Now, as the dust settles, our new parliament would do well to consider reinstating the vacant position of Government Architect to provide qualified independent direction for the State’s civic planning. Tasmania is still the only state in the country yet to secure the professional advice, deliberation and foresight needed to circumvent disasters such as those surrounding the contractual obligations and inconceivable imposition of the Macquarie Point Stadium.

To be fair, Labor once supported the office. For just three years (2009 –2012) Tasmania was treated to the fleeting experiment of an independent Government Architect, but this vital planning body was doomed by political infighting, with the Liberal Opposition attacking the role and calling the department costs of $330,000 a year “an extravagance”.

In January 2012, the Liberals called for the office of the State Government Architect to be abolished. In an exquisite example of retrospective irony, the (then) opposition spokesman Jeremy Rockliff told the ABC:

“There is no better time to abolish this position. It’s a luxury that the State Government can no longer afford. This is not an essential service. Essential services are particularly those social services at the frontline of our education and health systems. (ABC, January 12, 2012)

Sensing his fate (and with no bitterness) the highly credentialed Government Architect, Professor Peter Poulet, resigned shortly after and was immediately snapped-up by a grateful NSW to become its new Government Architect.

On his departure, the professor politely advised the Government to consider employing a Tasmanian if the position were to be maintained.

“There are very good local people who could do the job admirably”, Mr Poulet said.

“In fact, in many ways, my job was to establish the position – establish its credentials – a local person who knows the lay of the land and who understands the nuances of doing business in Tasmania could hit the ground running.”

Mr Poulet said he was proud of his achievements, including a master plan for Sullivans Cove and a state-wide public housing strategy emphasising energy efficiency.

“I’ve instilled an understanding in the community here that good urban design and good sustainable architecture are worthwhile and worth pursuing.”

Surely, if it was readily available, even a glory-seeking AFL tragic like the Premier would have possessed the minuscule prudence needed to seek instant 3-dimensional-survey feedback as to whether such a massive arena would actually fit on Gill’s nominated site prior to signing up the state to decades of debt. Had he done so, most of the subsequent controversy could have been avoided.

In the lead up to the election, at least ten million dollars had been spent on consultants and preliminary planning for the folly of a Macquarie Point Stadium, an amount that would have maintained the existence of Rockliff’s “extravagant luxury” not only throughout those last twelve years, but to well beyond the next fifteen years. The irony is the millions of dollars spent on architectural consultants for the doomed Mac Point stadium could have built many, many homes.

This is no ‘luxury’. Tasmanian cities should, and can, lead the country as exemplars of new and repurposed development. As an independent design body, a State Government Architect would, together with public consultation, provide critical guidance in all town planning decisions, and – as a modelling filter – would surely have exposed the insobriety of an AFL-intoxicated Premier forcing the sour wine of his poisoned chalice down the throats of so many blindfolded Tasmanians.