The MWCC has outlined what its cable car proposal entails: what is inside every room, what speed it will attain and so on. It has described how its cables and towers and sky buses are linked between its two stations and how it would be powered. It has mapped where it will run, published a status report on when it all—hopefully—is going to happen and we have been told who it is for: tourists, mainly. The question underlying all of these questions is the why? question. Why build a cable car? The answer to that is seldom offered.

The MWCC is a private company, its object is necessarily financial, but among all the possible money-making, benefit-rich tourist schemes, why a cable car? The MWCC’s answer to this fundamental question is buried in a passage under Tourism Growth in Tasmania shortly after it is claimed that “Hobart needs another substantial [read “mass”] tourism project.” 

Why? 

The section continues: ”Tasmania, and in particular Hobart, has enjoyed unprecedented growth in visitation, and this growth is forecast to continue but the appeal of Hobart must be further stimulated.” 

Why? 

“In order to continue growth. There have been significant increases in airline capacity and seats, and accommodation. Growth is required to ensure the profitability of hoteliers and supporting businesses.” 

But why a cable car?

“New experiences will be required.” 

Why? 

Tourism “spikes” and growth are directly linked to new experiences. 

But why a cable car? 

“Feedback from visitors indicates the need for additional city and city/fringe tourism experiences”. 

If you say so, but why a cable car?

Hold that question while the head of the tourism industry in Tasmania offers an opinion piece on The Burning Question of the threat of climate change to Tasmanian tourism (Luke Martin Mercury December 29, 2018). Research by the University of Sydney published in Nature Climate Change recently revealed that tourism worldwide is responsible for almost 10 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The planet is hotter because of tourism. There is less beach, less rainforest and less wildlife this year because of tourism. And there will be less next year, partially because of tourism. Tourism is a withering threat to tourism. In his piece, Martin cites ski-fields as an example, writing “In NSW operators have been forced to rapidly adapt to shorter and less reliable snow seasons.” The Sydney Uni study makes the same point: “as temperatures rise snow and ice become less reliable in places that depend on them to draw tourists—such as ski resorts and “winter wonderlands”.

From all this, you might be convinced that building a new, winter wonderland snowfield would be a long way down—more probably off—the tourism development agenda. But no, one is at the top of the agenda in Tasmania. The Mount Wellington Cableway Company claims that “a cable car would facilitate all-season access to the mountain, allowing Hobart to promote a visit to Tasmania during winter. Snow-play tourism can create a new visitor market for Hobart.” 

So! This is the answer to why the MWCC proposes a cable car: it is for snow-players.

Snow cover is expected to diminish in all of Tasmania’s alpine areas and is patchy and variable in Wellington Park.
— Wellington Park Management Plan, page 46

That all-season access is not required for one season, and a cable car is not the only way to access the mountain in winter are nugatory against the blindingly obvious situation of snowfields, snowfalls and snow play decreasing everywhere in the world before our eyes. Is there another place in Australia where a new ski resort is planned? No, but that is precisely why the MWCC is not only convinced that its scheme is unique but that it is proven. They claim that “Historical visitation to the mountain supports this rare and unique potential in the Australian tourism market.” Experts give it the same unique chance as a snowflake in hell.

The MWCC appears to have succumbed to snow blindness. Is the better question not: Why does the MWCC consider a snowfall-led tourist boom likely to succeed?

After systematically testing the technical, economic and environmental factors of each option: funicular, aerial cable car, cog-railway, light-rail, shuttle buses and all-terrain vehicles—the aerial cableway won the contest hands down on all parameters and community expectations.
— MWCC
A cable-car is likely to by-pass the Springs, has high visual impact and would most likely require commercial infrastructure within the Pinnacle Zone. It has high construction costs with little subsequent flexibility.
— Wellington Park Management Plan