Approval to drill into Mount Wellington for cable care project continues to draw criticism

Authority given to start preliminary work on the Mount Wellington cable car project highlights weaknesses in the state’s development laws, a planning reform advocate believes.

It was revealed on Tuesday that State Growth Minister Peter Gutwein gave approval for drilling and construction of temporary scaffolds to take place on the mountain’s summit in preparation for a cable car development.

Parliament last year passed legislation which would allow it to compulsorily acquire land owned by the Hobart City Council at the mountain’s summit, which in turn, would allow the cable car project to proceed.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said Mr Gutwein signed an authority for the preliminary work on the same day the Mount Wellington Cable Car Company cancelled a community consultation meeting.

“The legislation represents an unfair leg-up that puts developer interests ahead of the community, with the public shut out of consultation and a fundamental lack of transparency and accountability over a development that exploits cherished public land for private company gain,” he said.

Planning Matters Alliance Tasmania convenor Sophie Underwood said that the minister could sign off on drilling in a protected area without a public announcement showed the inherent weakness of the state’s planning laws.

“Without strong planning laws that enshrine public participation and robust rights of appeal, we’ll always have Governments putting the interests of developers ahead of the community,” she said.

“The Tasmanian Planning Scheme and the proposed major projects legislation will put more power into the hands of the minister, create more exemptions, and reduce the role of local councils and the public in planning decisions.”

Premier Will Hodgman told media on Tuesday that we was not aware that approval had been given to start preliminary work for the cable car project.

Labor’s Scott Bacon said this was inconceivable.

“It’s simply not believable that the State Growth Minister would sign off on drilling and surveying on Mount Wellington without informing his cabinet colleagues,” he said.

Mr Gutwein said Labor approved the legislation in both houses of Parliament.

“It's important to be clear: the approvals I have given provide access to land in Wellington Park for the purpose of undertaking a site investigation to prepare a planning application only.

“The project will still need to receive development approval in the usual way before any construction work can begin.

“The legislation ... is neither project nor proponent specific. It is open for potential cable car proponents to utilise this legislation, if they so wish.”