Our future city

The City of Hobart has recently issued a document entitled ‘Central Hobart Precincts Plan – Discussion Paper’.

It is a glossy document with the wording being very much in ‘planning speak’. For example, it talks of ‘gritty’ precincts, historic references and ‘building form’.

It is an aspirational document with a vision for ‘our island capital’. One of the 6 visions is that ‘Hobart breathes’, and another ‘We walk in the fresh air between all the best things in life’. It confirms that central Hobart is the state’s Centre for commerce and education, as well as being an international gateway to Antarctica.

It is a document that invites and encourages discussion and is part of a process being followed by council in reaching an endpoint for planning the future makeup of the city, and in particular for the ‘living environment’.

It is accompanied by a second document, called an ‘Economic, Demographic and Employment Study – Covid Update’, which is designed to inform it with some hard data as to population and employment details.

It then presents 20 separate ideas under 5 city-shaping goals and goes into some detail as to how those ideas might be realized. We are highlighting this report for our clients so you may read it and inform yourself; we cannot comment on the detail of these 5 goals and 20 ideas and so the comments here are more general in nature.

The authors have divided central Hobart into 5 separate precincts for planning purposes, and each has its own character defined. Those zones, as seen on the map (below), are Central and four future ‘urban neighbourhoods’, being Elizabeth Midtown, Trinity Campbell, Wapping, and Rivulet. The document provides a description of each, together with possible future activity.

Of interest is that the planned move by the University into the Centre of Hobart will span all five precincts and will inevitably dominate the future directions of each.

The document continually refers to the character of the city and promotes an agenda of livability: nothing wrong with that. However, livability also means being able to afford to live, and it seems to be a bit light on when it comes to the crunch point.

Aspirational documents by their nature focus on the desired outcomes, however in our view downplays the need for the city to be a commercial Centre. Investment and commerce simply does not happen. And yet experience shows that a hiccup to the commercial fabric of the city, such as the Myer fire, can lead to a devastating effect on surrounding businesses.

Similarly, the authors suggest that people will want to come to the city from outlying areas, irrespective of any obstacles that are thrown in their way. History shows that people are not going to ride their bikes from Kingston to go shopping in town – or for that matter catch public transport to do the same.

Talk of attracting people to come to the city from outlying areas needs to be supported by providing facilities for travel and parking. Yes, parking. Anathema to those who want to plan our lives, but essential if people are going to be attracted into town and support commercial activity which we suggest is one of the facts as to why people enjoy our lifestyle.

How this document sits in the context of pushing greater Hobart towards regional planning also warrants consideration. The document does not really address this topic – should it? Is greater Hobart planning a real thing or not? It seems the focus for the regional councils is in providing facilities for their own inhabitants. Glenorchy, Kingston and Rosny have become large community centres in their own right, and the need for people in those areas to come to the city are diminishing.

Planning is of course critical to the future of our city, however change is occurring to lifestyle and working habits at a faster rate than ever. How do you plan for that? We need to understand that humans will behave in a human way, which is not necessarily logical or conforming to a grand vision.

The documents make for interesting reading, and can be accessed as follows: