With some close to completion and others still in the pipeline, there are a number of big projects Tasmanians can expect to see in 2019, as well as contentious issues to watch out for.
A report into who funded who in the March state election, the prospect of gender being optional on birth certificates and the 2 per cent freeze on public sector wages thawing — or not — are all on Tasmania’s calendar.
High-profile developments are also set to be unveiled, with hotels, bridges and health facilities scheduled to be opened to the public.
Some other projects which have 2019 as a key date may take a little longer due to a number of factors, one of them being winning over opponents.
The Mount Wellington cable car still states on its website it will begin the building phase of the project, something opponents to the idea will no doubt seek to thwart.
Giving itself some wriggle room, the company has added the disclaimer, “build dates subject to approval”.
So what can Tasmanians expect this year?
Bridges bridged, weather permitting
There should be closure on Hobart’s Remembrance Bridge early in the new year. Fingers crossed.
The $11-million bridge, an integral part of the Queens Domain upgrade, was meant to have its span in place across the Tasman Highway for Remembrance Day 2018.
But to position the span over six lanes of traffic, the major arterial roadway has to be closed for two days and the public notified regarding expected delays and alternative routes.
The initial dates for the job were to be October 12 to 14, but developer Fulton Hogan cancelled after deciding the structure’s appearance was not up to scratch.
Two more cancellations followed (November 2 to 4 and November 23 to 25) after foul weather crashed the party.
So the gap remains to be bridged in 2019 at some point — weather permitting, of course.
Also, the pedestrian bridge over the Brooker Highway, which is part of the same project, should also be completed in 2019.
Will K-Block be the cure?
The $689-million redevelopment of the Royal Hobart Hospital is due to be completed mid-year, a date that can’t come soon enough given the overloaded hospital’s ongoing strife.
It has been a long time coming — 13 years after the Lennon Labor government announced plans for a new hospital for Hobart in 2006.
After being halted and reviewed by the new Hodgman Government in 2014, the redevelopment project finally got under way.
But that meant the hospital’s capacity was drastically reduced, losing about 20 beds despite a temporary ward being built on the Liverpool Street entrance.
Developments set to be unveiled
Tasmania has a swag of hotels in the pipeline which, in Hobart at least, will be timely given the Fountainside, MidCity and Theatre Royal hotels have all been bought by the University of Tasmania for student accommodation.
There’s the Hyatt Centric, Mantra and Vibe in Hobart as well as the Verge and the Gorge in Launceston.
But due to be built by year’s end is the $45-million Crowne Plaza located above the new Myer store in Liverpool Street.
It is set to open for business early in 2020.
This will mark the completion of the Myer redevelopment — a site that sadly remained vacant for a decade after fire destroyed the former Myer in 2007.
The $20-million redevelopment of the CH Smith site in central Launceston is on schedule to be finished by the end of March.
The new buildings will be occupied by public servants from Service Tasmania, the coordinator-general’s office and the department of education, as well as housing a cafe and real estate agent.
The site, formerly owned by prominent Launceston businessman Charles Henry Smith, had been derelict for about 30 years.
The developer, Errol Stewart, said the only building yet to find a tenant is the former cordial factory, also known as the supply store.
“That’s probably the latest one that we will finish. We’re well into it. The roof’s on. It’s been the most difficult one in terms of it’s very tender, it’s very old, but it’s near complete in terms of the structure.”
Huskies barking up a different tree
But it’s not all bridges and buildings.
After being refused entry to Australia’s NBL, Tasmanian basketball team the Southern Huskies will start playing in the Kiwi competition this year.
Key backer Mike Sutton has not given up on making the big league in Australia, but with a five-year licence, the Huskies will be the first and only foreign team in the New Zealand Basketball League.
If the Huskies do get an invite to the Australian NBL, the plan would be to keep a feeder team playing the NZNBL.
But without a stadium of their own — the Huskies’ recent bid to buy the Derwent Entertainment Centre (DEC) in Hobart failed — that hope will remain little more than a dream.
The Huskies’ home games in the NZNBL look to be split between the DEC and the Launceston Superdome.
As for a Tasmanian team in the AFL, don’t hold your breath for that in 2019.
Hawthorn legend Rodney Eade has said it could take up to 20 years to realise the dream of many in the local Australian Rules competition — that is 2039.
Transparency, but only above $13.5k
Parliament resumes in March and the Upper House is expected to debate contentious reforms that would remove gender from birth certificates.
The bill, which was heavily amended by the Greens and Labor and supported by Speaker Sue Hickey in the Lower House, was considered deeply flawed by the Government and was not brought on for debate in the Legislative Council before Parliament rose for the year.
The Government has promised the Legislative Council the bill will be debated in the first sitting week in 2019, and members will be able to access the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to draft amendments.
Tasmania would be the first jurisdiction in Australia to make the inclusion of a child’s sex on birth certificates optional if the legislation were to pass.
Although the Tasmanian election was in March 2018, it won’t be until February 2019 that voters get more information about who donated to the state’s political parties.
Tasmanian political parties are bound by the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which stipulates that donations over $13,500 must be declared annually.
The Australian Electoral Commission discloses the donations in February, but Tasmanians may be none the wiser when the lists are published: donors can escape scrutiny if they make multiple donations smaller than the $13,500 threshold.
Another hangover from the state election and the Liberals’ now-abandoned firearms election promise is a parliamentary inquiry into gun laws.
Hearings began in 2018, and will continue this year.
The Government’s stoush with public sector unions is also dragging into the new year, as the Treasurer refuses to budge from his 2-per-cent-a-year wage rise policy.
Teachers, nurses, correctional officers and health workers all took strike action in 2018 over wage and conditions negotiations that have been hobbling along for months.
The main public sector union suspended industrial action before Christmas, but there’s been no indication that either the unions or government are ready for mediation or formal arbitration.