the cascade DECLARATION & the red herrings
To make its dream come true, the cable car had to start in the grounds of the Cascade Brewery.
The Cascade Brewery, Australia’s oldest, commenced in the 1820s and its 800 hectare estate stretched up a forested valley directly and abutted the mountain park. The snow-capped Pinnacle, directly behind its impressive facade, was postcard perfect, the Brewery drew its water from the mountain stream that flowed beside the brewery. Thousands of tourists visited every year. Moreover, the brewery was surrounded by a large, flat manicured gardens that had been blended into the dense wet forest.
To the MWCC, there was a natural fit: twin icons side-by-side, linked to the mountain. Co-location and a partnership was a no-brainer. The brewery is owned by Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in Melbourne. CUB is owned by Lion Nathan, based in England, which was itself owned by SA Miller in the US. Getting any major decision made was not going to be simple, but as Mathew Denholm so succinctly observed in The Australian, "Without CUB’s consent, the plan as configured, would be dead."
What follows is a chronology of the sickness leading unto that death—and red herrings.
In 2012 the MWCC asked permission to survey Cascade’s land in order to develop a plan. It then made a major presentation to the Brewery. The cable car plan needed the brewery’s support but, to build, required the parent company’s landholder consent. They showed the brewery manager their plans. He had some suggestions. MWCC sent the revised plans to CUB and CUB said they’d think about it.
In October 2013 MWCC proclaimed on their website: "Carlton United Breweries provides Landowner Consent". CUB corrected them and the statement was removed. Notwithstanding this, for years, the MWCC continued to claim that CUB was "keen", and that the MWCC had an "on-going collaboration with CUB".
In 2014 the MWCC released detailed plans and illustrative makeover images for an altered entranceway to the brewery, a 3-storey carpark out the back and a grand base terminal station: all on CUB’s land. Beyond the base station, the cable car would ride on eight towers, each on Cascade Land, until it reached the Wellington Park.
CUB was not, initially, convinced that it should support the proposal. CUB already had a collaborative project with the Hobart City Council to "progress shared objectives for the estate, which has significant environmental and heritage values.” Their joint Strategic Land Review has 7 goals, including: "to maximise the benefit of the estate to the Cascade brand; to conserve the land's significant natural values; and, to conserve culturally significant values, including aesthetic, scientific, historic and social values." How would a cable car enhance these objectives, CUB wondered?
Doubts grew, not only over consent and collaboration but even over "on-going". In fact, nothing was going on. According to CUB, MWCC just stopped communicating with them.
Over the next two years, CUB quietly pushed back against the MWCC’s claims, warning that it would not damage itself to please any one, that it was undecided. As the Cascade Brewery is a heritage-listed building, with parts dating back to the 1820s, with building height restrictions and an amenity landscape protection status, tacking a cable car terminal on to the side of it would certainly prove troublesome for heritage assessment approval, but there was more to it. There was the Cascade brand.
The image of a beer barrel, the brewery behind, and beyond that a forested slope topped with a snowy cap is the Cascade brand. The cable car would add to the brewery's background a line of towers strung wth cables stretching right to the top of the mountain.
And then their was their community. The Brewery has any near neighbours. No fence, however high, could hide the cable car. If the neighbours were opposed, it made getting approval from them for any other CUB developments problematic.
And the mountain itself. The Brewery draws water from the mountain. Has feted it, has almost worshiped it.
The conflict with its own needs was clear. That it conflicted with CUB’s environmental standards was also likely. In 2017, with many concerned residents and community groups contacting the brewery itself, the company decided to take further investigative action. It began to listen. And the more CUB looked into it, the less comfortable they became. The head of Public Relations at CUB was being inundated with emails. A Change.org petition was started. Supporters of the cable car also wrote in. The possibility of a boycott was in every one’s mind. Either way that CUB decided, they would lose customers. Some vowed they would never drink their beer again because of it.
In February 2018 the MWCC gave the first indication that the hints CUB had been dropping were getting through. MWCC announced that it was considering an alternative route, an Alignment "B" that might, some suggested, begin at the end of the Inglewood Fire Trail instead of at Cascade. The MWCC then immediately quashed that suggestion, but a month later organised a meeting with the residents of Old Farm Road.
Why? Not because they had discovered a better location, but because the writing was on the wall. The Cascade Declaration had been “draughted” and it is presumed the MWCC had seen the draft.
Late in April, CUB announced that it would be making its decision within six weeks. Ominiously for MWCC, the brewery gave permission to the Residents Opposed to the Cable Car (ROCC) to hold a meeting (effectively an anti-cable car rally, but they were not permitted to call it a “rally”) on Cascade land just outside the brewery. In May thousands flooded the gardens, spread up its slopes and lined the streets.
The MWCC did not abandon its plan for a base station—set in the verdant, leafy, manicured Cascade Gardens—to start instead at the arc mesh fence outside the Hobart tip, without a fight, but it lost that fight.
On June 26, 2018 CUB announced its decision publicly. It was unequivocal, it was comprehensive, it was No, and it was devastating. CUB would not give landholder consent to the MWCC. It would not give, lend, lease or sell to the MWCC, nor would it consent to the MWCC doing anything to do with their cableway anywhere on Cascade's 800 hectare estate.
The media release, headed No cable car on Cascade land read:
"CUB will not sell or lease any Cascade land to the Mount Wellington Cableway Company (MWCC) for its proposed cable car on kunanyi.
CUB’s decision follows discussions with the MWCC and extensive consultations over the past year, including with local residents and various community groups.
The proposal to build a cable car on Mount Wellington is a pivotal decision that will clearly change the mountain and therefore Hobart. We are not satisfied that we, as a company, should be making such a momentous decision on behalf of Tasmanians.
CUB was also not satisfied that the MWCC had been successful in winning broad support from the community for its proposed cable car.
Cascade has operated from the foothills of Mount Wellington for almost two centuries. We have been privileged to share a special relationship with Mount Wellington, Hobart and the local community that have supported us. As a company we have a special responsibility and commitment to both the community and the Mountain.
Cascade has been in the heart of Tasmanians since 1824 because we’ve been a great brewer who has earned the strong and loyal support of Tasmanians. We want to concentrate on doing what we do best – brewing and creating jobs and opportunities for the people of Tasmania."
The day after the Cascade Declaration, the Masterplan page of the website was taken down. Plan A, the configured plan, was dead. The cable car was homeless.
Initially, the MWCC played the CUB declaration down. They claimed they were "comfortable with the decision". They thanked CUB for their support, but they “didn’t need the land” they posted on facebook. MWCC Chair Jude Franks said the company had “informed CUB two weeks ago that the project no longer needed to be located on its land”.
CUB, at pains to inform MWCC early and then delay their announcement in order to give the MWCC time and room to re-work their plans, now read from MWCC that it had been rejected, not the other way round.
In fact, MWCC still wanted a deal with CUB. They asked CUB if instead they could to lease or buy a small portion of land on the edge of CUB’s estate—which CUB were not using for any purpose—to bury some pipes, “to make connection of a sewerage pipe and water line easier”. It would have been a face-saving consolation. The MWCC flew to CUB’s offices in Melbourne just weeks before the announcement to try to persuade CUB to either sell or lease it part of its property near Old Farm Road. They even flew one of their designers from Queensland to lobby them as part of the campaign.
CUB said No. Flatly, No. No land, no access, no lease. Nowhere. Bugger off.
The spat over who dropped who hit the headlines on August 11. Angered at what seemed to them an unreasonable, even obstructionist rebuff, the MWCC accused CUB of “grandstanding” with its announcement. “They rolled over to the vocal minority,” MWCC boss Jude Franks said. That was not widely believed and MWCC soon dropped it.
By September MWCC had tweaked its story again. While telling its detractors that “We had been planning our [new] base station for several months before. We just let the protestors chase the CUB red herring. Sorry that it wasn’t really a win for you”, to its friends on facebook an MWCC spokesperson wrote that “CUB were recipients of a relentless campaign against them waged by Bob Brown” and that it had “advised CUB that it was of no real consequence if CUB had to be seen not to help MWCC in order to stop the protest action”.
Shifting focus again when it released its Full Proposal, MWCC next went to great lengths to suggest that the decision to abandon the MasterPlan had nothing at all to do with Cascade’s declaration or the protest. The reason was in fact a local Council rezoning decision: "This 2015 rezoning made it near impossible to continue with the original alignment", the Full Proposal website page explained. Really? The MWCC's MasterPlan showed the alignment at Cascade for three years after that zoning decision.
It appears that the MWCC simply could not bring itself to give up its MasterPlan: it was too good. Too much work had gone into it. For years, the MWCC refused to change it, instead it sought ever-more convoluted legal solutions to the planning and heritage issues the site raised, and pretended to itself CUB would be won over. It has a precedent. It is the same folly MWCC had got itself into in 2013. It announced that it had Canadian investors lined up, money in the bank. When the Canadians were exposed as fraudulent, the MWCC admitted nothing. Instead, it claimed it had called the deal off. Twice, intransigence and hubris led ultimately to humiliation.
Only those who have spent years planning something so complex could appreciate the depth of desolate anguish this must have caused. The great journey itself was halved, the experience truncated. The base station, the start of the experience, co-located with a major existing tourist attraction, on a main road (with all the traffic surveys done and the parking sorted) was no longer applicable; the route carefully conceived "to avoid the errors of the previous proposals" was ruled out; the clever idea for hiding long queues by shooting customers to the mid-station in a fleet of quick-fill gondolas was no longer possible; the mid-park Golden Gully profit station with all its adventure play equipment was now inaccessible; the engineering work on the heights of the pylons, the lengths of cable, the architecture of the mid-park station, the engines and engine drivers: all redundant. Costs, timings, builds, scales: everything would have to be re-calculated and changed and that would all cost money.