The State of Play in Tasmania

Jack Birrell , 8 January 2014

Jack Birrell provides an update on things Tasmanian.

The Tasmanian Building and Construction Industry Training Board 2013 state-of-the-industry report has revealed that Tasmania has lost 5000 construction jobs and will experience $544 million less in building activity during the next two years.

Despite prospects of reasonably strong activity in mining, housing renovations and some sectors of non-residential building, the outlook for the property and construction industry in Tasmania remains subdued. This is amid expectations of further drops in housing starts and capital value declines across most sectors of commercial property and a recent surge in office vacancies throughout Hobart to decade highs, negligible population growth and a shrinking economy.

The State Planning Scheme, currently being rolled out at glacial speed, is yet to gain any traction and debate grows as to whether the objectives of simplicity and clarity, streamlining, and less complicated processes are in fact going to be delivered. The risks are considerable as investment from the private sector, both commercially and residentially, is at an all-time low in the state. This was clearly evident in last month’s Architecture Awards, with most entries to the Public and Educational categories indicating where the primary source of construction has occurred over the past year. With Tasmanian state government budgets in near austerity mode, the spend on government sector work is likely to continue to be less than previously experienced.

A Tasmanian report card cannot fail to mention that Tasmania and its economy are indebted to the miracle of Medici-like philanthropist David Walsh and his MONA-effect. Our newest statesman gave us Dark MOFO, which has just run its course in the dead of winter and saw masses naked in the Derwent and marvelling at light beams that travelled kilometres into space over Hobart and could be seen from all parts of the state.

Finally, a little bit of architectural and landscape joy. The GASP Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park (GASP!) is a wonderful community and design story.  It is amazing as it involves an extensive network including: individual and organisational advisors, all tiers of government, foundations and trusts, community groups, volunteers, large, medium and small businesses, non-profit groups, museums and art spaces. GASP! is a linear nine-hectare public space extending approximately three kilometres from Montrose Bay to Wilkinson’s Point. It includes open parkland, wetlands and bird habitat. Connecting the foreshore edge is a crescent shaped boardwalk in four parts with three public pavilions. The key people have really excelled in a space that many would dream about, but don’t ever get this close to.



Jack Birrell is the Tasmanian Representative on the ACA National Executive Committee and ACA Assistant Treasurer. He is a director of Birelli Art + Architecture + Design.

Photograph courtesy of GASP!
GASP! directors are: Marion Webster OAM – Chair, 
Jane Haley,
Peter Poulet,
Anna Waldmann,
Kim Wiggins,
Peter Brooks,
Carolyn Reynolds and
Peter Choraziak. Pippa Dickson is the CEO and Room 11 are the architects and project managers.