NEW LORD MAYOR

Anna Reynolds chats over a cuppa about her plans for the city.

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - UPFRONT - WORDS AMANDA DUCKER PHO­TOG­RA­PHY SAM ROSEWARNE

Trick or treat? Ho­bart’s new Lord Mayor di­vides opin­ion. Anna Reynolds, whose win was an­nounced on Hal­loween night, swept in on a tide of change. Some are hail­ing the pro­gres­sive in­de­pen­dent as tai­lor-made for the times, but oth­ers think she is the worst thing since plas­tic pump­kins. The 51-year-old’s track record is strong on some of the most press­ing so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues of the day, she is a font of ideas for ur­ban re­newal and she has the po­lit­i­cal nous to both drive change and shep­herd the city through the chal­lenges of rapid growth.

But Reynolds’ el­e­va­tion is not a cause for uni­ver­sal cel­e­bra­tion. To oth­ers, she is a “wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing”, a Greens turn­coat nev­er­the­less poised to un­leash a rad­i­cal anti-progress agenda on poor un­sus­pect­ing Ho­bart. Whose win spells the end of boom-time build­ing and the be­gin­ning of the end of growth.

“I am cer­tainly in­ter­ested in devel­op­ment, but I think the idea of pro- and anti-devel­op­ment is an old di­chotomy, a bit like Right and Left,” Reynolds says in her al­most hyp­not­i­cally calm voice dur­ing an in­ter­view at her South Ho­bart home be­fore her swear­ing-in last Mon­day.

“To­day it’s all about style, di­rec­tion and suit­abil­ity of devel­op­ment. We have a choice. Do we set our bar high and say we want devel­op­ment, but we want it on our terms: re­spect­ful of her­itage, good de­sign, high en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, and ideally with de­vel­op­ers giv­ing back more to the com­mu­nity through the pro­vi­sion of af­ford­able hous­ing units and con­tri­bu­tions to bike lanes, foot­paths and trees?

“Or [do we ac­cept] the other type, the get rich quick, crass overde­vel­op­ment lobby that says all we need to think about is mak­ing it as easy as pos­si­ble for de­vel­op­ers to do ex­actly as they like and not to get in their way. Both of them are devel­op­ment agen­das, it’s just that one is say­ing that the com­mu­nity, and the coun­cil on be­half of the com­mu­nity, wants to en­sure devel­op­ment is re­spect­ful and high qual­ity.”

It was a dif­fer­ent land­scape five or 10 years ago. “Ho­bart was in the eco­nomic dol­drums and coun­cil gave away big in­cen­tives for de­vel­op­ers to build pretty or­di­nary build­ings just in the hope of get­ting eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.”

One of the new coun­cil’s first jobs may be re­spond­ing to a long-awaited devel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion for a ku­nanyi/ Mt Welling­ton cable car. “I am not a fan of the cur­rently ad­ver­tised project that I’ve seen the ba­sic pro­mo­tional ma­te­ri­als for be­cause of the route over the Or­gan Pipes, the very sub­stan­tial func­tion cen­tre and restau­rant built on it and the need to make avail­able pub­lic bush­land to be cleared to cre­ate a 2.3km road,” she says. “The whole pro­posal is ask­ing a lot of the Ho­bart land­scape.”

Any Mount Welling­ton Cable­way Com­pany ap­pli­ca­tion to Ho­bart City Coun­cil will be as­sessed on plan­ning law and pub­lic sub­mis­sion con­sid­er­a­tions. Un­able to com­ment de­ci­sively with­out a de­tailed pro­posal, Reynolds says at face value the pro­posal’s ma­jor im­pact on such a sig­nif­i­cant nat­u­ral fea­ture “could be a deal-breaker”.

Con­versely, she strongly sup­ports plans for light rail along the old rail cor­ri­dor be­tween Ho­bart city and the North­ern Sub­urbs as an ac­ti­va­tor for new medium-den­sity hous­ing as much as a mode of pub­lic trans­port. Shar­ing the vi­sion of the project’s long-term cham­pion, Glenorchy Mayor Kristie John­ston, Reynolds be­lieves the un­funded $100 mil­lion project, which may at­tract fed­eral City Deal back­ing, is a solid ex­am­ple of de­sir­able devel­op­ment with suc­cess­ful prece­dents else­where.

“I want to see our coun­cil be more proac­tive in driv­ing devel­op­ment like this that is good for the com­mu­nity, city de­sign and en­vi­ron­ment,” she says. “Our job as elected city lead­ers isn’t just to sit and wait for things to be pre­sented and wave them through. Our job is to help shape the city in the long-term pub­lic in­ter­est.”

She does not fully sup­port the cur­rent draft of the coun­cil-com­mis­sioned Build­ing Heights Stan­dards Re­view by ar­chi­tect and ur­ban de­sign con­sul­tant Leigh Wool­ley, which al­lows build­ings in the heart of the CBD to reach 60m (or 20 storeys).

“I think Leigh’s ap­proach is lim­ited to how the city looks from afar,” she says. “He presents [it as] if we build the city in this way, it will have this nice shape to it that’s in keep­ing with the moun­tain, but it’s al­most like he is view­ing the city from the Eastern Shore or the mid­dle of the river.

“While I re­spect his work from that [whole land­scape] per­spec­tive, I think we need to think about height in a much broader way. I’m not say­ing there is no place for 15-20 storey build­ings in Greater Ho­bart, but we have some­thing unique here we are rapidly los­ing, which is a charm­ing, hu­man-scale city that is worth a vast amount eco­nom­i­cally.

“Rather than ap­proach­ing [devel­op­ment] on the ba­sis of the prop­erty sec­tor’s profit mar­gin, I am think­ing about the broad­est eco­nomic ben­e­fits to the city, hang­ing on to our hu­man scale and not over­whelm­ing our her­itage.”

Reynolds con­ducted walk­ing tours around the city in the elec­tion lead-up to not only high­light her­itage but to show peo­ple what 60m feels like for a pedes­trian on the street. She is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the rec­om­men­da­tions for the next height zone out, on the West Ho­bart city fringe. Here she be­lieves four to six or eight storeys, not the 15 storeys sug­gested, would be ap­pro­pri­ate. Pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions on the Wool­ley rec­om­men­da­tions closed on Oc­to­ber 17, and the new coun­cil awaits a staff re­port, which will also con­sider pub­lic sub­mis­sions.

The walk­ing tours were also a way of har­ness­ing en­thu­si­asm for her­itage restora­tion in re­tail areas. Her plan over the next four years is to grow the coun­cil’s her­itage unit and en­sure it is re­sourced be­yond re­port-writ­ing ca­pac­ity and into restora­tions and beau­ti­fy­ing of our her­itage streetscapes. “There is a lot of her­itage in the in­ner city which is hid­den be­hind bad awnings or air­con­di­tion­ing units,” she says. She points to smaller Vic­to­rian ci­ties Bal­larat, Bendigo and Perth’s Fre­man­tle as in­spi­ra­tions. “I was gob­s­macked by the high qual­ity streetscapes in Fre­man­tle,” she says. “It felt very in­tact whereas in Ho­bart we have lost some of that in­tact­ness.”

In­ter­na­tion­ally, she keeps an eye on ur­ban re­newal in many places but thinks Ed­in­burgh is a par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing case study for Ho­bart. “It’s a fairly small city, eco­nom­i­cally vi­brant and with an in­cred­i­ble brain gain, with one of the high­est rates of ter­tiary-ed­u­cated peo­ple in Eu­rope. And it has de­fended the char­ac­ter and her­itage of its city, un­der­stand­ing its great eco­nomic value, and in­vested in its peo­ple, fes­ti­vals and cre­ativ­ity.”

She is a fan of pi­lot projects to en­hance streetscapes and im­prove amenity around the city and sub­urbs. Though she doesn’t like the term “tac­ti­cal ur­ban­ism”, she em­braces the con­cept. “The idea is that if you want to test a new bike lane in Collins St, say, rather than de­vel­op­ing the plans, putting them out for con­sul­ta­tion, get­ting them through coun­cil, find­ing the money and build­ing it, you do some­thing quickly, trial it, see how peo­ple re­spond to it and build the com­mu­nity sup­port for it.

“I will be ad­vo­cat­ing for much more of this ap­proach. Coun­cils and gov­ern­ments around the world are strug­gling [fi­nan­cially] and some­times we overdo things. We feel we have to cre­ate enor­mous plans and com­pletely dig up the street with mas­sive and ex­pen­sive in­fra­struc­ture [be­fore test­ing the wa­ters] with pop-ups and con­sid­er­ing less ex­pen­sive op­tions.”

She is con­cerned a State Gov­ern­ment takeover of Mac­quarie and Davey streets may re­sult in alien­at­ing free­ways, lost ten­an­cies and “a Brooker High­way-type sit­u­a­tion”. While this might tem­po­rar­ily ease traf­fic con­ges­tion, she says such a move would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. “The small-busi­ness com­mu­nity is an im­por­tant part­ner in mak­ing our streets more vi­brant. That’s a big shift hap­pen­ing around the world: peo­ple-friendly streets are bet­ter for busi­ness.”

We are sit­ting at the kitchen ta­ble of the lovely old weather­board farm­house high in South Ho­bart she shares with her part­ner, Mark Horstman, a lead­ing sci­en­tist com­mu­ni­ca­tor (whom you may recog­nise from ABC-TV’s Cat­a­lyst), their 17-year-old son Jarra and 11-year-old daugh­ter Jess. Be­hind her are an ex­quis­ite con­grat­u­la­tory bunch of pe­ony roses and lilies that look just right in the laid-back el­e­gance of her liv­ing room. On the front porch are stacks of cam­paign posters with her beam­ing face and “Go Anna!” stamped on them, with Mark and an off­sider out re­triev­ing the rest of them be­fore pre­dicted big winds hit.

She thinks her new role will be quite man­age­able in their usual busy fam­ily mix. She knows there will be oc­ca­sions when Jarra and Jess get frus­trated she is not there, but it’s not as if she is schlep­ping off to Can­berra reg­u­larly, she says.

Ev­ery job has its ups and downs for a fam­ily and a dy­namic modus operandi is the norm for this one. “We’ve al­ways had both par­ents work­ing. There were times when I was go­ing to Can­berra reg­u­larly, and Mark would be off to Antarc­tica. There’s al­ways been a lot of com­ings and go­ings and try­ing to share things. It’s not like we’ve al­ways had one of us at home pack­ing lunches and do­ing the wash­ing.”

Reynolds was a politi­cian’s daugh­ter, too. Her mother Mar­garet was a sen­a­tor for 16 years. “I can re­mem­ber be­ing a lit­tle re­sent­ful in some ways be­cause Mar­garet had to go off to Can­berra. I had a bit of at­ti­tude,” she says with a laugh. Her fa­ther is em­i­nent his­to­rian Henry Reynolds.

On the evening of Hal­loween, two days be­fore our visit, Reynolds’s at­ten­tion was flick­ing be­tween her iPad and the spaghetti bolog­naise she was cook­ing for Jess and six of her school friends. The girls were get­ting ready for trick or treat­ing when the elec­tion re­sult was con­firmed on screen. Reynolds ex­pe­ri­enced a quiet ‘wow’ mo­ment be­fore the girls ap­peared in ghostly dis­guise, this news­pa­per rang for com­ment and a bunch of roam­ing neigh­bour­hood kids ar­rived at the front door in search of sweets. “It was a lovely mo­ment, work, fam­ily, all rolled into one,” she says.

Reynolds gained the most metaphor­i­cal lol­lies by far for mayor. It was a stun­ning vic­tory, with Reynolds on 62.35 per cent, well ahead of run­ner-up Da­mon Thomas on 37.65 per cent. What seemed to be a slug­gish voter re­sponse over the three-week postal bal­lot pe­riod ended with a flurry that shot par­tic­i­pa­tion in the vol­un­tary elec­tion to a record level. Reynolds also topped the al­der­manic poll, with more than dou­ble the votes of sec­ond-run­ner Thomas.

When her mo­ment came for dress-ups at her swear­ing-in cer­e­mony on Mon­day, Reynolds wore the may­oral chains but ditched the tra­di­tional gown, tri-cor­nered hat and lace gloves. It was a sym­bolic ges­ture that her­alded the dawn­ing of a new era, a change also ap­par­ent in the new coun­cil line-up, which in­cludes four new faces. Fa­ther and daugh­ter Mike Dutta and Zelinda Sher­lock, Holly Ewin and Si­mon Behrakis join re­turn­ing al­der­men Thomas, Jeff Briscoe, Tanya Deni­son, Bill Har­vey, Peter Sex­ton and Marti Zucco. With Green He­len Bur­net win­ning the deputy role, Ho­bart City has its first fe­male lead­er­ship pair.

“It is a coun­cil that is more broadly re­flec­tive of the com­mu­nity that we are serv­ing,” Reynolds says. “It is a more youth­ful coun­cil with one-third of the al­der­men aged 40 or younger. And it is a more cul­tur­ally di­verse coun­cil. There is strength in di­ver­sity and so the mix of new and in­cum­bent, men and women, younger and older, as well as a di­ver­sity of per­spec­tives should make this is a very in­ter­est­ing and bal­anced coun­cil.”

Reynolds and Bur­net did not have a close work­ing re­la­tion­ship dur­ing the pre­vi­ous term though they rep­re­sented the same party for most of it. Reynolds left the Greens in March when she re­alised she was act­ing as an in­de­pen­dent any­way, with­out the sol­i­dar­ity she had ex­pected a party al­liance to bring. “I think it will be an in­ter­est­ing new chap­ter for us,” she says. “It’s clear the com­mu­nity like the idea of me in the may­oral role and He­len in the deputy role. I think we will rise to the chal­lenge.”

They of­ten voted to­gether on big is­sues last time, she says, adding that her own style of work­ing can take oth­ers some get­ting used to. “It’s funny with pol­i­tics. There’s how you ap­proach is­sues, your phi­los­o­phy and the con­cerns that drive you, but there’s also how you ‘do’ your pol­i­tics. Some­times you can be very sim­i­lar in your be­liefs on is­sues, but you might have a dif­fer­ent ap­proach in the nuts and bolts of how you do is­sues.

“I’ve brought all my cam­paign­ing, lob­by­ing and pol­icy back­ground into coun­cil and some of my ap­proaches would [have been] a lit­tle bit new to many of the other coun­cil­lors, not just He­len. One al­der­man said to me soon af­ter the [2014] elec­tion,‘why are you still cam­paign­ing, why are you still out there rais­ing is­sues and do­ing me­dia?’ And I said ‘that’s how I work’. You get change whether you are work­ing for an NGO, a cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion or as a de­ci­sion-maker by bring­ing cam­paign­ing skills to those roles: rais­ing aware­ness, look­ing for al­lies, build­ing the case for pol­icy change.”

She de­scribes the last elected mayor, Sue Hickey, as a very good re­tail politi­cian. “She knows how to iden­tify some­thing peo­ple are con­cerned about and then speak about it and en­gage with peo­ple. I think she is very clever in that re­spect… Sue came in with an idea of im­prov­ing pub­lic toi­lets, which is a great and prac­ti­cal and tan­gi­ble am­bi­tion. I have a slightly dif­fer­ent or big­ger [vi­sion]. I hope my am­bi­tions for the role and Ho­bart cover a broader scope.”

She says a writer friend help­ing her re­fine her cam­paign ma­te­rial kept ask­ing her “What’s your pub­lic toi­lets?” But she was un­able to nar­row her fo­cus. “I am in­ter­ested in so many things. I guess my equiv­a­lent over my term as an al­der­man was ac­tion in the sub­urbs of Ho­bart — play­grounds, foot­path up­grades and pedes­trian cross­ings. My most prac­ti­cal work in the past four years has been work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties on im­prov­ing neigh­bour­hoods. By do­ing that, not only do we build a lovely city full of vi­brant, easy to live in places, we build the so­cial cap­i­tal. If peo­ple have a great neigh­bour­hood and it’s easy to get around in, they meet each other and de­velop con­nec­tions and their own ideas and projects.”

Anna Reynolds was born in Townsville in 1967 and raised in North Queens­land by her Tas­ma­nian par­ents, whose roots here stretch back to 1850. The fam­ily vis­ited the state ev­ery Christ­mas, with Henry and Mar­garet also re­turn­ing south to live, at Rich­mond, about a decade ago. The North Queens­land home of Reynolds’s child­hood was full of ideas, peo­ple and striv­ing. Her aca­demic fa­ther was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly en­gaged in indige­nous land is­sues, go­ing on to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the his­toric Mabo de­ci­sion that led to the Aus­tralian Par­lia­ment pass­ing the Na­tive Ti­tle Act in 1993. And as a teenager Reynolds watched her mother en­ter Townsville lo­cal coun­cil for a term be­fore en­ter­ing the Se­nate. Reynolds all but ruled out a fed­eral tra­jec­tory for her­self in an ear­lier in­ter­view with TasWeek­end.

She at­tended Pim­lico State High School in Townsville and went on to study at the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity in Can­berra. Her first job was as a rov­ing art teacher in Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties. As a young woman she was much more in­ter­ested in so­cial than en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. Her roles in­cluded set­ting up a north Queens­land of­fice of the Ten­ants Union of Queens­land in Cairns, while part­ner Mark worked for ris­ing Abo­rig­i­nal leader Noel Pear­son in land man­age­ment.

It was dur­ing those years that she be­came in­ter­ested in en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, join­ing the board of the Cairns and Far North En­vi­ron­ment Cen­tre. “I was in­ter­ested in the role the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment played in the dis­cus­sions about the fu­ture of Cairns and the re­gion,” she says.

Af­ter com­plet­ing her Mas­ters in Man­age­ment at Syd­ney’s Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, at 28 she be­came a na­tional lob­by­ist for the Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion. “Through that job, I learnt so much about par­lia­men­tary process, en­gag­ing with politi­cians, me­dia, bu­reau­crats and other stake­hold­ers,” she says.

Swept up in the emerg­ing cli­mate change move­ment in the lead-up to the Ky­oto Pro­to­col, she trav­elled to the Ja­panese city with the ACF in the late 1990s. En­gag­ing with en­vi­ron­ment groups at an in­ter­na­tional level, she came home to set up an Aus­tralian branch of the peak body Cli­mate Ac­tion Net­work in 1998. That set her path work­ing in cli­mate change for the next decade, with a switch to WWF in 2002, where she worked mostly on its in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change pro­gram un­til 2007.

Af­ter a shorter stint as a pri­vate sec­tor con­sul­tant to busi­ness, she moved her fam­ily to Ho­bart in 2009 to take up a job as in­ter­na­tional ad­viser to then Aus­tralian Greens leader and sen­a­tor Bob Brown. The role in­cluded for­eign pol­icy as­sis­tance and ca­pac­ity-build­ing of Greens or­gan­i­sa­tions in the Asia Pa­cific.

Dur­ing that time she worked closely with Ben Oquist, then Brown’s chief of staff and now ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Can­berra-based Aus­tralia In­sti­tute think­tank, which opened its first state branch in Tas­ma­nia two years ago.

“Anna matches the times,” says Oquist, who has been watch­ing his for­mer col­league’s ca­reer with sat­is­fac­tion. “Anna rep­re­sents the shift in Ho­bart to a mod­ern dy­namic city. That’s Anna to a T.”

He says he has ob­served her ca­reer up close and from a dis­tance over many years. “She comes to things with a great deal of en­ergy, per­sis­tence and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. That struck me right from the be­gin­ning when I saw her en­gage with Par­lia­ment House, bring­ing ideas that weren’t on the agenda.

“It’s no use sim­ply want­ing to change the world, a pol­icy or prac­tice. If you want to ef­fect change, you need a long-term view. She had an ac­tivist heart but a prag­matic brain. And I think she is a very eth­i­cal per­son.

“I think peo­ple will find she has and will work well with peo­ple from a wide va­ri­ety of back­grounds, so at­tempt­ing to pi­geon hole her will be at their detri­ment, not hers.”

When Brown left the Se­nate in 2012, Reynolds joined in­com­ing Greens leader Chris­tine Milne’s team be­fore mov­ing on to lead the Mul­ti­cul­tural Coun­cil of Tas­ma­nia, where her early pas­sion for so­cial is­sues found a new out­let. Dur­ing her time, the or­gan­i­sa­tion in­creased en­gage­ment with newer ar­rival com­mu­ni­ties and helped raise its pro­file through both events and me­dia. Back in the com­mu­nity space, the time felt right to have a tilt at coun­cil.

If you work in cli­mate change for long enough it’s easy to de­spair and feel over­whelmed by its mag­ni­tude, she says, ex­plain­ing her zigzag path­way into lo­cal pol­i­tics. She had no­ticed, though, that when she read about var­i­ous ci­ties’ proac­tive re­sponses to cli­mate change, she felt in­spired. “I be­gan to think that ci­ties were a re­ally in­ter­est­ing place to do work be­cause you could do very prac­ti­cal and tan­gi­ble things.”

She was elected as an al­der­man for Ho­bart on her first at­tempt, in 2014.

Her mother Mar­garet, who was the lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­is­ter fed­er­ally for three of her 16 years in the Se­nate, says the lo­cal sphere of gov­ern­ment is a vi­tal and some­times con­duit for com­mu­nity-led change and growth.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ment to­day is much more than roads, rates and rub­bish,” Mar­garet says. “Much as there’s a lot of work you can do in the fed­eral arena in terms of pol­icy re­form, I still main­tain lo­cal gov­ern­ment is per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant sphere, and if they both work to­gether with state, you can get ex­cel­lent out­comes for the com­mu­nity.”

What does she make of her daugh­ter’s rep­u­ta­tion as a nonon­sense op­er­a­tor with a steely re­solve? “She has pro­gres­sive views in many areas, but her prime fo­cus is how to achieve work­able agree­ments. Pol­i­tics is the art of com­pro­mise and Anna knows that. She knows what she wants to achieve and she will keep talk­ing and she may well be the last one talk­ing. She has the ca­pac­ity to try to work around prob­lems or bar­ri­ers peo­ple may put up.

“Many peo­ple who are not as into be­ing in a lead­er­ship role will say let’s not go there [in dis­cussing dif­fi­cult is­sues], but she sees things through un­til she gets an out­come.

“Strong women are still not univer­sally ad­mired in Aus­tralian pol­i­tics. Sadly they are still re­sented by some men and women. Any woman in a lead­er­ship po­si­tion faces that re­al­ity.

“In terms of Anna as she was grow­ing up, she has al­ways been a strong­minded in­de­pen­dent per­son and frankly I wouldn’t want to have raised a daugh­ter in any other way.”

Our new Lord Mayor, mean­while, says she feels well-pre­pared for chal­leng­ing days ahead.

“I’ve been around pol­i­tics and hos­tile de­bates around is­sues for most of my ca­reer,” she says in her usual calm man­ner.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant to stay fo­cused on the is­sues and un­der­stand that some­times you need to crack some eggs to make an omelet.”

Pic­ture: MATT THOMP­SON

Anna Reynolds with fam­ily, Jarra, Jess and Mark Horstman.

Clock­wise from top left: Anna Reynolds’s mother Mar­garet Reynolds, in 1987, as a La­bor Party sen­a­tor; Young Anna with her hand on the shoul­der of her mother Mar­garet and along­side her fa­ther Henry and sis­ter Re­becca; and check­ing out the Or­gan Pipes track on ku­nanyi/Mt Welling­ton in her role as an al­der­man with Ho­bart City Coun­cil last year.

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