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Standing Committee on Infrastructure , Transport and Cities
Australian government's role in the development of cities

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PERKINS, Mr Craig, Chief Executive Officer, and Director, Regional Development, Regional Development Australia Tasmania Committee

NEWMAN, Ms Jen, Regional Development (South), Regional Development Australia Tasmania Committee

CHAIR: I now welcome representatives of RDA Tasmania to give evidence today. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Mr Perkins : I think it's worth noting I am also the mayor of Meander Valley Council in Northern Tasmania.

CHAIR: Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I now invite you to make an opening statement.

Mr Perkins : Thank you for the invitation to attend today. Our chairman, Tom Black, was going to come down, but sent an apology at the last moment. One of the roles that the RDA Tasmania Committee play in regional development around Tasmania is working with and engaging with all councils at all levels and with state government agencies. One of the things we notice is the intention for projects that need funding, for investment in the regions to help grow the local communities and the like. One of the things that we try to do is support with evidence base—provide guidance on projects, provide guidance on where they should be seeking investment from and try to make sure that those types of funding programs that they are accessing and the projects that they are delivering provide long-term sustainability to help grow the communities. I think that's a really important role in terms of understanding evidence based decision-making—where the evidence comes from and the role of the various levels of government play in supporting the growth of our communities, whatever scale and size that they are.

Our submission to the inquiry reflects that all of our regions are different, so all of our towns and cities are different. Working together becomes really important in terms of making decisions for the future of our communities so that they have sustainability, continue to grow and provide the same opportunities, be it in regional Tasmania, Hobart City Council or the mainland capitals, as best as you can, no matter where you choose to live and work. I think that's really important.

Mr GILES: Thank you very much, Mr Perkins and Ms Newman, for making the effort to come along and present your evidence in person and also for the really interesting submission that you provided in advance. Perhaps I should say that some of the high-level concerns that you've articulated just now and in your submission are matters that are of concern to us in this inquiry. Certainly, the Chair is always at pains to reflect on the challenge of settlement patterns rather than simply concentrating on those areas of growth. I think that's one of the things that we've been exploring already today, having spent a lot of time looking at the challenges of high-growth urban environments, to ensure that a national approach in this area reflects the different dynamics in different regions. That's one of the challenges that I'm interested in exploring with you: how Commonwealth government involvement can meet the needs of the diversity of Tasmanian urban communities. Perhaps you can wear a couple of hats in that regard, Mr Perkins. From an RDA perspective, what learnings have you taken on board from the Launceston City Deal?

Mr Perkins : We've talked about Hobart City Deal and lessons learnt up there. The Launceston City Deal identified the need for collaboration across various local governments—the importance of working at a strategic level across state and federal governments to make sure that large investments made into, in this case, a regional city have the lasting benefits that they have to deliver.

I often talk about the Launceston City Deal as not just a project of funding university change or improving the CBD of Launceston, which are some of the key infrastructure» elements that people will see; it's an opportunity to stop and reflect on where the cities have come from over 200 years and where they're going to head to. It's about using things like investment in the university not just as an opportunity to relocate a campus and what comes of that but also to reset the university to make sure it's delivering the right and appropriate types of learning, teaching and research that a regional community should have and access that those people, current generations and next ones, should have in a regional city.

The first point on the Launceston City Deal—it's a time to stop and reflect about how you continue to engage with your community more broadly about where those futures might look and how those substantial investments from the Commonwealth government are protected to make sure that they're delivering beyond the construction period of a university.

I often talk about the university as not moving the campus but now providing a modern facility that attracts the best teachers and that attracts the best students, so you end up with a greater quality of graduates that are delivering great productivity into the local economy. As a result of that, you should, hopefully, help sustain economic growth, livability, better value from the natural resources—from farming, tourism, mining, mineral processing and whatever else happens to exist over time.

The learning around a city deal about, say, a governance arrangement for future planning and making sure that you're stopping and checking along the way is not about, as people often say—it shouldn't be; it just annoys me a little bit that people say—'We want a city deal because the Commonwealth's got lots of money, and we should get some of that.' The money should follow. Good decision-making, a good evidence base, becomes the important thing. One of the important things, I think, with a city deal is the engagement with the stakeholders to make sure that it's moving along everybody's understanding about what the vision is about, not just a name for a government policy.

The other one, too, is that I think that, with city deals, whether they work for a city of Launceston's size or a capital city like Hobart, you should be able to take that same principle and deliver it to a smaller regional community. Don't call it a city deal, but it's the same sort of governance arrangements. I think that, when the Commonwealth's got a stake in the future of our communities, they have to have a future in the way that governance is planned. They don't have to come in and say what you should be doing, but they need to know that the governance arrangements are protecting the investment that those investments are making and the commitment the Commonwealth's making.

Mr GILES: How do you think the current institutional frameworks at a national level are helping fulfil those objectives at the moment, or what changes would you like to see?

Mr Perkins : A tough question, that one. When the city deal of Launceston came together, it was driven by some senior officers, particularly out of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and I think they did a really good job in pulling the stakeholders together. They engaged with the local stakeholders, the chambers of commerce, us as an RDA committee and the local councils to make sure everyone was in the room having the discussion. I think that becomes really important, but it was driven by somebody who, I guess, had the energy to do it. I'm not suggesting that the next person won't or doesn't have it, but you want these significant policy initiatives not to rely on a key person but rather to be embedded within government policy. I notice that the City Deals have now moved over to the Department of «Infrastructure» , Regional Development and Cities. Making sure that there are connections between the various silos of government becomes important. We were talking about whole of government and all that kind of stuff. You need to practically play that out, I think, as opposed to just talking about it. It's whole of government.

Mr GILES: We heard from Hobart council not that long ago that, in their mind, the time horizon for any such arrangement was critical. It probably is a similar way of delivering the same sort of outcome. They talked about a 10- to 15-year relationship. Is that something you'd concur with as something that's critical?

Mr Perkins : Well, yes and no. It is important. I think when you're making significant investments—if you look at Hobart, in my view, just as someone who travels down here regularly—it's the way that the city connects and operates with itself. If the university comes back into the city and the like, it's making sure it's functional. So it has to be 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. It has to be long lasting in terms of those investments, particularly if you're going to be putting money into significant road investments and universities, so it has to have a really long term focus. Nevertheless, I think if you're trying to engage with your local community about it, saying, 'Well, this is only going to be around for 50 years,' is fine, but they also like to see that the traffic snarl that they get stuck in in the morning is not going to be there in five years. So there's a bit of both, I think, in that, if you want to engage and put some reality around what it looks like in terms of your stakeholders, there needs to be that shorter term, but certainly it's a long-term investment. You can make a $100 million investment, and it's going to be there for a long time, so you want to make sure it's in the right spot.

Mr GILES: It seems to me that in the Launceston deal obviously the university's role in transforming the CBD and probably the wider economy is the anchor of the deal, and it seems also likely that it's going to be a similar arrangement in Hobart. I wonder whether you agree with that, but also I note that you talk, in terms of your economic development priorities, about education and skilling. Is getting educational inputs right a precondition if these things are going to work?

Mr Perkins : If you're building a city deal around economic growth and growing the economy sustainably, that's got to come from a capable population. There's no hiding the fact that Tasmanians' education standards are below where they should be, particularly outside the Hobart CBD. Hobart's got the highest proportion of university graduates in Australia per population, built around the CSIRO and IMAS and the university, so there's no lack of knowledge in Hobart. But, if you're going to continue to build your community along with it—and those in the private sector—you need to continue to invest in education. That's really important in terms of building a sustainable economy, and Tasmania has some wonderful natural assets that you can leverage off for that. So, yes, it is an important part of it.

There is an interesting one out of the Launceston city deal that I've witnessed. I sit on the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce, which is an output from the city deal. It's to do with dealing with the Tamar River. It's interesting. When that first came out, I wasn't really sure what it was about. I said, 'Yes, I'll participate in it as a mayor in the study area.' It's actually worked really well because it has focused a number of councils and certainly the city council, which has some issues around combined stormwater sewerage in the way that it flows into the estuary, on the bigger picture. I don't think it will ever necessarily always be front-page newspaper stuff in terms of the work that that little group and the city council and TasWater and some technical groups have done, but, if it wasn't for the city deal that actually brought that together—there was a little bit of money, I think half a million dollars or thereabouts, in funding support to do some initial technical and scientific analysis around the river and flows and so forth. It's worked, so we don't actually need to spend $500 million on fixing the stormwater issue in Launceston, because it's not necessarily going to fix it, or it's a big overspend. You can spend—I think it is—about $80 million now and get 80 per cent of the problem fixed in terms of what they're trying to deal with. If it wasn't for digging deep into that and if it wasn't for the city deal, I don't know that that would have happened. We would have kept talking about all these—everyone's got an opinion on how you fix it. But it enabled us to go in and deal with that, so that was really important.

I can't remember what the original part of the question was, but I think the city deal is providing these legacy issues that people are now focusing on and working together more closely on.

Mr GILES: I guess that you really dealt with what I was getting at at the start: the focus on the university was really the driver of, I guess, the national government pulling together governance and «infrastructure» in Launceston presently; in Hobart, in the near future. But very concerning school performance is potentially a blocker to really getting the full benefit of this.

Mr Perkins : I think credit goes to the state government, the current one and even the previous one. They've been addressing early childhood and how you start extending year 12, particularly in rural areas, to high schools, from year 10 to year 12, just making some fundamental changes to try to address it. These things are going to take a generation to wash through, but you want to make sure that at the end of it—and it's not just the university; it's the TAFE system, and it's other education, training and support—as a result you make a fundamental change. Clearly an investment in people wanting to go to a university in Launceston, from that point of view, becomes really important.

You want your students, the next generation, to consider UTAS as an option. I was—wearing my other hat—at my Rotary meeting on Monday. There were two young people who had just been to the National Science Summer School in Canberra in January. The question to one of them was, 'Where do you want to go?' She said, 'I've enrolled at the University of Melbourne, Monash, another one'—I think—'in Queensland and ANU, and I might put one in to UTAS, down here in Hobart.' It's fine to make a choice of five universities around the country, but you want UTAS to be a university of choice, so they go, 'Actually, I'll be really proud, and that's one that I want to look at,' not, 'If I don't quite get what I want out of the other ones, I'll fall back to it.' It needs to be almost first choice. The modern university with good teachers and good facilities becomes part of that process in terms of the environment that students learn in.

Mr GILES: Just one last thing, if the chair's going to indulge me—he might not, because I'm going to go against one of his themes. You can cut me off.

CHAIR: Go right ahead. You've got a right to have an opinion, even if it's wrong.

Mr GILES: You express concern—I hope I express this fairly; please correct me if I'm verballing you—about an over-reliance on value capture. I guess that comes from you perceiving a bias towards, presumably, those sorts of «infrastructure» projects in those areas where the greatest uplift is going to be, which probably are Melbourne and Sydney. I guess that's just a cautionary note. You're not saying that we should reject the notion of seeking to extract our fair share of private benefit that comes from national «infrastructure» investment. But we shouldn't be guided by value capture opportunities to override wider public policy parameters. Is that a fair read of it?

Mr Perkins : I think so. I think what you find is—I think it's almost picked up the city's framework document, and Jen might jump in here too—obviously with a greater density of population you've got greater capacity to get value from it. It's a bit like the Telstra rollout many years ago with the mobiles. We had the paperwork, but are they going to get the value? Slowly it drifts out eventually. Yes, if there's capacity for value capture in there I have no issue with the private sector getting involved in things, with protections making sure that your consumers aren't going to be dudded along the way. I think there's a reality that you're going to get a greater return where there are more numbers, and as you move out of the CBDs of the capital cities it's going to be harder. So there needs to be consideration around that.

Ms Newman : I think it depends on what the «infrastructure» is. If you've got a new train stop in the middle of Melbourne or Sydney, obviously the housing and the businesses around that transport hub are going to benefit. But if you look at the Bridgewater Bridge north of the city, that's smack bang in a really low-socioeconomic area, where there's very minimal business activity; it's really a freight link. So how do you value capture something that's a vital freight link and transport connection that doesn't have that obvious economic benefit to the private sector? I'm an economist in my background, and I agree with the idea of value capture in its concept. But I think there are specific «infrastructure» projects that it fits neatly, and there are many others that it doesn't. With a lot of the papers that were out in the last few years, it's obviously very attractive to the Commonwealth to not be the sole purse holder. But just be aware that you don't want to have a whole lot of projects funded that have value capture potential because of that attraction, and then have things that are beneficial for a whole range of other reasons put back in a priority because the value capture is available in other projects.

CHAIR: I'll jump in there. There is quite a developing understanding, and that's why earlier I said that for specific, targeted, transformational projects value capture should be applied. Value capture can't work on every single thing, that's for sure. But in meeting with people representing Allens earlier this week and pursuing the development of a model, it was very interesting where the conversation went with the understanding that there could be excess funds derived from certain value capture projects. Should these excess funds not go into a consolidated pool for «infrastructure» , they could then be placed towards these other projects that might not be the beneficiary of a value capture model and might not be appropriate. So it seems that you can still quarantine moneys that came from value capture and then hypothecate the initial amounts to what's provided it but excess amounts elsewhere, which is the nature of our taxation system—we tax and then have community projects that are essential.

With a freight line like the inland freight line from Melbourne to Brisbane, the opportunity for value capture is again being ignored even though there is an awareness of speculators buying up land at various locations, particularly around Parkes. There's even some consideration of putting in an international freight airport there, which will again stimulate enormous growth. The relatively small amount of the cost of that line, which is, I think, about $12 billion, could be really enormously offset by a value-capture model. Every time you value-capture something to pay for something, you're liberating other funds to pay for something else. I think it has just got to be part of the mix.

I was interested in education. In my words—without verballing you—I put 'strategically direct universities for the benefit of the regions'. Can you give me an example of what you're promoting in universities and what is being promoted in universities to direct them towards the economic development of Tasmania and the regions?

Mr Perkins : Tasmania is unique, in being a one state—

CHAIR: I must say I've not seen the word 'unique' appear more often!

Mr Perkins : That's right!

CHAIR: And there are homogenous—

Mr Perkins : Yes.

CHAIR: And I absolutely agree, and that is a beautiful point of difference.

Mr Perkins : My point—particularly with the UTAS in Launceston and Hobart—is that one of the benefits they talk about is creating a university and attracting international students to deliver economic benefit to the communities where these universities are. And that's fine. To me, that's secondary. If the Commonwealth is investing in learning institutions, that is good. But, to me—particularly as to the Launceston one—it's almost of secondary benefit. The initial benefit is in making sure that we've got more students going into university programs and that the university is delivering programs that are going to support and benefit the local communities.

CHAIR: Specifically what?

Mr Perkins : Things like agriculture and agronomy and so forth. At the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture they do some tremendous research work. How do you extend that out to the broader community? I was talking to somebody in my community recently who had come back for a function. They are now living in Victoria; I can't remember the rural town. Their students went to the Marcus Oldham agricultural school. Why do we send our students there? Why are people sending students to Victoria for that? Our universities should be the first port of call. That's where we want to go and learn all that stuff.

CHAIR: What about tourism? Is there something specific?

Mr Perkins : The University of Tasmania is now starting to move into associate degrees as a way of leading into university and starting to develop some tourism degrees and the like about how you grow the value of the tourism industry. The tourism industry is an interesting one. If you look at the contribution per employee at Bell Bay Aluminium in mineral processing, they add about $100,000 to the local economy from the work that they are doing. A tourism officer—and don't quote me on the numbers—or a person working in tourism might add $25,000 to $30,000 to the local economy. So you'd actually need two or three people working in tourism to deliver the same value that someone at Bell Bay Aluminium is delivering to the local economy. That's not to say that four people working in tourism is a bad thing; it's a tremendous thing. It's providing people with employment opportunities and opportunities to participate. What you want to do—and the university can play a role—is to say: 'How do you extract more value from that person in that industry sector so that you up the value that you're getting from your tourism business?' so that, when people come to Tasmania, they will be spending more money, because our tourism businesses will be continuing to engage and re-engage and reinvent themselves and will attract a higher quality return to their bottom line, and those businesses will be employing more people and paying more people—and, hopefully, paying them more. You will be getting a greater return. So when I talk about the importance of university and other learning institutions, it is teaching people to get better value out of what they are doing. The Launceston average income is $200 a week below the national income, and it shouldn't be there.

CHAIR: That makes no sense to me unless you put into the equation the cost-of-living difference. You'd end up with a model that would tell you what is better—an index—if you've got wages and cost of living.

Ms Newman : I would add: with Hobart and the university, there is the Antarctic sector and some high-level research being done. That's part of that whole university research sector based here. That's really important nationally, as well as for Hobart, and we are competing in that sector with New Zealand and South America and different entities. Being able to coordinate some of that activity through the City Deals so that it's not just IMAS, CSIRO, the university, the Antarctic sector or the runway extension—to be able to bring that together, saying: 'What does this mean? Where will people be living? How do things flow and fit together? What is the level of government responsibility at the municipal level, the state government level and the federal level? How does this all come together?'

CHAIR: I want to move back onto this because it's one of my favourite topics. The whole reason for strategic decentralisation, when we're dealing with nearly half the population living in two of the most overpriced cities in the world—the average price for a house in Sydney is $1 million. I'd much rather be paid $200 less and pay one-quarter of a million dollars for my home, thank you very much. You've actually got a competitive advantage. To say, 'We're getting paid less; our wages are lower,' doesn't hold any water with me unless you're comparing it with your cost of living, and I think we want to pursue that. With that in mind, we're looking at establishing a 40 per cent increase in hotel rooms in Hobart over the next four to five years. In another community that I was involved in, we were looking at the Chinese tourism habits—and I think the Korean habits are similar. They're wanting an experience of being in a launch pad city, where they dine and shop and then go and see green grass and blue skies. With that in mind, is there a project to increase regional hotel rooms by 40 per cent also, in line with Hobart?

Mr Perkins : Given that hotels are private-sector driven—there are three or four new hotels, not to the same scale, that are being planned in Launceston and up on the north-west coast. The Tasmanian government, and the Australian government, is investing in Cradle Mountain to improve the experience there and drive regional tourism. The challenge with hotel rooms in regional places is that the shoulder period and the off-season is much more accentuated. If someone is going to invest in accommodation of a reasonable quality, standard and size, they need to know there's a return there. You'll get it through the shoulder and the peak, which fortunately in Tasmania have been extending a little bit—certainly in Hobart, it's significantly grown, but that hasn't rolled out necessarily to the rest of Tasmania to the same extent. And that's the challenge: how, from a tourism point of view, do you continue to try and get people to move beyond Hobart as the destination and how do you therefore get the private investment in the support services that deliver around that?

Ms Newman : It might be worth mentioning Freycinet Peninsula—massive growth in tourism there. There is already Sapphire Freycinet Lodge, and there are a number of tourism accommodation areas around there, but staff accommodation is a real issue currently. People are doing Airbnb et cetera. It's very difficult to find accommodation for the staff that are required for those entities for exactly the same reason: the return-on-investment model for that accommodation is not as strong as it would be in the urban centres. It's hard to get more there, it's harder to get staff and there are more barriers, so it tends not to grow as quickly. King Island, with their golf and the amazing things that they're doing—one of their constraints and challenges is staff: how do you find them, keep them and accommodate them when there's very little accommodation across the island? It's been taken up for tourists and not staff.

CHAIR: The regional tourism committee that I was on looked at the opportunity in regional areas of clustering farmstays to create a critical mass around a point of interest. Take for instance Cradle Mountain—because I always thought that this strategy really lent itself to Tasmania, having been a tourist here on several occasions and enjoying enormously; I can't wait to come back. It would give the opportunity for individuals to invest in the development of such accommodation on farms. Clustered together, they would form the critical mass that's needed to get the tourist groups of 400 or 500 to come through. You would be complementing and leveraging what was happening in your launch-pad cities of, possibly, Launceston and Hobart. Then you would be able to drive to these locations and engage in a unique experience around another unique opportunity, whether it's Cradle Mountain, the Tamar Valley or Strahan—any of those places. You could build it up and allow individuals to participate in this. People often say, 'What are we getting out of these free trade agreements with China? What are we getting out of this tourism?' Here's the opportunity. It came from a group called Taste Trails. They initiated this idea.

Mr Perkins : Elements of that occur, but, as to whether you'd ever get enough scale—

CHAIR: That's right: you need to scale it up to critical mass.

Mr Perkins : What we find is that people who visit Tasmania like to stay in Hobart and Launceston and, apart from the wining and dining—the evening kind of stuff—there are other elements. The tourism people are obviously far more knowledgeable in this area than I ever will be. You do see elements of this happening around the place and people see opportunities to take advantage of it. I don't know that you would get it to the extent that it would continue to drive where the tourism growth might be. At the end of the day, it's in the cities. If you're in Launceston, you want to be able to go to Black Cow, Stillwater or wherever you choose to dine that night. We're aiming at a different clientele. Some people will get the homestay experience and that would be part of it, but the critical mass is going to come from people staying in the cities. I know that in Devonport the Australian government has been committing to the Living Cities program, which is about rejuvenation of Devonport as a city. They'll say, 'Can we bring a hotel operator in to do the same sort of stuff?' It's at the point of entry, where people land, grab their car, go to a hotel and then drive off and use that as a base. If you went to Northern Tasmania and you had four or five nights there and you like mountain biking, golf and Cradle Mountain, there are three things you could do together. You could use Launceston as a base to do all of that—be in one spot as opposed to driving around.

CHAIR: Was it Deloraine?

Mr Perkins : That's right.

CHAIR: That was a great location—another example of decentralisation.

Mr Perkins : It's in the best council area in Australia!

CHAIR: That's your council! You would say that, wouldn't you?

Mr Perkins : Yes, that's right! There is some new investment going into small properties, but it's not the big—

CHAIR: What we're hearing in our studies of tourism habits is that people are looking for unique experiences. They don't want to just be in a city. They want to do that, but then they want to go out and see green grass and blue sky and do the quaint, point-of-difference, can't-be-repeated-anywhere experiences, which in various parts of Australia would often have a very strong Indigenous component—Welcome to Country, Indigenous culture, art, music and takeaway items, the things that further differentiate the Australian offering from other countries.

Ms Newman : In Tasmania, one of our challenges is that our attraction is our wilderness. People want to come and see Cradle and all of those sorts of things, but the economic flow from tourism goes to accommodation providers, retail, transport and that sort of thing. The wilderness assets are managed largely by the state government and local government—roads, toilets and those sorts of things—and that's becoming challenging locally for us. The flow of money coming through from all of those tourists is not going to the government.

CHAIR: It's very interesting. Another committee looked at a group wanting to change an old railway line into a walking and bike riding—

Ms Newman : It sounds familiar.

CHAIR: Hold the thought that you were just talking about. The opportunity for value capture existed there because there was going to be any number of opportunities to establish tourist accommodation, cafes and whatnot along this 120-kilometre thing—somewhere around Coffs Harbour or wherever it was. There was an enormous opportunity for value capture to contribute towards the cost of the «infrastructure» . If you look at value capturing going towards the cost of upgrading your Cradle Mountain and such things and if you look at the cross city rail model that Tim Williams was involved in of just having a levy on businesses, that would assist. But there are probably other lands that might get zoned for something other than their current use that would be subject to a value capture to contribute towards that. It's a fascinating area. Value capture is in its infancy, but it can have a very wide application.

Mr Perkins : There is a rail trail proposal that has been around, which I think Andrew Nikolic provided the opportunity for funding some years ago, and it hasn't moved on since then because of local conflict between farmers and the heritage rail users and the people who want to turn it into a rail trail for bike users. It's about how you manage that. It hasn't seemed to have moved particularly far.

CHAIR: I was engaged with Mudgee city council some time ago and, with their knowledge of local farmers, it was seen as a drought-proofing of their farm to be able to establish 10 or 15 condominiums or whatever on their property. Whether they actually developed them or just got the money for the land, if you followed the dollar there seemed to be a benefit for everyone. It is an interesting thing to pursue. If the farmers think they're going to be impacted in some way but they're going to be a beneficiary and can participate, albeit a tiny portion of their holdings that they choose to engage in this way, might get them on side.

Mr Perkins : As we are talking through it, I think one of the important things, going back to the Australian government's role in the development of cities, is playing a role in investing in planning and looking at where the future lies and then following that up with investment decisions. One of the points I make is that in Launceston—I will use that as an example again—the Australian government probably six or seven years ago—I think Anthony Albanese was the minister at the time—committed $250,000 towards a greater Launceston plan. The Launceston city council funded a significant amount of more money into what they called the Greater Launceston Plan—which also included the number of councils which were in the greater Launceston area and beyond the city council's boundaries—about where the future of the city is. They were looking at the nodes, the hubs, the transport and where the growth is and at the role that the various councils play in that.

It was quite a significant document. It is kind of just coming back to the fore again. The new general manager of the city council is starting to lift that back up again. I'm not sure who are talking to this afternoon, but you might talk to them about that. Interestingly, the relocation of the university was one of the projects in there, although it probably wasn't the reason for the GLP. It probably just happened. As an aside—I think saying it's coincidental is probably not being fair on those involved in the plan—the Australian government committed all this money into planning and then you say, 'Where does that go now?' And all of a sudden you move back into election cycles and it becomes project funding arrangements and so forth.

One of the points would be that with tourism, as an example, or anything else, the Australian government does provide money from time to time for investment in strategic planning for communities to support them. When it comes time to help fund projects, it would be nice to see in the funding of programs and the like: 'How does that link back to strategic thinking that the Commonwealth may have funded?' «Infrastructure» Australia or other independent bodies could provide directions, particularly to local councils and collections of local councils, around consistent frameworks in regional planning thinking in terms of the types of projects, the way that they may be presented, including looking at business case analysis, which may include or not include value capturing. When the Commonwealth go to invest, they can say: 'We've actually invested in planning. As a result, you've presented us with a project. Does that align with the work that we have invested in collaboratively with you? If it does, that's really good. We can go and fund that project. If it doesn't, why doesn't it?' If someone comes up with a good argument for it and a reason which might be quite rational and reasonable, you say, 'Well, that's okay. We'll go and fund these things.'

One of the things—and I'm as guilty as a mayor as anyone else—is that, come an election cycle, whether it be state elections or federal elections, all of a sudden you get candidates running around saying, 'Can you give us your list of projects you want funded from the election?' Fifteen years ago, if you got a $100,000 project funded you thought all your Christmases had come at once. Now, if you get $100,000, you think you've been dudded. Somehow, we have to move away from these wish list projects of 'Give me a dozen.'

Again, putting my hat on from a local council point of view, we put up something, obviously, of value to our local member wanting to get re-elected or another person getting elected, but then there are strategic ones. The Greater Launceston Plan I spoke about talks about one of our communities, Hadspen, which is one of the new growth areas of Launceston—bearing in mind the low growth rate in Launceston, but that, hopefully, might change—but you've got to invest in «infrastructure» to enable that to happen. The non-sexy projects are the ones that miss out and I think, sometimes, hold some of these cities and towns back from developing because it's the sexy ones that are attractive to politicians or people around election time and they go—

CHAIR: You've got to be very careful with your language there.

Mr Perkins : Yes, I know—and I appreciate how that works, and I certainly appreciate that you guys are part of the process as is the community. All I'm saying is that we could look at how we work through that process a little bit more.

CHAIR: There seems to be a battle that's being lost between politics and policy. When politics enters the room, policy development seems to leave, with any number of things. One party says one thing—not with Andrew and I; we agree on everything. For bipartisan committees to work together to find the facts, develop the recommendations and then have more direct communication—contact—with the departments involved is a real opportunity to progress, regardless of electoral cycles or who actually is in government. The government of the day might nuance something, but what has been determined by «Infrastructure» Australia and «Infrastructure» Tasmania, the land-use group and the local councils, and what needs to happen over a very long period of time, will remain on track. I'm thinking what we need—

Mr Perkins : That's exactly right.

CHAIR: is a better structure because we're being slowed down by political process.

Mr Perkins : The thing that we don't hear much about these days is what the state of the budget's like—we'll obviously hear in a couple of weeks time. There'll be a federal election next year, and people will have to address how they're going to deal with that. It's like every time you get to an election, it doesn't matter what the state of the budget is; everyone's fighting to get back in again. I think, as a community, we need to have some responsibility in changing that dialogue as well. It's how it might look. It's a big, tough question and it's going to be hard to move away from it—I make that point.

The other thing which helps deal with that goes down to the data. One of the City Deal outcomes is about a dashboard, a dataset, that actually says, 'Launceston said this is where we're going to project to' and working with the local councils through the local council group up there and how we are going tracking against that—are we making the right decisions to actually achieve what we want to achieve? Everyone's got lots of data. Investing in systems to reflect on whether we're on track and trying to predict some future scenarios to inform decision-making become important. It's not exciting stuff. You probably need boffins who just like talking about numbers, in some respect, but it becomes really important when you're talking about the future of our communities.

Ms Newman : I think, just for the Hobart perspective, Hobart's even behind the eight ball in comparison to Launceston because there isn't city-scale planning. There has not been even an informal collaborative group in Hobart for about 18 months, and it doesn't have a capital city plan that's been accepted. It's for a variety of reasons that they've tried a number of ways to address over time. I think, at least in the Hobart example, the City Deal is such a benefit in the sense that it is a real carrot and a process that can take a whole group of councils that have their own requirements, aims and activities and bring in those councils and the state government and actually work at a city scale to be strategic and to look at transport, corridors, movement, education, workplaces and all of those things.

Mr GILES: Just on that, how advanced did the COAG process that was set up under Minister Albanese with Lucy Turnbull and Brian Howe get for Hobart?

Ms Newman : We produced a draft plan.

Mr GILES: And that's no longer something that the council has regard to or—

Ms Newman : There are a number of councils.

Mr GILES: Sorry, the councils.

Ms Newman : Yes. And it depends on how many you count as to how wide the footprint you define is. I won't go into the details of what happened there. Suffice to say that it wasn't a well-resourced process, and it didn't do wide consultations, so it wasn't a widely accepted and supported plan. The plan itself, I think, was very good, and it was used within the statewide planning system to feed into decision-making ongoing from the development of the draft, but it was never accepted by the councils.

Mr GILES: It just seems odd that the ad hoc engagement—I shouldn't characterise it as that; that's the outside-of-the-COAG-framework process that Launceston ended up taking up—has had greater purchase than the one that had quite a bit of COAG support behind it.

Ms Newman : That's right—and, I guess, quite a bit of COAG support. I don't know how much funding and resourcing was behind that Hobart exercise that happened and why that happened. There are a whole range of reasons I could go into about some of the history of that. There is history—the tension between the different councils wishing to do what they see as important for their ratepayers and their municipality and the state government's role in bringing those councils together as a capital city.

CHAIR: Could you provide us with that draft plan?

Ms Newman : I do have a hard copy. I'm not aware of any electronic copy that's available, but I'm happy to bring in a draft copy for you, if you want me to.

CHAIR: Okay, good. We've run out of time. Thank you very much for your contributions. I think they've been worthwhile. I think we have a broad understanding that, really, what we're looking at in this committee is about what we can do to assist our existing cities in the retrofitting of «infrastructure and of planning. The strategic decentralisation probably applies as much to Hobart and Launceston and the surrounding areas as to a Sydney or a Melbourne, but your challenges are more contained and your opportunities are therefore greater for the future, because the rebuilding of the other places is monumental. With the future planning, you can start this new age much sooner. The idea of having hamlets that are close to where people might live, work and play but have access to a Launceston or—how do you say 'Launceston'?

Mr Perkins : Launceston.

CHAIR: Gee, I'm sorry about that! All I can remember is Hart Street; I used to go there when I was a kid. For the things that are the same—the opportunities and the satellite townships that can sustain the growth without creating greater congestion and higher prices of housing and things like that—the same recipe, I think, probably applies.

Ms Newman : And we haven't had the congestion growth issues, which I think in the bigger places draw together that planning because of necessity, whereas I think, because it hasn't been the case, we've just kept going on the trajectory without planning it all.

CHAIR: But you're on track to get it; I promise you. What you hear, and what I saw this morning walking here, is that the traffic is building. Fringe suburban development will just generate more and more of the same that we've had in other cities, so it's time to stop, pause, and plan.

Mr Perkins : That's right.

CHAIR: I think we've really got to cease there. Thank you so much for your attendance here today. If you've been asked to provide additional information—which you promised you would—could you please forward it to the secretary by Friday, 27 April. You'll be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and will have an opportunity to request corrections to transcription errors. Thank you again.

Mr Perkins : Thank you very much.

Ms Newman : Thank you.