Image for Mt Wellington and the cable car: The quick and easy road ...

*Image: Gwenda Sheridan. © Mount Wellington from the Eastern Shore.

First published July 31

The Cable Car (MWCC) proposal has been around for at least 7 years, according to its website:

Long ago it ought to have been declared a Project of State Significance (POSS), this due to the complexity, size, scale and scope of the proposal.

It still needs to be declared a Project of State Significance at this juncture in 2017. 

Tasmania has a Resource Management and Planning System (RMPS); Schedule 1 sits within the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act.

One wouldn’t think so, given the present debacle.

The Government and the planning process:

The Government must abide by its own legislation as must other key players in this scenario.

The Tasmanian Planning Commission is the most appropriate body to assess this proposal.

Instead we have the Hodgman Government wanting Parliament to authorise a change re land tenure; one that I professionally view as interference in the planning process.  It wants the Legislative Council to pass the Mount Wellington Cable Car Facilitation Bill 2017   ̶  as I understand it ̶  so that under the Land Acquisition Act 1993, the land in question would have Crown Land tenure. It would no longer be land under the ownership of the Hobart City Council.

The opacity of detail; what has not been released in the public domain is staggering.

The Government advocate the “land swap” while the public have

(1) no knowledge of how much private land is involved, (ie Carlton United Breweries and or others),
(2) how much is public land (Wellington Park),
(3) exactly where the transit corridor route is intended to go across the Organ Pipes,
(4) no elevations having been forthcoming of the cafe/restaurant apparently perched on, or very near the edge of Organ Pipes,
(5) that there appear to be two aerial lift facilities proposed, a gondola type (?) but as well a Skytram type (?) (capacity and size of the latter not known).

The list of unknowns for the public is very significant.

Finally the Government want the Hobart City Council to assess the project whilst assuring the public it can move through the planning process via the Resource Management and Appeals Tribunal. 

This ̶- as I see it ̶  has to be seen as a blatant attempt by the Hodgman Government to manipulate how the planning process ought to proceed.

To ask Parliament to become entangled in the planning process in this way diminishes the process, and diminishes parliamentary stature.

It’s a very ugly precedent to set and has wide ramifications.

It’s a shocking example to set in its “how-to” “do” planning in Tasmania.

In effect it makes a mockery of the planning process.

It takes us back to the Gunns Pulp Mill; remember that?

The Department of State Growth and the Coordinator General have been involved in the decision it would appear (See Mercury February 27, 2017).  Land acquisition was seen a major impediment to the MWCC as reported in that article.

Why is the Coordinator-General now the bureaucrat who makes such enormous planning decisions?

Land acquisition apparently remains a major roadblock impediment and if the Legislative Council removes that roadblock it effectively allows the proponent to walk in through the backdoor of the planning process, with much less investigation of the project.

Was the Tasmanian Planning Commission consulted at any stage?

Public reserve land and private land:

What makes this proposal so different from the local government development appraisal process is that this is public land or at least a hefty portion of it is public land; the Pinnacle area, the Organ Pipes, upper parts particularly of the eastern mountain face that all Hobartians daily look at.

It is vitally necessary that the proposal is rigorously examined scrutinised within an inch of its life.

Public reserved places such as national parks and reserves have been set aside for the protection of the conservation of/cultural and natural heritage values; these values uppermost. 

Register of the National Estate listing until 2012:

The land in question originally had Register of the National Estate (RNE) protection, and is considered to have IUCN Category II reserve status (National Park); thus conservation/protection of cultural and natural heritage must be uppermost in any decision making.  The Register of the National Estate listing is long, detailed and comprehensive in what was written re the natural values of the area.

Land in public places cannot just be seen to become a backdrop across which the economic, tourism and business lobby believe their values, their projects, outweigh all else.  In my world of heritage research and assessment   it is not “close and personal” for example to have skytrams moving constantly across the Organ Pipes.  Of placing a restaurant/cafe/ etc structure, (size unknown) forwards of the present Pinnacle shelter so that it will be perched much closer to the apex of what can be seen below from Hobart and its environs. 

Will the future photographs of the Organ Pipes all include a Skytram (or multiple skytrams) in the images?

In 2010 a five volume research report was completed for the Wellington Park Trust.  There were 41 recommendations made in respect of the evolved landscape of the northern, eastern, southern faces of the mountain.  This included landscape character and assessment values and a landscape history of the Mount Wellington area. A principal recommendation was put into the current Wellington Park Management Plan.  This is a part of the statement of significance from that Plan.

Mount Wellington has been identified as being ‘of outstanding value to Tasmania because of its ability to demonstrate that it is an iconic manifestation of an Associative Cultural Landscape in Australia. ... Across more than 200 years of white settlement time frame and space it may THE most outstanding Associative Cultural Landscape of its type in this country.’ (Sheridan 2010).  This statement applies to a wide range of historic cultural landscape values applicable to the eastern area of the Park and Mount Wellington in particular. 

Further recommendations were that the Wellington Park needed to be reinstated re its national listing, and that it potentially be considered for World Heritage Area listing.

An Associative Cultural Landscape:

While other countries worldwide have realised the potential tourist opportunities to cultural landscape overlays, Tasmania has kept its head in the sand.  It has had its head in the sand for some 20+ years over this issue and that of place/people.  The Public Land Use Commission was advocating cultural landscapes in 1996. 

History matters. The evolved landscape of place matters.  Beauty matters.  Wildness matters, especially when it sits on the doorstep of a capital city.

Tasmania is losing out on opportunities for different types of tourism, one which understands the history of, evolution of, and value of place.  The UK knows the value of this type of tourism very well.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites, in conjunction with the IUCN and UNESCO, places different types of landscapes into the WHA listings, worldwide.  Cultural landscapes exhibit evolved history of place.  They are authentic landscapes, places of enormous diversity, illustrative of the history of who we are and how the place(s) in question have evolved across time. This mountain place could well illustrate 65,000 years of culturally evolved history and authenticity. 

This needs to be celebrated and much more widely understood.


Tourism comes in all shapes and sizes and visitation can become very much a two-edged sword especially in fragile environments and relatively small areal spaces. 

Tourism appears to be the current play-thing of the Government in my opinion, taking the quick and easy road, potentially destroying in the process what is most beautiful about this island.

Modern tourists demand so much more in the twenty first century than they did in the latter half of the eighteenth century when the Grand Tour visitation began.  Then, such landscapes were revered, written about for posterity, painted with great appreciation, some labelled ‘Sublime’ places.  It wasn’t then a visitor experience, tick-the-box-exercise, onto-the-next-one, as so much of it appears to be today.

It might be of interest to note that Niagara Falls was once a wild area, in 1801.  It became the icon of tourism in North America,  of the Sublime whilst more and more trappings of “civilisation” came to be built around its edges.  Even in the early 1900s, the natural landscape surrounding the Falls was still very much in evidence.

Mount Kosciusko:

In the early 1970s, over a million visitors a year descended on Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciusko.  Then apparently ‘conserved’ within the Kosciusko National Park, the nation’s highest mountain was threatened with being lowered to provide a car park for vehicles and buses. 

The highest mountain in the nation now cannot be accessed by buses, cars, and there is no cable car, or other like structure. Visitors are able to ride a bike, walk or in winter ski or use a snowmobile to reach the summit.
Past park managers simply took a pro-active decision to stop the honey pot area (the summit) from becoming an ever larger problem. In 1981, in its Management Plan the brave decision was made to close the road at Charlotte’s Pass.

What park managers call honey-pot places can quickly occur without appropriate management.

The Mount Wellington area has never in its thousands of years of life history had a landscape-detracting development straight up its central middle, eastern flank to the top, with constructed “playground tourist” area in the foothills and a “Pinnacle Centre” perched on, or too close to, the edge of the Organ Pipes.  With linear transit connecting infrastructure in between.

The connection between people and place is a very deep one.  It has always been present. Some places touch us most intimately. Christopher Alexander6   explained it well in the The Timeless Way of Building.

There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, a wilderness ...  This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.
The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person, and the crux of any individual person’s story.  It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.7

Postscript: The Mount Wellington Cable Car Facilitation Bill 2017 will come before the Legislative Council 4 August. 2017.

*Gwenda Sheridan has chalked up around 50 years in planning, heritage, and landscape related work; the past 30 in Tasmania. Member of the Planning Institute of of Australia, and International Council on Monuments and Sites, a member of Australian-ICOMOS, International Scientific Committee-Cultural Landscapes. With many others helped bring forward Woolmers and Brickendon for WHA listing.  Someone who passionately believes that we need wild places, and a lot more balance in planning between conservation of/development of place; that our Tasmanian heritage (thousands of years of it) is of critical importance as to how we move forward. 

Refs ...
Christopher Alexander: The Timeless Way of Building. Oxford University Press.  1979.  ix. 19
See also and the Nature of Order.

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