Monday 23 June 2008

Trails Situation

Mr FINCH - I just want to go back to the trails situation.-The State Government wanted public comment on a discussion paper about trails and set up a website for people to respond -

Ms O'BYRNE - The Tasmanian trails report.

Mr FINCH - Yes.-Can you tell me something about the response to that?

Ms O'BYRNE - Really happy to.-In fact, do we have a copy of the trails strategy.-We could get you a copy of the trails strategy.-Late last year we launched the trails strategy, which was in response to a whole host of community discussion about trails.-I know Mrs Jamieson has a particular view on this, because there are a whole host of issues on how you develop trails.-In Mrs Jamieson's case, one of the cases that we talked about quite extensively is the legality of where those trails might go when they do cross private land, when the cross Crown land.-It is great to say, 'Here is a trail', but we actually need to be able to say that it is also a safe thing to do.

The other key thing that came out of it was an understanding and expectation of what you might get from that trail.-So, it is not to say, 'Here are the 500 trails that exist in Tasmania'.-You need to be able to say, 'This trail is appropriate for an elderly person on a walking frame.-This trail is appropriate for you to take your program.-This trail is appropriate for somebody of moderate health who is happy to do a few challenges.-These are difficult ones and these are some of our iconic trails that there is a whole host of other marketing around'.

The key things that came out needed to have a plan, a structural plan, about what it is that we want to achieve.-That can only happen by working with and leveraging off not only other funding sources but also other strategies within local government in particular.-Local government fund a lot of trails already.-State Government funds some as well.-We have seen in the last federal election that there were some specific trails that were funded by the Federal Government.-What we need to do is create a structure around those that says, 'These are the priority trails as identified by community.-These are what we anticipate they will be used for', so that people have a clarity around that, and then that allows us to start leveraging funding to make sure that they are appropriately funded.

We have a copy of the Tasmania trails strategy, which we will try and get for you by the end of the day.-That does respond to the community consultations, but, overall, people want to have a really good trails strategy.-As I said before, the greatest increase in participation is now in walking.-I think the other one is probably riding, whether it be cycling or mountain biking.-They are both very big participation opportunities that revolve around trails.-So we need to respond to that.

On the other side, there is also the health and well-being aspect of it, because we do want people to engage in a particular activity, but there is also the impact on the environment.-I think the Premier in his budget speech on Thursday gave some figures about the amount of cars that you would need to take off a road.-You only need to take off 25 cars to have a significant impact on our climate change objectives.-Was there something in particular?

Mr FINCH - I am going to get around the core one in my electorate of Rosevears, but do you have an ongoing commitment to funding for trails?-Has that been established, or are you waiting the results of the investigation before you set a program for the future?

Ms O'BYRNE - I am fully supportive of the trails strategy that was identified in the report that we released late last year.-In the Budget where we talk about the $4 million for trails, tracks and cycle ways, that is about expanding that.-We will be setting up a statewide reference group, and that group is to work with communities about identifying priorities and then working through.-We have set aside $4 million now.-It is clear that you could spend the entire Budget on trails and tracks.-I think that we do need an ongoing commitment.-I think this is key investment point.-There are many different ways you can do it, from having roads that are wide enough to put in cycle tracks to having identified cycle tracks, to those tracks that connect communities, such as the one that we have seen being built up on the north-west coast now, which I think is a great opportunity of connecting coastal towns, to the development that we might want to do in some of our national park walks.-We are engaged in a program called Healthy by Design.-That is about looking at the communities that we have and saying, 'Let's see about how we can put in opportunities for people to participate.'-It is no good having a walking track that you cannot take your pram or a double pram on, because if you cannot do that you are going to get the bus; so you already have changed people's behaviour.-The key around all of this is about behavioural change and opportunity.

Mr MARTIN - That particular program the minister talked about then, it is designed to provide a set of guidelines for town planners so they can design their communities, their local environments, in a way that encourages healthy activities with things like cycle ways, walking paths, that sort of thing, to encourage participation in healthy activities.-It is a $60 000 initiative.-We hope to have the guidelines for town planners in place by October this year.

Ms O'BYRNE - The key is working with local councils, in particular.

CHAIR - I note here - just butting in there - that the steering group has established with representatives from Sport and Recreation, Forestry, Parks, Tourism and Hydro, but you have not listed DIER.-Why would DIER not be part of that steering group for tracks?

Ms O'BYRNE - That is a steering group that was part of doing the trails strategy.-The trails strategy was not so much road cycling as opportunities that were specifically for trail experiences.-One of the drivers was really the establishment of the Tasmania Trail, which is a trail which goes from the northwest all the way down south.-One of the key things - and there are people who have done it who absolutely love it - that we are aware of is that in an attempt to be all things to all users, there are parts which are just not appropriate for some.-You can take your horse the whole way, but people who ride horses do not necessarily want to ride their horses on the road.-You can walk the whole way, but people do not normally want to walk along the road either.-It did have issues of crossing different types of landownership.-The group that we will set up will be - I have not formalised it yet - about making sure that all the players are engaged, but also local government is a key engagement in terms of where you go with cycle trails.-The Premier also said that models such as that produced by the Greater Hobart Council have got together with a strategy for cycling tracks.

Ms RITCHIE - Is that the southern bike strategy?

Ms O'BYRNE - Yes, that is the sort of thing that is exactly what we want to do on a statewide basis.-We really want to encourage that kind of cross-local government engagement in order to ensure that we can support them but also use it as an opportunity to leverage funds as well to make sure that we spend the best dollars.-I am trying to think of the cost of the northwest track, from Turners Beach to Ulverstone.

Mr ROBINSON - Approximately $1 million, I think.

Ms O'BYRNE - They are actually very expensive to do if you want to make them appropriate for all people to participate in.-That is one of the other reasons you need to scale them so that you fund them appropriately for what their usage might be.-You have a particular one, though, Mr Finch?

Mr FINCH - Yes, my community has been agitating for quite a number of years now for a trail between Beauty Point and Beaconsfield.-There have been some stumbling blocks.-With this allocation of funding and the fact that these trails and walks have been highlighted by your department, I am just wondering how my group, having been knocked back twice by the Tasmania Community Fund, would go about it.-The feeling is still there that the community needs it.-For the edification of other members, it is between Beauty Point and Beaconsfield, a distance of about 6 kilometres, which would link those two communities.-What advice would you give to that community group and those people in respect of realising their dream?

Ms O'BYRNE - I think the problem that they have had is going to places like the Tasmania Community Fund, which has such a broad amount of applications to deal with.-There has not been a specific place that they can go.-They can apply to us for grants, but a trail like that will cost a fair bit of money and would eat in fairly substantially to our limited grant pool.-This, I think, is a significant shift in Government policy.-We are now saying that we actually say these things are not only important but important enough for Government to do a strategy around.-When we have the steering group formalised, or the reference group or whatever language we use around it, the key will be for that contact to happen there so that that can form part of it.-They are going to need local government engagement and support in order to make that happen.-What we do not want to get into a habit of saying is, 'Here is X amount of dollars and we are just going to build projects'.-We actually want to have a strategy about increasing participation, creating community links, providing opportunities to people who might not have them.-We actually need to see that there is a structure that you can tick the boxes against.-If they are not getting support, it will be because they are not hitting a particular criterion.-Then they can work on what that is.

Those sorts of connectivity trails, though, are key because they would change people's behaviours, because they would stop people driving from the two communities, and they would encourage a community engagement.-That is the sort of thing that you would imagine would be reasonably well received.-But I do not want to overstep the boundaries.

CHAIR - Third time lucky, I would suggest.

Ms O'BYRNE - It is actually a fund that is designed to recognise those kind of things now as opposed to, 'Here is a bucket of money.-We are going to give you a whole host of great ideas and maybe our great idea will get up'.-This is going to be about providing those connectivities and those opportunities.-I expect the $4 million can be spent very quickly, though.

Mr FINCH - Minister, when do you think that process will be in place for the community to go through?

Ms O'BYRNE - I am hoping to have the names of the committee organised in the next couple of weeks.-I want to get this going as quickly as possible.-I have also already spoken to Launceston City Council and I need to have the same conversation with West Tamar and a whole host of other councils about their need to talk to each other as well so that they are putting in combined strategies, as we have seen with the Greater Hobart strategy, where they have got together and said, 'Okay, we've got a whole host of competing demands, but we're going to start saying that these are our priorities and this is how we want to work with them'.-I am also happy to get Sport and Recreation to meet with those people.

Mr MARTIN - We will be happy to meet with your constituents.

Mrs JAMIESON - And on behalf of our constituents as well?

Ms O'BYRNE - Indeed.

Mrs JAMIESON - Needless to say, I would like an update on the progress of Dooley trail, because that has been an ongoing issue since about 2001.-Then, the issues you have mentioned of having to go through various departments has certainly been one of the hindrances.

Ms O'BYRNE - I am just going to check where we finally are with Dooley, because I think some of the issues -

Mrs JAMIESON - That was one that was going to be suitable for people with disabilities and the elderly to have a bush experience, at least on part of the track.

Ms O'BYRNE - I think part of the problem that we still have is actually resolving the liability issues around that.-I do not think we have got any closer to resolving the nature of the Dooley track.

Mrs JAMIESON - People are using the track.

Ms O'BYRNE - And people will choose to do that, and we know that people walk on tracks all over the State that may or may not be part of a register that says, 'This is what it means to be able to walk that track.'

Mrs JAMIESON - The trouble is that we just cannot get it finished now because we have not got the other legalities in place.

Ms O'BYRNE - Yes.

Mrs JAMIESON - The different departments have not agreed on A, B, C and D; so the whole program cannot proceed.

Ms O'BYRNE - I cannot give you an answer right now.-I will try and get one before the end of today, but, if not, I will also undertake to get information back to you.-I am actually not sure that we have resolved a lot of the liability issues when crossing individual land.-Can I say, though, that I do really feel for the people who put so much time and effort into building the track, because they are really passionate about it, and it is a very pretty walk.

Mrs JAMIESON - A lot of it has been voluntary, too.

Ms O'BYRNE - Yes, and we need to encourage that as well.-One of the things that we are hoping with the framework is that we can structure that as well so people know what they are participating in, and that helps as well.-We do not want positions where people put in so many voluntary hours then to be told, 'Look, I'm sorry, we can't resolve a legal issue about access along part of this track', because that is not fair.-Certainly, wearing my Parks hat, we get a lot of great support from volunteers in Parks.-We want to maximise the opportunities for them to engage.-To do that, you actually need to get them an output at the end of the day that says, 'People are now able to use your track'.-That has been one of the ongoing challenges with the Dooley trail.