Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Beautiful Laundrette Tour

I really just liked the name of this one in South Hobart, though it does have good posters inside

No, there’s nothing wrong with the washing machine, cross your fingers and praise the deity -   I just thought these were rather nice. I am working on something positive at the moment, but it's taking a bit longer than it should, so I am just putting these in to keep you visually amused. I was going to take my sister on a special laundry tour of Hobart, but after the Rivulet excursion I thought she would be less than excited. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.
Once upon a time doing the washing was a social event as women gathered around the village pump or stream. They still do it in places like Bali and rural Nepal.  These places just embody elements of that community spirit. This is where you find out what’s going on in the neighbourhood and possibly meet some of the neighbours at a time when they aren’t too busy to have a leisurely chat. It beats watching the dryer go round and round.

Posters in the Lost Sock
Interesting Art Deco Building and good info at this West Hobart laundrette

Inside the North Hobart Laundrette it's almost a social event
This is my absolute favourite. The Machine Laundry Cafe
Here they have had the good sense to add a cafe
Even dogs are welcome here. On Sundays they serve puppyccinos outside
I forgot to show it in this picture, but above the diners there are clotheslines with oddments out of the wash.

A major feature of doing the washing in times past was catching up on the gossip, though not all these
       people are actually doing their washing. Some are just faking it so that they can have a cup of coffee.

I hope to add more to this page as I come across other interesting laundrettes.                                                                                 Let me know if you know of any that deserve inclusion.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When the user pays and pays

Public Meeting in the Town Hall. I didn't know this was the Town Hall.
Thought it was further down where they had the
Dinosaurs, the Xavier Rudd Concert and flower shows. It's really rather lovely.

 I went to a Public Meeting in the Town Hall yesterday to hear why we need water meters at a cost of $45 million, not to mention the $700,000 spent to tell us why we need them, the cost of consultants reports and the estimated $40 million spent on the billing system and the untold administrative costs to read them and collect our money.
Mike Paine CEO of the newly formed Southern Water Corporation, was at great pains to point out how much fairer and more equitable it was all going to be, that the rates were going up 12% and that the law prevented them from charging flat dwellers separately, carefully avoiding the elephant -in -the -room question, why on earth are we doing this at all?

Sure the old system had some anomalies such as little old ladies on pensions paying on the basis of the assessed value of their homes, even though they might use only a small amount of water compared to a neighbour with five children, but the costs were reasonable and equal, much as applies to garbage collection. I only need to put my bin out once a month, but that doesn't stop me paying the same as others who put theirs out every week. And if flat owners - sometimes holders of 18 flats or more, are only paying for one service altogether under the new system, how does that become fairer? If it's a matter of the law, as Paine claims, then the law is an ass and should be changed immediately.

I suppose I shouldn't complain too much as technically my water rate could go down under the new system, but I'm skeptical. When does anything ever go down? Even if the water rate itself was less, what about the flow -on implications?  If everything else goes up because of the increased rate, those costs will flow on to me too, so where will the saving be?

The plan is to charge not just individuals but industry, hospitals, businesses, nurseries and market gardens and schools exactly for the water they use. Obviously their products and services will become more expensive and those costs will either be passed on to consumers or taxpayers and more businesses will end up going broke or laying off staff, which in turn means less government revenue and either higher taxes or poorer service, which is already pretty appalling. I personally do not want schools, hospitals or restaurants to economise on water!!!

This comes on top of the privatisation of our power supply which was also supposed to become more efficient, but the costs of administration (including $60 million for a new billing system) has meant a 27% increase to date, rising to 32% next year. Nor will trying to reduce consumption by installing water saving devices or tanks, necessarily reduce costs. If the example of Origin Energy is any guide, as they proudly boasted in the business pages of the national paper, they will simply increase the base charges applied to every property to maintain their revenue. The people who'll save without discomfort, will be those wealthy enough to buy the technology. It is poor people who will be forced to economise by going without. As one lady quipped, " Tasmania won't be the clean and green state, it will be the brown and grubby one."

Tasmania already has more poor people, more unemployed and more elderly folk than any other state - over one third of the population is on government welfare of some kind -while the young and the able go elsewhere to get work. Even self -funded retirees are feeling the pinch.  As one elderly attendee said "We thought when we came here we would have enough for a comfortable retirement, but the way costs keep going up, we'll end up having to live on handouts too." This is a bitter blow for people who have worked hard all their lives and planned and provided for their old age themselves.

While concessions are promised for the really poor, (if you don't mind begging welfare groups to help you out),  they are generally not enough to cover the immediate costs, much less the flow -on effects, and the people who will be hardest hit, yet again, will be struggling families and people who have low income work (which again, is most Tasmanians, except for parliamentarians and heads of water corporations), who won't be eligible for any concessions.

If saving water was really the issue, rather than raising revenue, then government would subsidise tanks and high pressure showerheads instead of meters. They would also make provision, at least on large plants or commercial users for a dual system, so that first class treated and purified water is not used for flushing toilets, watering lawns or industrial processes.

Water is a basic necessity and a human right. We are not short of it in Hobart. We have the River Derwent at out feet. It should not be treated like a commodity. Sure there are costs for pumping and purifying and maintaining pipes and for that I don't mind paying a bit. Nor do I mind subsidising the East Coast a bit to raise their water supply to somewhere above Third World standards. I don't even mind paying a bit more than I use to cover hospitals, families and schools. We need to do that in the interests of having a decent society. I do however, resent subsidising the overseas holidays of our elected representatives and their families or the holiday homes of Water Board CEOs.

It's the ever -moving goal posts which frighten me. How can anyone ever feel relaxed and at ease when prices are constantly and unpredictably changing?

Southern Water is also responsible for sewerage. Does it mean that next there will be meters on our toilets? That we'll be crossing our legs until we can visit friends  or will it be back to holes in the backyard and long drop dunnies? I think I'll move to Bolivia if I can ever raise the fare. When the powers that be wanted to privatise the water supply there, the people rose en masse and marched on the Parliament and took it back. 

Gazing around the many white heads at the meeting, I couldn't help thinking we
must all just look like sheep awaiting fleecing

What's next?  The witty woman on my right added this sign to the podium.
Bring on the Revolution, I say!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tuesday -Down the Channel

The Channel, or more properly, the D' Entrecasteaux Channel, is a lovely region about 40 Km south east of Hobart. You can get there much faster by taking the Southern Outlet but you miss the beautiful cliff top views of the Derwent that you get by taking the old windy road through Taroona, past the Shot Tower and over Bonnet Hill.  The other way to get there if you have time and don't have a tight budget, is by taking the Peppermint Bay Ferry from Elizabeth Pier. Slower still and with unlimited waterviews.

Peppermint Bay Ferry at rest in Woodbridge

Even by road there are excellent waterviews most of the way and you see rustic little places like Margate, Snug and Kettering which all have excellent seafood. Not that I am much of a fan, but others positively rave about it and I did like the chips. Kettering has a delightful harbour where many small craft lie at anchor and it is also where you catch the ferry to Bruny Island. Bruny Island is an interesting place to spend a day or two, especially if you like lighthouses and birdlife. Even Captain Cook stopped by there.

I was a bit disappointed to find that the old pine trees at the pub in Kettering which had the Alice in Wonderland sculptures, had  now been cut down. The sculptures do live on, but safely corralled inside the beer garden, which is not quite the same.  However, you can now see the pub from the road not just the sea, which you couldn't before.

The main activity here besides fishing, used be apple growing, but after Britain joined the Common Market in the 1970's farmers were encouraged to chop down their apple trees and diversify. Tourism has taken off, along with small enterprises such as alpaca farming, an all sheep cheesery, wine growing, Atlantic salmon farming and a variety of art and craft galleries.

Alpacas and vineyards have replaced of many of the apple orchards, along with tourism and aquaculture
Happy sheep at Grandvewe Cheesery
This is their home. There's a nice little restaurant and cheese tasting place here too, but we didn't go in this time
This is where you end up if you take the ferry. It's a great place to sample local and Tasmanian produce

Tourists sip coffee outside
The gardens at the back have a Sculpture by the Sea display

I always like coming upon artworks unexpectedly especially when integrated into the landscape, but there's a nice little gallery nearby too.

Mostly though I just like the little village of Woodbridge. Not sure why. It has been down on its luck a bit in recent years as evidenced by the peeling paint, but perhaps it' s the sense of community and the setting with its rolling hills, modest buildings and established trees. Maybe it's just the scale.

Main Street, Woodbridge

General Store

The view from inside

Woodbridge Hall
Signs on the hall show that there is still a lively community here
One of the last big apple orchards
Possibly the last orchardist
This number plate must date from when Tassie was still the Apple Isle.
Be tempted indeed!

It wasn't till we got to about here that my sister realised that I had brought her down this way before – I didn’t remember either - but it was still a lovely drive and the changing colours of early autumn were a delight which I never get tired of, so I am hoping she didn't mind either. I felt a bit sad though as we left. 

Noble though the proposed Carbon Tax might be in principle, I can't help thinking that it will just be another nail in the coffin of small communities like this. We do not need another tax. The rising petrol price is doing the job of cutting my emissions quite nicely. I hardly go anywhere already.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Underground Hobart

Abandon hope ye who enter here
 I thought my sister might enjoy looking at Hobart from a different perspective, so after dragging her through the back streets past a couple of my favourite shops, we descended down into the Hobart Rivulet. I think of it as the sewers of Paris without the rats. Most people never get to see this part of Hobart and I suspect that my sister now wishes she were among them.

 The Rivulet has a long history, having been the site of much industrial activity, providing both water and  power to drive mills and machinery, not to mention being the main sewer and the source of typhoid for much its early life, before being largely paved over and cleaned up.

This is what the Hobart Officer of Health had to say about it in 1879
 The interesting thing about Hobart is that its history is so plainly visible wherever you go. First seaport and convict outstation, then the transition to self -supporting colony and exporter of primary produce to the motherland. The Gothic -looking Cascade brewery dates from this period, along with some of the old factories and grand buildings. Finally, there is the shift to tertiary services such as tourism and being the administrative capital of the state, with many of the old industrial buildings becoming offices and shops. One of the reasons Hobart still has so many of its old buildings is that the economy being what it is, it was never afflicted with that crass development boom of the 1960’s that led to their mass demolition and replacement with skyscrapers of concrete and glass as in other cities, although we do have a few of those too. Come and see it all here, before it disappears.

On the way to the Rivulet
We dropped over the side of the wall near the hospital and two things surprised me almost immediately. Someone had installed lights in the darkest places since my last visit so we didn’t have to rely on my feeble torch, but the roof had also been extended and you couldn’t see some of the landmark buildings anymore. Luckily, the Rivulet wasn’t running too high and without the dark right hand turn at the beginning where you used to have to grope your way along a rusty rail, the only tricky bits were the little weir and the odd bit of slippery slime where a pipe or two leaked over the track. Although the graffiti was as good as ever, the Rivulet generally looked much tidier with no homeless people or buskers to be seen or heard, thereby depriving it of much of its life and vitality. However, it wasn't as creepy as it used to be either, though there were still a few pungent smells.

Now it's more like an underground graffiti gallery


Rivulet Monster

The T & G Building from 1876 is one of the buildings you used to see before they paved over the new bit
The only other sign of life
Light at the end of the Tunnel at last!
 Alas, when we got to the other end, we found out the reason. There was a triple padlock on the exit and there was absolutely no other way out apart from walking all the way back.  I had hoped we would have time to walk the open parts of the Rivulet past the Convict Female Factory and the fudge makers and all the way to the Cascade Brewery. This is a lovely linear park with huge old trees, overhanging blackberries and tables and seats where the Scrabble Club meets, but by the time we had walked back under and through town, my sister wasn’t all that enthusiastic. Don't tell her this, but after what was effectively four laps of the city, I wasn't too enthusiastic either and could barely make it back home.

This is the last factory building on the Rivulet at the place where we should have come out
Typically, it too has had a chequered career. Beginning as a woollen mill in 1899, it became a packaging plant in 1944, making cans for the export of Tasmanian fruit and vegetables. After this industry moved to Devonport, the building was taken over by the Beacon Foundation which runs programs for unemployed youth.

No place so dark that the sun doesn't shine, although my sister did bang her head on this arch.