The Presentation Sisters at Blackmans Bay held a meeting to discuss planning scheme changes to their privately-owned property at Home Avenue in Blackmans Bay on Wednesday, February 13.
Sister Gabrielle Morgan voluntarily organised the meeting for community engagement with residents about their questions and concerns for the planned development.
A flyer drop into letterboxes was done by some residents to alert the wider community of the meeting.
The Presentation Sisters, who have owned the three point seven hectares of land since 1929, want to gift the land to CatholicCare Tasmania for a mix of social, affordable and private housing to help alleviate the current housing crisis affecting Tasmanians.
Sister Gabrielle Morgan welcomed everyone and in a prepared statement said, “our religious order, the Presentation Sisters, was founded in Ireland in 1775 and a small group came out to Tasmania in 1866.
“Always we have been fired up by the vision of our foundress Nano Nagle who committed herself totally to serve the poor and vulnerable especially women, as well as providing education, attending the sick and providing housing for those who struggled to find a home.
“Well the wheel has gone full circle, we Presentation Sisters like our foundress cannot ignore the plight of so many and not just the poor, regarding housing.
“We have this beautiful property loved and appreciated by all of you in the area and it is our desire that we spread our good fortune beyond ourselves.
“This gift is part of our legacy to the people of Tasmania, specifically, the people of this municipality.
“We have been inspired by the generosity that we have witnessed within Tasmania and in other parts of the country where people have taken others into their own homes and neighbourhoods.
“We can do no less.
“We’re not talking only of the poor in this day and age, we’re talking about people like yourselves whom we read about in the paper every day, who for different reasons, lose their job, or can’t pay their mortgage, may have had to sell their homes and try to rent a property and we know what the rental market is like at this time,” said Sister Gabrielle Morgan.
Currently there are 4000 people on the social waitlist for housing in the state.
An emotional crowd, spilling out the door, with standing room only inside, including Kingborough Mayor Cr Dean Winter, heard from Sister Gabrielle Morgan, Ben Wilson CEO Wilson Homes, CatholicCare Tasmania Director of Housing and Matt Clark from JMG Engineers & Planners.
During the presentation the Sister’s plans were outlined and discussed with some interjections from the attendees when they tried to get a clearer idea of the proposed development.
The current land uses consist of the Maryknoll Retreat and Conference Centre and one residential dwelling.
The Kingborough Council considered a planning scheme amendment and an associated subdivision application for the land at 15 Home Avenue, Blackmans Bay at its 29 January 2019 meeting.
Council resolved to initiate and certify the proposed amendment and also determined to issue a planning permit for the subdivision application.
The concerns raised by meeting attendees were the level of development and the planning permit would allow for 22 residential lots (4 lots designated for multiple dwelling development) and a new local street.
There could be 50 to 70 dwellings dependent on rezoning plans being approved.
Infrastructure, traffic flows, density, water and sewage amongst the many concerns that were raised, as well as the proximity to schools.
While most residents acknowledged the need for affordable housing in Southern Tasmania and the good work of the Presentation Sisters, questions were raised by some who are alarmed that there has been little public consultation, and minimal concern given to the character and appeal of the area.
Flora and fauna protection, especially the swift parrot habitat, coastal preservation of the scenery and Aboriginal heritage all mentioned as considerations for importance in any plans moving forward.
Preservation of the public space and access a concern and the surprise revelation that the council deemed a block be retained for a children’s playground was unnecessary.
Many engineers, arborists and ecologists have been engaged to survey and access the area.
The planned subdivision development is currently on public exhibition for comment until March 9.
A local action, group, ‘Save Blackmans Bay Bluff’ is running a petition which currently has more than 600 signatories, and there is a public meeting being held by the group at the Blackmans Bay Hall, Ocean Esplanade on Thursday, 21 February from 6pm until 7.30pm.
Councillors have also been invited to attend to answer questions, for more clarity on matters of conjecture, so the councillors can explain their rational.
Kingborough Council Mayor Cr Dean Winter said, “The Presentation Sisters have been a longstanding, positive influence on the Blackmans Bay community for decades.
“Their property Maryknoll is a stunning location that overlooks the beach.”
“I heard loud and clear from the meeting that neighbours were disappointed that the existing use of the site is not going to continue.
“But I also heard and understood that the Presentation Sisters’ are attempting to realise their vision for the site they have owned for almost one hundred years.
“It is important to understand that Council has only initiated the amendment to the planning scheme, Cr Winter said.
The proposal now goes to public consultation and the decision on whether the proposed amendment is approved is made by the Tasmanian Planning Commission.
“The proposal is to rezone parts of the land from low density residential to general residential.
“Almost all of Blackmans Bay is already zoned general residential.
“No development applications have been considered for housing on the site.
“Any proposal would have to be assessed against the planning scheme.”
If approved by the Tasmanian Planning Commission, the council will be notified and the amendment becomes legal, after which the relevant provisions will be used to assess future development applications.
At the end of the meeting, one resident fittingly concluded with a description of the community’s love for Maryknoll and the adjoining beach and questioned whether the Kingborough Council might purchase a large portion of the land itself, so that for years to come, peace and tranquillity can be enjoyed by an entire community who has supported the valuable work of the Sisters for nearly 100 years.
On conclusion of the meeting the crowd expressed their gratitude to Sister Gabrielle and the Presentation Sisters for inviting them into their home to share their vision and plan for the future.