project. Pathetic HCC, Pathetic.”
Later on the same day, another comment on The Mercury website argued that Bold should hire staff or a qualified planner to compile the detailed information on the issues required to be addressed in a development application for the proposed cable car. Carswell leapt to the defence of the Mt Wellington Cableway Company.
“Lynda, looking at the proponents team listed on the MWCC website I think they are pretty experienced! You or I can’t just plan to build a shed on a neighbours property without seeking permission from that neighbour first. It seems MWCC are following the proper process despite mud being thrown from all sides, including various Aldermen. Council finally worked out what info they need from the proponent to consider granting permission as landowner (so MWCC can properly plan) and now the HCC Aldermen have voted to say they won’t even accept the info even if it was presented to them. Disgraceful!”
The following day Carswell was back on Tasmanian Times posting a comment on another thread:
“There is clear reason (for those willing to listen with an open mind) why a cable car is a far more respectful solution for our mountain than the road which condemns our pinnacle for a carpark. I think ‘Respect the Mountain’ is more about resisting change than anything else. Complete farce. Thank god this group didn’t form to save a particular Berridale peninsular from MONA.”
As for another commenter who questioned the economic viability of the project, Carswell was dismissive. “Clearly has no idea of economic reality,” he wrote.
After the Respect the Mountain group publicly complained that cable car supporters had attempted to appropriate its name on Facebook, Carswell was once more vocal. In a comment published on Tasmanian Times Carswell stated:
“Please, surely everyone respects the mountain, even the cable car proponents do! No harm in creating a group to promote this idea but has this author even been on many cable cars? If so, which ones? What factual reason can the author honestly give to oppose a cable car?
Anyone could make a facebook page to the same effect, Why point fingers at the proponents? Why be so divisive? Why the need to look for moral high ground on something so petty that could heal our community and do so much good for all of us?
Has this group even talked to the cable car proponents first to discuss their concerns, before setting up this group? If not, why not? It seems pointless dragging the media through this if there isn’t any disparity in this group and the proponents belief to respect the mountain after all.”
The one exception to Carswell commenting only on the cable car was when, in early October 2012 in Tasmanian Times he challenged Tasmanian Conservation Trust Director, Peter McGlone, for disputing the economics of another tourism project, the Three Capes Track. Prior to this McGlone had been publicly critical of the proposed cable car project.
For the next eighteen months nothing was heard from Carswell.
Then, as Adrian Bold’s push for the cable car was firing up earlier this year, he appeared once more.
”How nice it would if there was a way for more people, of all abilities to enjoy the mountain as Don does, to be amongst the sleet and mist, without trampling over the precious flora.
How nice it would be if the lucky ones weren’t so selfish as to not want to share this enriching mountain with anyone other than hikers.”
On July 1, Carswell was back posting another comment to Tasmanian Times. This time the editor deleted the comment and posted a note pointing to several provisions on the Tasmanian Times Code of Conduct, including the need to disclose any relevant interests and avoid comments which played the person rather than addressing the issue. It was the last time Carswell posted to Tasmanian Times.
But who exactly is Nathan Carswell?
The question remains though, who exactly is Nathan Carswell?
According to Adrian Bold’s LinkedIn profile, Boom Creative was a Victorian real estate marketing company which he jointly founded and operated between January 2008 and June 2012. In mid-2012 Bold and his business partner, Manny Loupas, went in different directions. Boom Creative – which had been renamed Riser & Gain in December 2009 – became Bold’s personal company. Bold then moved to Tasmania and began working for the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and founded the Mt Wellington Cableway Company as the vehicle for the controversial cable car project.
Publicly available domain registration records indicate that the boomcreative.com.au address had been initially registered by Loupas and was still active in late 2011. The domain is now registered to another person in Victoria.
There was one more hint: one of the comments submitted to Tasmanian Times from the boomcreative.com.au domain by Nathan Carswell originated from the same internet address as three comments posted to this site by Adrian Bold on behalf of the Mt Wellington Cableway Company. Of the over 165,000 comments submitted to Tasmanian Times since 2005, the only matching server address for that particular comment from Nathan Carswell was with Adrian Bold and the cable car company.
Even so, that is not necessarily conclusive. An internet address can cater for a number of companies or individuals, so the commonality of the server address could potentially be simply a ‘false positive’.
Tasmanian Times sought to speak with Adrian Bold to discuss who Nathan Carswell is and his public advocacy for the cable car. For over a week numerous voicemail and email messages to Bold seeking to specifically discuss the issue of Nathan Carswell went unreturned.
“Nathan” outed as a fake
On Monday Tasmanian Times once more emailed Bold, this time directly asking whether he had posted comments to Tasmanian Times under the name of “Nathan Carswell”, whether he had created the Facebook page and also made a submission to the Wellington Park Management Trust under the same name.
In an email, Bold confirmed that “Nathan Carswell” wasn’t a real person but denied it was him. Bold stated:
“Nathan Carswell is a pen name used by a good friend. I’m not across where he has made comment or what your issue with him is, but as his comments and opinions are his own I’m not sure how this concerns me. I can find out if he’s ok to speak with you if that helps you?”
While Tasmanian Times expressed interest in talking with and meeting “Nathan”, there were other questions which needed to be addressed as well. After several more calls and emails, Bold called back mid-Tuesday. He had passed on my contact details to “Nathan”, he said, but he was currently in Brisbane.
Was it appropriate that “Nathan Carswell” made a submission to a review of the Mt Wellington Management Plan under a false name? “You can ask him that question, it’s nothing to do with me,” Bold said. “He supports the project and I talk about the project often with him.”
How was it that a comment submitted to Tasmanian Times by “Nathan Carswell” originated from the same internet address as that used by Bold just two weeks earlier when he had posted comments on behalf of his Mt Wellington Cableway Company? “I’d suggest that he made the comment using my computer … it would have been from my home address,” he said.
“He’s a good friend, he comes around often and we talk about the project … I think I can even recall that on one or two occasions - whether it was to your website or another blog or somewhere else - … I certainly let him use the computer every now and then,” Bold said.
Bold told Tasmanian Times that he respects “Nathan’s privacy” and that “if he wants to remain anonymous and use a pen name then fine.”
Did “Nathan” use an email address from Bold’s former company Boom Creative’s domain name with his permission for comments to Tasmanian Times? “I know he has made comments but what he says is his own business … He certainly didn’t have an email address, he probably just made it up,” Bold said.
As for the HCC practice of clearing the road after snowfall, Bold said he had no issue with that.
Awkward times for Wellington Park Management Trust
The saga of “Nathan Carswell” raises many questions.
For the media – Tasmanian Times included – there are challenging issues about how to fairly moderate comments.
The use by “Nathan Carswell” of the computer of cable car developer Adrian Bold will undoubtedly cause raised eyebrows amongst critics of the cable car project, media outlets and politicians.
But above all, Bold’s outing of “Nathan Carswell” as a fake puts the heat on the Wellington Park Management Trust.
The Trust is now in an untenable position if it seeks to insist on withholding the email address on the submission from “Nathan Carswell” on the grounds of privacy. Real people have privacy rights but phantoms don’t.
Even more significantly though is that in 2012, acting on the basis of an emailed submission from “Nathan Carswell” who didn’t disclose any verifiable street address or other details, the Trust agreed to modify a management plan. The modification may have been relatively minor but it illustrated that the management planning process can be gamed by an internet fake.
Having just started a new review of the Mt Wellington Management Plan to benefit the proposed cable car, the question remains as to how exactly the Wellington Park Management Trust will screen submissions to ensure that only those from real people are given any weight.
• Susan Smith, in Comments: Wow well done - reassuring to see that investigative journalism still alive and well. Thank you.
• Nathan Carswell, in Comments: Wow, what a beat up. Is friendship an offence now? I contribute to these debates under another name (as I’m sure many opponents equally do). I’m still a ratepayer, and my opinions expressed still count. I just prefer not to use my own name for privacy reasons. While Adrian has passed on your number, I have no inclination to talk with the reporter for the same reason.
• Alderman Eva Ruzicka, in Comments: This article raises some very serious concerns for any planning process. I have asked our Council’s General Manager what safeguards are in place to test the veracity of any representor submissions to a development application generally. Likewise, can he verify what safeguards that the Trust has? That Aldermen will likely have to assess any development application on its land on kunanyi/Mt Wellington, this article raises a serious allegation of perversion of the planning process. If people are salting the Trust process for assessing any changes to the Pinnacle Zone, how seriously can the Trust’s deliberations be taken?
• Nathan Carswell, in Comments: I’m Nathan Carswell and so is my wife.
• Phil na Champassak, in Comments: This is a forensic examination at its best. Making a public submission under a nom de plume is seriously misleading and has probably consigned the cable car project to oblivion.
• Ted Cutlan, ROCC: Mountain assessment process flawed “The current process means that anyone can put in an anonymous submission. We call on the minister Matthew Groom to review the process and restore the integrity of the management of the mountain” “ROCC will be writing to the WPMT today, insisting that the current changes to the management plan should be abandoned until the integrity of the process can be assured.”
• Alderman Eva Ruzicka, in Comments: So I asked the questions: What safeguards does Hobart City Council have for determining the authenticity of development application representations? Is it possible for a person to fake an identity to lodge a representation and for Hobart City Council to not know? Further, given the land on Mt Wellington belongs to Hobart City Council, and the issues raised by Mr Burton, what measures can the Council take to test the veracity of any management plan submissions for amendment, either for or against? Especially now as there is a management plan amendment open for submissions and much is riding on the outcome? And the end result of my enquiries:
• Editors, in Comments: Pilko Steve & Ben: The “Who is Nathan Carswell?” story in the view of the editors does not disclose personal information and therefore the privacy issue does not arise.