Launceston part of a strong Australia

This opinion article by Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott was published in the Launceston Examiner on Wednesday 13 February 2019.

Snuggled in Tasmania’s breathtaking North, Launceston is one of the nation’s treasures.

As the state enjoys strong economic growth, business and community leaders are keen to ensure the influx of visitors to Tasmania extends beyond Hobart into Launceston and the regions.

Sharing the benefits of growth across Tasmania is top of mind, and developing the infrastructure to cater for the tourism industry’s expansion needs to enhance, not change, the unique character of the state.

It’s important sustainable development balances Tasmania’s natural and built heritage values with the foundations that are needed to support new businesses, new jobs, and new opportunities.

It’s for this reason the Business Council of Australia supports place-based development, rather than a one-size-fits all model.

It is important any development is done in line with the community’s wishes, engaging them in the process of progress, instead of locking them out of the conversation.

The business council, in conjunction with the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is bringing business and the community together at our Strong Australia lunch event on Thursday in Hobart with Sky News Australia.

Together, we want to tackle some of the most pressing public policy challenges facing regional Australia, especially in Tasmania, including affordable energy costs, infrastructure, education, and attracting skilled workers.

As the Tasmanian economy grows, so too do the opportunities.

Launceston, as locals know, is being marketed as "the new cool" with the push on to get visitors to travel beyond Hobart.

In 2017, Tasmania attracted 1.26 million visitors. 

Tourism now employs 37,200 Tasmanians, generating not just jobs but stimulating investment and infrastructure. It also enhances trade and education opportunities.

It means more young Tasmanians can stay on the island, and build meaningful careers close to their families instead of leaving for the mainland.

Tourism is also an important generator of small and family businesses in Tasmania, rewarding hard work and effort.

Ensuring visitors discover Tasmania’s diverse regions beyond the major cities is a vital element of the state’s tourism strategy. 

The blueprint identifies the need for more and improved facilities, better and safer tourism roads, more accommodation beds, and world-class facilities for access to the state’s parks and World Heritage Areas.

To get these projects off the ground, Tasmania needs to attract private business investment.

Business funding is critical to developing new visitor experiences, services and infrastructure to support and create the jobs that flow from tourism.

Businesses such as Premium Fresh Tasmania, a privately owned vegetable farming and processing operation near Devonport about one hours’ drive from Launceston, are proud of Tasmania’s clean, green and quality produce.

The company’s managing director Jim Ertler says Tasmania is in a purple patch, enjoying a “pretty positive time’’.

But he says it’s important not to take the good times for granted and those in the state need to capitalise on the high levels of business confidence.

The business council believes the vitality of our regions is an important driver of jobs, and strategic development can help encourage Australians into the regions.

To ensure the right foundations are in place to generate jobs and activity, Australia needs a focus on a hub and spoke model of infrastructure delivery and the autonomy to adopt the right policies for individual areas.

Part of this involves making it easier to attract businesses and investment outside our major cities into centres such as Launceston by reducing red tape and unnecessary regulation.

Let’s remove the disincentives that stop people relocating to new areas such as stamp duty, and encourage migrants out of the cities.

Let’s support the Australians who live in the regions by providing them with the same access as their city counterparts to educational, skills and training opportunities.

Developing the right environment for businesses to grow and hire more workers, is the best way to unlock the potential of regional centres such as Launceston.