Over the past few weeks, here at Our Place we’ve examined the issue of a stadium at Macquarie Point through several lenses – political, economic, integrity and transparency. We have discussed how it simply can’t be made to stand up on any of those grounds. For our final analysis, we’re turning our minds to the issue of planning and the capacity of this relatively small, fragile, and historically important corner of the Hobart waterfront to accommodate a structure of this size, shape and purpose.


The Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC) released its assessment guidelines for A Multi-purpose Stadium at Macquarie Point as a Project of State Significance the day after the Premier called the election. Anyone who’s had the time to peruse these guidelines can see how restrictive they’ll be for any half-baked plans drawn up between two individuals with no experience in planning and no real understanding of the site, on the back of a beer coaster after a night at the pub.  Seriously, what were they thinking?

A thorough reading of the guidelines leads one to ponder how satisfying them might even be possible considering the huge hurdles such a proposal would have to leap. To be ‘recommended’ by the Tasmanian Planning Commission, the stadium proposal has to present written reports and drawings addressing 27 pages of guidelines, apply the rules of more than a dozen Parliamentary Acts, State and Local Government planning instruments, and associated pieces of legislation, and address the specific needs of a variety of different community groups and organisations, including the Aboriginal community, the Heritage Council, the RSL, neighbouring landholders and residents, architects and planners, as well  as the wider Tasmanian community from the north to the south who will all be affected, many adversely, by our State’s expenditure on a proposal of this size.

So, what are the hurdles?

1. Can it fit? This is where the Cinderella exercise begins.

Starting with the minimum requirements as specified in the Contract and then adding a ‘run-off’ zone, an interchange area with coaches’ boxes, fencing, stands, corridors and outer walls, all surrounded by an apron for vehicular and safe pedestrian access, the footprint soon emerges as a minimum of 255mtrs x 235mtrs.

No amount of shoehorning will enable that footprint to fit on-site without impinging on Evans Street and compromising the cliff around the Cenotaph plateau. Squeezing other cultural, commercial and residential land uses into corners around a stadium just to meet the ‘urban renewal’ criterion is poor planning, bordering on farcical.

2. Can the site support such a mass?

Prior to British occupation, the area today identified as Macquarie Point was not actually above water. The name Macquarie Point was ascribed to the end of the rocky headland now commonly called Regatta Point. A small curve of beach followed the line of the cliff back around the Cenotaph plateau, with the rivulet spilling into the sea near its SW corner. We may never know exactly how the Muwinina people used the area, but its seclusion and abundant water make it likely that it supported a sizeable group. Sadly, any evidence of rock art or middens is long gone.

Over the years of colonial settlement, the beach and bay were gradually filled in to create the site between Evans Street, the modern port and current shoreline. That reclamation process was intermittent, haphazard and inexpert. The land was only ever envisaged to support lightweight structures associated with the port – warehousing and goods storage.  Some of those structures remain today, with the Goods Shed recently given provisional heritage status.

In 2015 a site analysis noted that non-engineered fill with poor geotechnical qualities and low bearing capacity covers the site, making it unsuitable for even modest loading. Of course, ‘nothing is impossible’ but the engineering needed to support a large structure like a stadium will come at a high cost, something that hasn’t been factored into the equation so far. Nor has the potential environmental damage such engineering may cause.

3. Can a structure so high sit comfortably within this precinct’s skyline?

Macquarie Point is a heritage precinct whose buildings will be dwarfed by a stadium that has to be at least 40mtrs high to accommodate seating for 23,000. Roofing superstructure will add extra height to that – possibly up to 13mtrs extra. In terms of scale, consider the nearby Gasworks chimney, the tallest colonial structure in the neighbourhood, that stands at 33mtrs high and aligns tangentially to the southern curve of the stadium. Most subsequent structures along the coastline have adhered to a set of guidelines specifying mass and materials, resulting in a coherent landscape of moderate scale and proportion. The few that made it past the planners prior to the Sullivan’s Cove Planning Scheme (1997), are not widely lauded as good architecture that enhances the waterfront.

4. How is the amenity of the site impacted by a stadium?

For the existing buildings on Evans Street (Sullivan’s Cove Apartments, The IXL Atrium and Henry Jones Art Hotel), a structure to their north at more than twice their height will block their solar access, casting them into deep shade for much of the year. Sun angles and shadow diagrams indicate that the shadow cast at noon on the June Solstice is 2.29 times the height of the structure. A roofed stadium will be at least 43mtrs high, meaning that the shadow will extend 98.5mtrs due south – more than enough to cross Evans Street and shade the roofs of the IXL Apartments, the Atrium, and Henry Jones Art Hotel, blocking their solar access and increasing their need for artificial heating in the colder months. Showing these buildings in ‘artist’s impressions’ as fronting a tree-lined boulevard is pure fantasy as the shadows extend even further at sunrise and sunset.

Because the MPDC’s own plans show that the Macquarie Point site is simply too small to accommodate the preferred footprint of 255mtrs x 235mtrs, it is the apron that will be the logical sacrifice.  This will further compromise surrounding structures – commercial, residential, hotels, parks and so on – with narrow access ways between it and the IXL precinct, the Cenotaph, and the northern shoreline. Wind shear, down drafts and the Venturi effect will render these zones unpleasant and therefore unpopular for much of the year.

The Aboriginal Culturally Informed Zone squeezed in between the stadium and the busiest road network in Hobart, looks like an afterthought. The Palawa have been sidelined, ignored, and insulted.  The Indigenous foods garden has been razed, an Indigenous enterprise forced to close, and any hope of a Peace and Reconciliation Park abandoned to the bulldozers.

All views to and from the Cenotaph and the historic waterfront will be obliterated by a stadium in this location. The Cenotaph itself will be shadowed by the stadium to its south, bordered by a new major roadway for log trucks to its east and north-east, and a block of apartments will obstruct its views north over the Regatta Grounds.  This will diminish the Cenotaph and its surrounds.

Transport-wise too, this is the wrong location. Concentrating activity in such a confined area, on a headland, creates huge transport and communication infrastructure problems, isolated as it is from the CBD by the existing convoluted road network at that point in the city’s traffic grid. To overcome this separation, massive un-costed works will be required. For instance, the MPDC’s draft plan shows a bridge from Collins Street spanning the two highways to reach Mac Point. Such a bridge will minimally cost $30M (based on the price for the Remembrance Bridge, which was shorter and had the advantage of topography, yet cost $11M in 2018).

There has been no mention of the amenity the community stands to lose. There is nothing ‘inclusive’ about a stadium. Putting an inward focussed structure on a piece of prime waterfront land is simply wrong-headed.

The themes of the area – Aboriginal history and occupation, commemoration of those who died in wars, and the views to the mountain and Derwent River – could be united in a cohesive vision, but the MPDC’s draft precinct plan is not it. It barely pays lip service to our Indigenous and Veteran communities. It won’t attract interstate tourists who can see large sporting fixtures in their own states. It’s inconsistent with Tasmania’s tourist branding which ranges from places of magnificent natural beauty to quirky, even intimate, cultural experiences.

Put simply, a stadium at Macquarie Point is the wrong priority in the wrong place.