Transcript of interview with Councilor Anna Reynolds, Lord Mayor of the City of Hobart, Lenah Valley, 20 May 2022.
We’re using the fact that it is Road Safety Week today just to announce that variable speed limit signs will be going in here within a matter of weeks. This project is really important because it is part of our commitment to reduce speed limits to 40 kilometers an hour in high pedestrian areas.
You might recall there was quite a lot of debate and controversy around our decision to lower speed limits in the inner city of Hobart within a certain block of, I think it was 16 city blocks. This is – at the same time, we also sought permission from the Transport Commissioner to reduce the speed limit in our shopping precincts, neighborhood shopping precincts: Lenah Valley, New Town, South Hobart and Sandy Bay. And so we are progressively rolling out that; the Transport Commissioner has approved all of those. But the reason it’s taking a little bit of time to roll each one out is that they are variable speed limits. So a bit like you’d know in Moonah, they are restricted by time. And that means we need the sort of electronic signs which are a little bit more expensive. We are slowly getting that money from vulnerable road user grant programs and then rolling out the variable speed limits.
I think it’s important to acknowledge this during Road Safety Week, because local government does play an important leadership role in asking for speed reductions. And many, many more high pedestrian areas in the state probably do need these lower limits, because it just makes a place where you’ve got a lot happening, a lot of cars coming and going, a lot of pedestrian activity, it’s really important to have that lower speed limit of 40 kilometers an hour. Even though it’s only a 10 kilometer an hour reduction from the normal speed limit, it does make a really big difference – if a car’s traveling at 40 kilometers an hour – to how much time they’ve got to react and stop if they do see a pedestrian. But also, if a pedestrian or cyclist is hit at 40 kilometers an hour, it’s much less likely to result in a death than at 50 or 60 kilometers.
You mentioned Moonah, and we’ve also got variable speed limits around schools, for example, during school hours. So do you expect this change to be more or less seamless, that drivers should be used now to this kind of technology?
I would hope so. It is, as you said, it’s well known around schools, they will see these signs on for longer than the school zone signs. Basically, they will be operating right throughout the day and into the early evening. We just really want drivers to recognize that they are, if they’re traveling at high speeds through high pedestrian areas, it’s a huge risk for vulnerable road users, but also for themselves. Nobody wants to have a collision with the road user. And so that’s why just dropping the speed a little bit for a small part of the journey is not a big commitment to make.
I saw you speaking to some of the workers earlier on; when can we expect this project to be completed? Not just here, but in the other areas around Hobart?
So the work, some of the work has started here, but there is final liaison required with TasNetworks; being electronic signs, we have to work with them. So I think we’re looking at, the workers have committed to this being completed by the end of June. And as far as the other precincts go, I don’t have the full timetable. But you know, we’re trying to get them done as soon as possible.
But we are also having to seek money and support from those state and federal road safety grant programs to get the more expensive signs, it is about $ 90,000 to put in four variable road speed signs. It is an investment and we just need to pace ourselves but you’re right. I mean, you know, Sandy Bay needs attention, South Hobart is a place that we get a lot of complaints about speed and in that location it’s trucks which are even more problematic for vulnerable road users. So we do need to get on to it.
Hobart City Council has had something of a precincts focus not just out here in the suburbs on the sort of high street type zones, but also within the city center itself you identified those areas with distinct identities. So how is this sort of precinct-based approach to local development going so far?
Well, it’s going really well. People do appreciate it, because I think everybody does identify with their immediate neighborhood and Hobart’s really lucky that we have these very still-thriving neighborhood streets, shopping streets. And they are within easy reach of particular neighborhood catchments. So the more that we can do to invest in the public infrastructure in the neighborhood streets, the better it is to give life to the businesses that are based here. And that in turn, creates more of a neighborhood environment, people know they can go down to the shops and see their local community. So it is a really important part of city development and just the making of a more sociable, livable city.
Let’s have a question on the federal election. The Australian Local Government Association wants a seat at the table at the National Cabinet. And I can’t recall either Labor or the Coalition having talked about that during this campaign. So do you think there has been enough of a focus on local government issues in this election?
Probably not enough focus. But I do have a recollection that Labor has committed to the National Cabinet. If you look up Linda Scott, who’s the ALGA President, she lives in and is a representative of the same municipality that Albanese is in. And she’s a Labor politician. I’m pretty sure she announced before the campaign started that Labor had committed to that. But you might need to check on that.
Editor’s note: Anthony Albanese did in fact make this commitment on 10 May at a business forum.
And I understand that there is bipartisan support for expanding funding for the community small infrastructure program. What might that mean for Hobart?
Well it has been really helpful because, you know, over more than a decade, the federal assistance grants from the federal government have been declining. So it has been really difficult for local government to keep up with the rising cost of infrastructure provision. This new program came about through COVID as a way to provide funding for projects based on a per capita distribution. And that, for us, is really fair, because it’s not just about length of roads or number of bridges, but it is also available if you want to put it into a youth center or a skate park or public art or urban shopping center upgrade .
So we’re putting our most recent allocation into the New Town street upgrade, which will be happening later this year. And our last allocation we did put towards the Tolman’s Hill barbecue and toilets. So it is really, really helpful because the cost of everything is going up. A lot of projects that people would like to see are just delayed because we just don’t have the resources. So having that boost of, you know, a million dollars or so a year from the federal government is certainly handy. It’s not going to pay for much on its own but it helps supplement our own budgets.
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