Introduction by Croakey: When Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited lutruwita/Tasmania over the weekend to announce $240 million in federal funding for “a once in a generation vision for Hobart’s last remaining waterfront and urban development site”, the associated media release did not even mention the AFL.
Rather, the “multi-purpose stadium” was pitched as part of a precinct that will address housing and transport concerns, without any mention the AFL had demanded the stadium at Macquarie Point in nipaluna/Hobart if Tasmania was to be awarded an AFL team.
Many are unconvinced about the merits of a massive public investment in such a stadium because of the significant opportunity costs and potentially harmful impacts on many determinants of health. This petition protesting the decision had more than 14,600 signatures by 4.30pm AEST today, and other petitions are also being circulated.
In a media release headlined ‘Unconscionable, unnecessary, extravagant and unpopular’, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said he was “hard pressed to find many people who support the proposal”, with Tasmania having “more than 4,500 people on the housing waiting list, the least affordable rental market in the country, a health and aged care system on the brink of collapse, chronic underfunding of education and crushing traffic congestion”.
In the article below, Dr Felicity Rea, a retired GP and community health advocate, explains why she opposes the stadium development and urges colleagues in the health sector to join her in speaking out against it.
Felicity Rea writes:
Recently I wrote to both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer urging them to reconsider any plans for federal funding for an AFL stadium at Macquarie Point in nipaluna/Hobart. Now they have committed the $240 million needed to get this project across the line.
This stadium is estimated to cost an estimated $715 million but, as we all know, will end up costing at least a billion dollars. It is outrageous to think that our governments, both Labor and Liberal, would champion this, at a time when homelessness here is at crisis levels and our health system at breaking point.
Why the outrage?
As a GP who has worked in many remote and rural areas, I have seen first-hand how the basic social determinants affect health. Everyone needs a safe home, affordable and accessible healthcare, and yet both the state Liberal Government and the federal Labor Government are ignoring these basic needs.
Labor’s mantra was “no one left behind”. Really? How much social housing and improvements to our ailing healthcare system could these billion dollars have provided?
Funding to support both primary healthcare and the hospital system is urgently needed and one wonders where this will come from.
Of course it’s touted that sport is great thing, good for health and fitness…but spectator sport? Grassroots sports, participatory sport yes, but spectator sport? Who really benefits from corporatised sport – an elite few with money and power.
This argument is only one of many against the proposed stadium.
Hobart City Council is against it. Polling in December 2022 showed more than two-thirds of Tasmanians were opposed to the stadium proposal. State Labor is opposed to it, as are some Liberal members of Parliament, both State and Federal.
Planners and architects are appalled for a variety of reasons. Traffic congestion and lack of parking are already a problem in Hobart and public transport is not adequate.
Macquarie Point is an iconic landmark on the Hobart waterfront with wide views over the city, to kunanyi/Mount Wellington, and the Derwent River. Imagine if Sydney had opted for a similar stadium on Bennelong Point instead of the Opera House!
Alternative plans for Mac Point, like the one proposed by writer Richard Flanagan and ex-governor of Tasmania, Kate Warner, put forward an innovative and creative solution. Their plan, as Warner says, “has a thousand houses involved but what really appeals to me is that it combines the idea of a truth and reconciliation park and an Indigenous cultural centre as well.”
Mark Redmond from Reconciliation Tasmania is quoted as saying the proposed stadium “would not sit well. The Macquarie Point area has got a lot of deep meaning to Aboriginal people.”
Veterans also oppose the stadium as the design impinges on the Cenotaph located on Macquarie Point, with the state’s RSL (veterans group) sub-branches “announcing their unanimous opposition to the proposed location, bordering Hobart’s cenotaph.”
All this for an inward looking stadium…a monument to the moneyed few who benefit from the ‘industry’ of corporatised sport. An inward looking stadium on the most iconic waterfront location in Hobart, a view spanning across the city, the wide Derwent river, Bruny Island and kunanyi.
It represents an ultimate monument to short term political opportunism – one I predict that we, as a state, will regret deeply.
BUT…let’s not give up just yet.
What can we do? As health professionals we have a voice that can be heard.
Let’s keep pushing back. Sign a petition; for instance, change.org’s NO-AFL Stadium in Hobart – Wrong Priority. State Labor also has a petition, and so does the Jacqui Lambie Network.
Write to federal and state health ministers urging them to do a health impact assessment. Speak out whenever and wherever you can.
Surely with a majority of Tasmanians opposed to this, we can achieve a much more culturally and environmentally sensitive and useful outcome that would benefit all Tasmanians, not just an elite few.
• Dr Felicity Rea is a recently retired GP, living in Cygnet, who has worked in many regional, rural and remote setting including for the RFDS in Qld and as a remote are GP in Central Australia. Prior to moving to Tasmania in 2014, Rea was in general practice in Toowoomba for many years and taught for the UQ’s Rural Clinical school there.
• Read the ABC article (2 May, 2023): Hobart to lose 31 mental health beds with closure of St Helen’s Private Hospital in June
• AMA statement (9 March, 2022): Don’t hold the healthcare sector back – health over football
Note from Croakey: This recent article about how a wellbeing focus changed infrastructure plans in Wales raises many relevant issues for the Tasmanian and Federal Governments and their stadium plans.
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