Transparency on buildings
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