When political ideology is not practical for small business

Green ideology, the driving force behind Hobart City Council, purports to embrace inclusion and diversity, but the Council’s actions have done anything but.

COVID19 has created a desolate landscape for small business owners. It’s an area that desperately needs support. The Mid Town Strategic Plan will do the opposite. It will create a toxic environment that small business owners expect will cause massive downturns or force closures. In fact, some are considering moving away from the area already.

This is not news to Council. They have already heard these concerns and they have ignored them. This is the sector with the highest employment numbers and it is deeply concerning to see Council treat it with such callous disregard.

HCC is determined to push forwards with this destructive plan with minimal input from the small businesses that would be affected most. A select, advantaged few have any idea what is in store for them.

Access to parking and good traffic flow is essential to the community. With so little investment in public transport, it can mean the difference between getting and keeping a job or staying on the dole. It can limit the clients a contractor is able to take on.  It can even determine which sports and after school activities families allow their children to participate in.

Every reduction in speed limit and car park numbers impacts equitable access for the community.

This plan will see a significant proportion of valuable car parks along Elizabeth street turned into a bike lane and a few dining decks for a lucky few cafes. This beggars belief. This is the main artery that feeds this struggling business district.

The numerous elderly people who frequently visit the CWA and the sewing machine shop nearby say they are very concerned about how they will access the area if the car parks are removed.

Southern Tasmania has not enjoyed the necessary investment in public transport required for the Council to be considering alternatives at the expense of parking and use of cars. It’s that simple.

To justify this extreme and inequitable plan, HCC released a survey and encouraged the public to take part. The survey gave little to no way of communicating diversity of thought regarding the parking needs of small business so I conducted my own survey.

The response was similar to the numbers the HCC obtained. In the space of a couple of months they received around 168 responses and within 2 weeks we have more than 140 responses. The results are illuminating.

We found that just 62% were aware of the Mid Town Project at all. It’s also interesting to note that any business on a side street within a stone’s throw of Elizabeth Street was not considered to have interest in this project.

Only 1% of respondents use a bike to get around Hobart while 75% felt that the parking was inadequate and 32% actually drive away unable find a park at all.

60% asked for more parking to be available, and 18% for more access to public transport. Only 22% would even use the proposed outdoor dining if it was available.

One in ten people said the project would be fabulous while 68% pointed out dining next to traffic was unpleasant. Safety and inclement weather were a concern for 85%.

55% asked why it was always Café’s and restaurants getting the HCC support and funding?

Disabled access and less parking were a concern for 50% and 62% respectively.

All things considered, 90% of people who responded to our survey found an issue with this midtown project.

These concerns, however, are not new to HCC. Even within the HCC published report on the plan itself were comments from small business owners pointing out the extremely detrimental effects of slowing traffic and removing parking near their businesses. One business owner pleaded with Council not to go ahead with the plan because their gross income could be affected negatively by as much as 50%

These pleas were ignored in the final outcome. So it seems that through the prism of HCC’s green ideology small business owners, their employees and even their customers are second class citizens.

The Mid Town Business District will suffer under this plan. The people who live, work and visit this area don’t want car parking converted to public space. If that were the case, the area outside UTAS would be packed with people eating lunch or enjoying a coffee but it’s not. In fact, it’s almost always empty. Even on the most pleasant days.

This destructive ideology needs to be abandoned before Hobart’s small business all go the way of the Thylacine.

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