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Some advice

David Walsh

Posted on Wednesday 19 April 2017

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By David Walsh

Warning: this blog is of little interest to non-Hobartians.

Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Catch-22s:

Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to but has no control over because to fight the rule is to accept it.

That’s where I am.

Here are the facts.

Last year Mona lodged a tender to operate a caravan park on a site adjacent (bar one) to Mona. The intervening site is a sewage treatment plant. Other neighbours are a BMX track, lawn bowls and tennis clubs, and a child-minding centre.

Such was the support that Mona enjoyed with relation to that site, that one competitor accompanied his tender with a letter withdrawing his tender if Mona was interested.

A caravan park had been operating on the site for decades. I stayed there as a kid (after a short walk to our holiday).

The local council decided to support Mona's tender.

TasWater, the operator of the adjacent sewage treatment plant, lodged an objection to Mona's proposed park. Their objection was based on potential issues that odour from their processing works might cause. But they aren't compliant with their legal obligations. You don't have to believe me—here's what the Mercury printed:

An email from TasWater development assessment manager Jason Taylor included in the notice of appeal says the Cameron Bay plant does not comply with odour restrictions.


‘We have information that would indicate we may not be compliant due to a history of odour complaints from this site,’ Mr Taylor writes.

Their strategy in summary: Break the law. Attempt to ensure it isn't an issue by stopping potential development. So: there are axe-murderers in town. There are two ways to address the problem: incarcerate the criminals, or remove all the potential victims. Let's do the later.

They want us to spend money to prove they aren’t compliant. In which case, no caravan park, and possibly no hotel, until they fix their problem. But they aren't being made to fix their problem. In the meantime, I can't build anything unless I prove they are compliant. But they aren't.

If I fight (and I am fighting) I am accepting the rules (hence the catch-22). But it’s a bit more catchy than that—they are asserting that the rules apply only to me.

It seems that almost all the eighty-odd sewage facilities operated by TasWater aren't compliant. It means little to me to have this development held up (but potentially a great deal for the community). I don't own the site, and I don't have to start paying rent until development starts. But I have a hotel planned (although it would be much further from the plant, and since there is existing accommodation, it might get through on a grandfather clause). Can they hold that up as well, rather than fixing the problems they have, the problems that result from the law being ignored?

We were going to call the park Moab (after a Biblical bad boy) but I think it'll be Hobo (thanks DC) now. A little paean to HOBart's Odour problems.

That last bit was written on October 15th. Today is December 21st, and I can tell you that we lost our appeal to the tribunal. We then sought grounds to appeal, and we lost that too. There's some great stuff in the denial of appeal letter, but the key to exposing the Machiavellian machinations of our legal system is this sentence: ‘Whilst it is clear that the Tribunal gave insufficient weight to the environmental obligations of TasWater and whilst it might be said that in so doing the Tribunal erred, it did not err on a question of law.’ Here's how it works. The Tribunal was wrong in finding against us, but an appeal can't be lodged on an error in fact, only on an error in law.

I got caught-22.

Later, that letter comes to a stunning conclusion:

One self-evident matter which I draw to your attention arises from my attendance at Mona last Thursday, for a private party. What was noticeable to me at the time were the odours which were then emitted from the WWTP. In my view your client ought to now engage in a process of carefully documenting each day, time and date that odours are detected by your client’s employees, or visitors to the site. Each such incident should then be the subject of a formal complaint to the EPA to the effect that TasWater is not complying with its EPN. Your client should insist that the regulator takes steps to ensure that TasWater does comply.

How cool is that? Having lost the appeal, the denier of that appeal gives me some daddy-style advice. Son, you stink. Do something about it. And do something about it, I will.