Tasmania’s population is expected to continue to rise at a rapid rate moving into the future. Since 2014, we have seen about 65,000 people decide to call Tasmania home. That’s an increase in population about the size of Launceston! Some population predictions suggest we may see more than 60,000 additional people calling greater Hobart home in the next 25 years.
The projected population growth is driven by an enviable way of life, cooler climate and the exodus from large cities following COVID-19. I’m sure there are other more complex causes too, but regardless, it seems our population is set to grow into the future.
The challenge for governments at all levels, and the community to a lesser extent, is how we approach population growth moving forward? We can either be reactive, realising transport networks, housing, health and education are not coping with the influx of population when it’s too late. Or we can be proactive and plan for our future now.
This is where aspiration is so important. What does the ideal Hobart look like to you? If you say it looks exactly as it does now, then you have consigned yourself to the former category. You see, Hobart cannot stay exactly as it is today. It will be overrun with people, there will be more people struggling to find housing and work, the city will be car filled and more congested than it is today leading to potential antisocial behaviour and diminishing city ambience. A change in our city is coming regardless.
So, we must plan and manage this population growth with aspirational urban design that meets our growing city’s needs. As a community, we must ask: “what do we want our city to look like in 2050?” We need to determine what the key elements of Hobart we love are, like the low set heritage buildings and our incredible access to both river and mountain. But we must also ask where we can do better? Transport and housing immediately spring to mind.
In this process, we need to aim high. I so often hear talk of “knowing your station” and even more frequently “we can’t afford that”. You know what? We have to afford it, we have to plan, fund and build the infrastructure we will need tomorrow, today. It is only by approaching change in this way that we will not be under-resourced and overrun.
Talking about our future now will get the best results. That is why the City of Hobart is working toward neighbourhood plans for every suburb in Hobart. This process is about determining the current and future needs of every corner of the city and its wonderful suburbs. Its good planning practice and it’s just what we need to assess each suburbs needs and plan the supporting infrastructure.
Neighbourhood plans are about things like transport and recreation needs. They are equally about determining what businesses we want operating and where in our city. Do we need large, open car yards in the city centre, or would they be better placed in another part of Greater Hobart? Where do we want vibrant nightlife and where do we want a quiet, leafy suburban living?
As we move through the Neighbourhood planning process, I think it’s important that we are aspirational to achieve the best outcome for each unique part of the city. I believe it’s important to strive for best outcomes like continuing to aspire for a waterfront link between Sandy Bay and Castray Esplanade.
Just because we are a small city on an island state doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the best outcomes. It doesn’t mean we can’t shoot for the moon and land among the stars. It doesn’t mean as individuals we can’t strive to rise above our station in life. Us Hobartians deserve better than we currently get, I think we deserve politicians that strive for this city and state to be the best it can be – the best small city in the world!
Together, we are worth it and planning our future now will reap endless rewards, protecting our wonderful way of life as we face the challenges likely to present moving forward.