The design professions of Town Planning, Landscape Architecture and Architecture all teach that the starting point for a project is to define a problem and its functional requirements (that is its size, potential impacts and their costs), and only then to identify a site fit for purpose. The Government’s Draft Precinct Plan for Macquarie Point demonstrates the disaster that we face when this well-established process is ignored.

The AFL – not known for its town planning prowess – demanded Mac Point as its chosen location. The Government agreed. Together, they have now set about trying to fit their problem into the site and to solve all the unforeseen constraints of the location, while placing the cost burden on the community. The student, after attempting such reverse engineering, would flunk – as have the stadium’s proponents.

To begin, the Draft Precinct Plan clearly demonstrates the stadium site’s isolation from the CBD by the Brooker and the Tasman Highways. To overcome the separation, massive un-costed works are required. For instance, the 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). Who pays for that?

One of the key criticisms to date has been that the stadium’s height – put by the government at 40m, but by leading architects and the RSL at somewhere between 45m and 55m – will tower over the nearby heritage buildings of Hunter Street and Sullivans Cove. Its scale impinges on the Royal Engineers building, on the Cenotaph and on the heritage listed Regatta Pavilion.

Yet, despite lots of glossy pages on stadia footprints and the like from the Government, the word “height” is mentioned just once in the Draft Precinct Plan. It’s on the last page under “Next Steps”. Here we are told that further planning will be done to set the “parameters” for height and design considerations. This is disingenuous. The government knows the height. That all of these issues will be dealt with as part of setting “parameters” sounds about as hopeful a statement as the Premier saying he will make the AFL draft next year. And as ludicrous.

The Draft Precinct Plan sees the Cenotaph shadowed by the stadium to the south, bordered by the new major roadway for log trucks to the east and north, and some fancy apartments to be built to the north of the Regatta Ground. It will diminish the Cenotaph and its surrounds. 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 magnificent vision.  But this draft precinct plan is not it. It is a planning disaster.

The traffic concept plan shows a reconstruction of the access from the Tasman highway to service Macquarie wharf. This proposed road into the port will separate the Domain from the foreshore. Yet, this is one of the last locations where the Domain—and thus the public, especially those who fish there or launch boats and kayaks—has direct access to the water without having to cross a major/heavy vehicle road.

This and other access works will cost further hundreds of millions of Tasmanian taxpayers’ money. Yet, as with so much of this project, no mention is made of the cost. No mention is made of the disruption to traffic on the Tasman highway, Tasmania’s busiest arterial road, as this construction proceeds over several years. If you thought traffic in Hobart was bad, get ready for far, far worse.

And it is not just cost that is ignored. There is no mention of what amenity the community loses.

Imagine sitting in the Regatta Pavilion watching the regatta or another event when a log truck rolls by in front of you. Indeed will you even be able to see the races with the proposed housing precinct in the way?

And what a failure of planning to put housing in such an isolated location. The Regatta Point apartments are cut off from services and are in the wrong place; they should be at Mac Point, complementing mixed housing and services, and an aboriginal cultural centre. It is an enclave in the making, with all the attendant social issues.

Finally, the Draft Precinct Plan identifies an “Aboriginal Culturally Informed Zone” which in location, shape, scale and association with the Royal Engineers Building seems an afterthought. The Plan tells us that this zone will be the “primary address” to Macquarie Point. Instead of a gracious gesture to Aboriginal presence in Tasmania over thousands of years and the Aboriginal community’s role in contemporary society, the proposed zone sits on an awkward strip of land abutting the highway with its noise and pollution, a site that lacks an outlook, located in the dark shadow of the stadium monolith. How do you tell a story of Country or create a sense of peace that allows reflection on the past and inspires a future in such a bleak and noisy place?

Click on the button below to read the Draft Precinct Plan.

The draft plan is not so much an unsuccessful effort to fit a square peg into a round hole, as an untruthful attempt to push a doughnut through the eye of a needle.

The Government and the AFL need to go back to Town Planning, Landscape Architecture and Architecture 101 and begin by finding a site better suited to a stadium. Then, when we know the real costs and the impacts on our community, we can talk.

And we will want to be heard on the real issues this whole debacle raises – not on sideline issues couched as survey questions about “activating” a site that assumes a stadium is to be plonked on it, thus deviously representing respondents as supportive of the stadium itself.