The company behind a proposal for a cable car on Hobart’s kunanyi/Mt Wellington has made a public apology to a leading environment academic for giving the impression he supported the proposal.
In a glossy booklet, the Mount Wellington Cableway Company (MWCC) quoted Professor Ted Lefroy, the director of the University of Tasmania’s Centre of Environment, as saying the project’s, “environmental footprint per person would be a lot smaller than cars if you look at the energy footprint and carbon footprint”.
MWCC on Friday printed a notice in a newspaper apologising to Professor Lefroy for not covering his full views and giving the impression he supported their proposal.
“The extract was limited to reproducing Professor Lefroy’s comments concerning the potential environmental footprint of a cableway,” the apology read.
“Professor Lefroy has requested that it be pointed out that his comments as to environmental footprint were only a part of his comments … which also includes his opinion regarding MWCC’s lack of social licence.”
In the same interview the quote was taken from, Professor Lefroy said:
“The cable car company would probably have to drop this proposal or at least start all over again because they got off on the wrong foot. They don’t have a social licence.
“They should have identified representative groups who are likely to find it confronting and talk to them first. And then they could have gone to the Government and the Government wouldn’t have to be the ally in secrecy.”
Paragliding claims also questioned
In the same promotional booklet, MWCC also talks about installing a dedicated paragliding launching ramp at the summit of Mount Wellington.
It states: “We’re keen to make this mind-blowing pursuit safer and more environmentally friendly.
“We’ll look to foster a flight school and tandem tour operator to set up shop too. Park. Fly. Repeat. Enjoy!”
But Iain Clarke from the Tasmanian Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (THPA) said his organisation was not aware of any such plans and had not had any communication with the proponent.
Mr Clarke said members met with the proponent for a detailed briefing in 2016, but the THPA resolved to neither support nor oppose the proposal.
He said his organisation had not been consulted since about the company’s recently advertised plans for paragliding launch ramps and flight schools, despite being the only state sporting organisation charged with administering the sport’s activities.
“Ultimately, it will be the THPA determining the future of any such proposals,” he said.
The MWCC has been contacted for comment.
Cable Car company ‘quiet’ amid council elections
In August, the Company released revised plans for the project, which would see it start near McRobies Road in South Hobart and travel over the Organ Pipes, carrying up to 80 people per car.
Later that month, the Hobart City Council voted to deny MWCC access to public land while considering the company’s request to do a flora-and-fauna survey in the area.
The company is yet to submit a development application to the Hobart City Council, the make up of which will change at the end of this month following local government elections.
Political analyst Kevin Bonham said the company was still likely to face an uphill battle for approvals under a new-look council.
“The previous council — when there was a vote about access to public land for the cable car — there were seven votes dead against it and four in favour of at least considering a flora-and-fauna survey,” he said.
He said two of the aldermen who voted against access had retired at this election.
“So there is some prospect of the numbers becoming more even,” he said.
But Dr Bonham said it would still be difficult for the proponent to gain approval from Council.
“If the five who completely opposed it last time all retain their seats and one more gets in who is also opposed, then that’s the end of any hope of majority in favour of a cable car,” he said.
He said there had not been much of a presence from MWCC in the lead-up to local government elections.
“I don’t know whether this is deliberate, whether there’s a fear that too much conflict about the issue could get out the vote for the anti-cable-car side and maybe the supporters might … prefer to be a little bit quieter than normal,” he said.
Dr Bonham said he was able to find views on the cable car from almost every candidate running for Council.
He said while there were slightly more candidates at least open to considering a development application, he thought it would still be hard for the MWCC.
“The results would have to go very well for them to progress the project further,” he said.
Government ‘supportive’ of project with ‘proper processes’
The company is also awaiting ministerial authority from the State Government to carry out works on Mount Wellington.
Environment Minister Elise Archer said the Government supported a cable-car project.
But she did not directly answer questions on whether the Government would consider major projects legislation or making it a project of state significance if it faced a hostile Hobart City Council after the local government elections.
“The Hodgman Government has been supportive right from the start of a cable-car project,” she said.
“Of course that is to ensure that it goes through all of the proper processes — the planning system, the approvals process — and that is a matter of course for the Hobart City Council, but the Tasmanian Government remains supportive of the benefits of a cable car to tourism here in Tasmania.”