Thursday 25 August 2005

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Every community in Tasmania relies on a variety of transport routes but in the continual battle for government funding to make our main transport arteries safer and more efficient we can tend to forget the big picture. My electorate of Rosevears has very recently been successful in obtaining considerable funding to improve its highway system. For example, last month an allocation of $5.15 million towards improving safety on the West Tamar Highway was announced.

Mr Harriss - You have some influence.

Mr FINCH - Thank you very much. I did not think anybody had noticed, that is why I am going back over the detail here. This was in addition to the $8 million being spent to duplicate the highway between Riverside and Legana - which I had nothing to do with. It is also on top of a further $3 million to speed up the replacement of the Supply River bridge.

This spending is very welcome and part of a continuing process to make our roads safer and more efficient in a region of growing population and, certainly, growing transport demand.

Mr Harriss - Would you consider moving to the Huon?

Mr FINCH - Do you need me down there?

Mr Harriss - Yes.

Mr FINCH - But, Mr President, we must not neglect the other issues connected with improving our major roads. Parts of the West Tamar Highway and many other roads in the State are not pedestrian friendly. For example, there is growing public concern over safe ways for pedestrians to cross the West Tamar Highway in the Riverside area where four schools are located very close to the highway and traffic is fast and confusing in some places, such as the turn-in to the Riverside supermarket and shopping complex. The Riverside High School is seriously concerned about traffic conditions at the school entrance. That is at the intersection of Brownfield Lane and the West Tamar Highway. The school contacted the department of main roads and, as a result, grade 9 and grade 10 students collected and analysed traffic data so that students could play a role in looking at possible solutions.

This is a clear demonstration, Mr President, that road planning and improvement is not just for efficient movement of traffic from one place to another, but also about the safety and convenience of people living in areas through which the main roads pass, and these residents need their own transport and communication networks linking into the arteries. The arteries are important, Mr President, but so are the veins. We neglect the veins, Mr President, at our peril. We need the walkways, cycle tracks and the traffic-free public spaces to hold communities together. This is, of course, the role of local government with input from the communities themselves but careful planning is needed and I suggest this should involve the State as well as the local government. With good coordination public spaces can be connected by cycleways and walkways in communities and they can link into other communities' public spaces and non-vehicle networks. We have the cult of the car, the so-called big box retailing and the growing community indifference of many who think that the Internet and their own families are the only social interaction that they need.

These things are going to poison our communities. We need public spaces for people to meet, to talk, to sit, relax, stroll, play, eat, recreate. And we need to link them all with paths and cycleways as well as the traffic routes. Of course, these public spaces have to be good enough to attract people.

There are numerous examples of revitalised public spaces bringing a renaissance to local retailing and other business. You can take, for example, the wonderful waterfront Strand development in Townsville. The council says there that the Strand development has brought nearly $230 million into the local community, created more than 2 000 full-time jobs as well as producing a strong sense of community and pride.

There are many other examples where planning for public spaces and links between them which do not involve cars have been a boon for communities. I think locally of Ulverstone and Devonport with their wonderful waterfronts. But we are seeing it starting to happen in Melbourne, in Sydney, and there are many European examples like Copenhagen, Lyon and Barcelona.

I suggest that this approach is becoming very important to Launceston. But it is not just for the cities. Public spaces to promote community are just as important for towns and regional areas like much of my electorate of the West Tamar. Mr President, I gently challenge my colleagues in this House to promote or further promote the concept of attractive public spaces and non-vehicle routes in their own electorates. I am convinced that if they do, they will enhance their communities, they will promote health and fitness and they will attract tourism.

I warn members that this a barrow I shall be pushing even further.