Trans­parency on build­ings

Mercury (Hobart) - - LETTERS -

THE self-ap­pointed Friends of the Trea­sury Build­ings group is spot on: the peo­ple of Tas­ma­nia de­serve more in­for­ma­tion about the pro­pos­als to re­de­velop the his­toric site in Ho­bart’s city cen­tre.

Trea­surer Peter Gutwein on Mon­day re­vealed nine “sig­nif­i­cant” regis­tra­tions of in­ter­est had been re­ceived by the Gov­ern­ment as part of the first step in the three-stage process to sell or lease the build­ings to a pri­vate op­er­a­tor.

But he gave noth­ing more away. And that is what has riled the Friends of the Trea­sury Build­ings group. And it should. As the Mer­cury has said be­fore in this col­umn, the Gov­ern­ment must be more forth­com­ing when it comes to the pro­cesses around its ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est schemes. To not do so only fu­els those who sniff a con­spir­acy when the de­tails are re­leased, which hap­pens when the Gov­ern­ment de­cides to green-light the pro­pos­als — at which point they are sub­jected to the nor­mal ap­provals pro­cesses.

In re­sponse to the group’s con­cerns, Mr Gutwein said the pro­ject ob­jec­tives had been re­vised “as a re­sult of com­mu­nity feed­back” and the com­mu­nity would con­tinue to have op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­vide in­put.

In set­ting out the cri­te­ria for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est in the build­ings, the Gov­ern­ment out­lined “covenants to pro­tect and con­serve the build­ing for fu­ture

IN­STEAD OF THE GOV­ERN­MENT DO­ING THIS WORK BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, THE PUB­LIC SHOULD BE TAKEN ON THE JOUR­NEY. THESE BUILD­INGS DO NOT BE­LONG TO ANY ONE GOV­ERN­MENT

gen­er­a­tions”. It is clear there is an in­ten­tion to make sure the his­tor­i­cal in­tegrity of the her­itage-listed build­ings is pre­served.

There is no sug­ges­tion that any­thing un­der­hand is go­ing on, but the process means we sim­ply do not know what is be­ing dis­cussed or con­sid­ered.

The Gov­ern­ment says that is to en­sure the se­cu­rity of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. The Mer­cury says that im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion does not mean all ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est should be se­cret by de­fault un­til it de­cides which gets the green light. But they are.

The con­vener of the Friends group, Chris Mer­ridew, points out “this im­por­tant pub­lic process re­mains a mys­tery” with many ques­tions out­stand­ing.

He says there is no de­tail on what the cri­te­ria were to whit­tle down the regis­tra­tions of in­ter­est that will go to the next stage. On this point Mr Gutwein re­vealed a lit­tle more de­tail yes­ter­day, say­ing the nine se­lected had ex­pe­ri­ence and a demon­strated ca­pac­ity “in de­liv­er­ing in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions for prop­er­ties such as the Trea­sury.”

Mr Mer­ridew also sug­gests the Gov­ern­ment re­lease, at the very least, a high-level sum­mary of the pro­pos­als. The Mer­cury agrees. In­stead of the Gov­ern­ment do­ing this work behind closed doors, the pub­lic should be taken on the jour­ney.

These eight her­itage-listed build­ings are per­haps the state’s most his­toric, hav­ing served over their al­most-200-year his­tory as the state’s first Supreme Court, po­lice sta­tion and cells, post of­fice, and ex­ec­u­tive build­ing. They do not be­long to any one gov­ern­ment. Their fu­ture, there­fore, needs to be one de­cided on through proper con­sul­ta­tion with Tas­ma­ni­ans.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity for all edi­to­rial com­ment is taken by the Ed­i­tor, Chris Jones, Level 1, 2 Sala­manca Square, Ho­bart, TAS, 7000

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