I have little skin in the debate but Sunday’s gathering to protest the Mt Wellington Cable Car development can only be described as an overwhelming success. Some will try to downplay it by saying 5000 out of 500000 Tasmanians is only 1% off the population, but this is snide and disingenuous reasoning at best. Given that this is a local issue to Hobart, using the population of Tasmania as a whole for comparison purposes is unfair. Moreover the metrics of protests is that for anyone moved to attend a rally, there are probably ten times as many people who may not rally but still agree. This is also a risky path to go down for cable car proponents as it begs the question of how many supporters they could muster to a rally in favour if the development. It would be surprising if they could match or even manage half of last Sunday’s rally. Does that mean less than 1% of Tasmanians want a cable car?
I actually am not against a cable car outright. I could certainly be convinced to support a proposal such as this under the right circumstances.
However I am still far from convinced about this one.
The current cosy process that has existed between the state government and the Cable Car developers stinks and stinks badly. Adrian Bold recently admitted he was advised to keep quiet in the lead up to the election and the Hodgman Government has showed its penchant for cronyism and secrecy with its dealings with Federal, THA and Cascade. The last thing many Tasmanians want to see is another Gunn’s Pulp Mill fiasco- and this has many of the same hallmarks.
I also take very seriously the arguments that the powerful winds around Kunanyi would make the cable car inoperable for a significant proportion of the year. For me this is a really important point as one of the cable car’s selling points was that it could run on days when the road is closed, so I would be very interested to know the details about what strength wind the cable car would be safe in.
However there are also some fair arguments in favour of the cable car, which are perhaps not being communicated very well, in favour of simplistic strawman arguments painting all opponents as environmentalists opposed to any development.
If I could be persuaded that the cable car would be fit for purpose and could operate in Kunanyi’s volatile climate, I would certainly give weight to arguments about the ecological benefit of reduced vehicle traffic on the mountain. Moreover, Kunanyi is hardly virgin bushland. While large tracts of the area, especially its upper reaches are largely undisturbed, it still features numerous roads and houses, not to mention the huge radio tower and facilities at the summit. Those opponents of the cable car who want to keep the mountain in its pristine condition may find the horse has already bolted on that front.
I am also unconvinced that a cable car line along the proposed route would be the blemish on the skyline. Anyone who has been to the summit and realised just how big that radio tower is would realise that cable cars will be a lot smaller than the tower. Given the distance and scales at play here, I don’t imagine cable cars would be visible as little more than small dots as they ascend to the summit, and for much of the way to Ferntree they would be barely visible above the tree line.
I am ready to be convinced to support a cable car, but until I can see a transparent process that respects the intelligence of the community and makes a case base financially and structurally, I remain opposed. I certainly oppose giving the Cable Car Company free rein to build what they want with little by way of success criteria. Judging by the massive turnout last week, I’m certainly not alone.