New Cargo Hub taking our produce to the world

There was an air of excitement enveloping Launceston Airport this morning as stakeholders gathered to witness the official opening of the new Virgin Australia Cargo. This facility will provide new opportunities to northern Tasmania’s food and beverage exporters, particularly for those needing to get time-sensitive goods from our UNESCO designated region to mainland markets.

Hon. Michael Ferguson MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, highlighted the transformative impact of this cargo hub in a recent media release. The facility emerges as a key enabler, offering unprecedented opportunities for the region’s food and beverage exporters. Notably, it serves as a crucial conduit for transporting time-sensitive goods from our UNESCO-designated region to mainland markets, breathing new life into the prospects of local businesses.

The minister underscored the potential of the Cargo Hub to catapult northern Tasmania’s world-class seafood and agri-food producers onto both domestic and international stages. With these products contributing a staggering $910 million annually to the region’s economy in export earnings, the hub emerges as a cornerstone for economic growth and sustainability.

Leased to Virgin Australia and its partner Aus Flight Handling until 2033, the Cargo Hub signifies a decade-long commitment to fostering growth in the region and is a testament to the company’s unwavering confidence in the region’s potential. It symbolises a commitment to facilitating seamless trade and transportation for the next decade, elevating northern Tasmania as a key player in the global export landscape. This state-of-the-art facility takes flight, it carries with it the aspirations and potential of an entire region, unlocking doors to new markets and ensuring that the world can savour the bounty of our UNESCO-designated lands for years to come.


A Bonza Day for Launceston

Tuesday it was all eyes on the skies as the arrival of ‘Bazza’ the Boeing 737 MAX, marked the arrival of Bonza Airlines in Launceston and Tasmania. Its first route a direct flight between Launceston and the Gold Coast. According to Tourism data for the year ending June 20-23, Tasmania saw over 226,000 visitors from Queensland, with more than half of those coming to Launceston. The addition of Bonza’s service at our incredible Launceston Airport will mean more than 29,000 additional seats to Launceston each year. This is fantastic news for our tourism, hospitality, and small business community.

However, this could just be the beginning. In a press released for the launch of the new Launceston service, Bonza Chief Commercial Officer Carly Povey, is quoted as saying “Our strapline is ‘Here for Allstralia’ and today we take another step in delivering that promise with our first destination beyond the many incredible East Coast locations we fly to. There will be more destinations for Launceston, and Bonza’s wider route map, to come. We look forward to revealing what’s next when the time is right…”

As Launceston takes its first flights with Bonza, this could be the beginning of a beautiful new friendship with the promise of more destinations on the horizon paining an exciting picture for the city. The beginning of this partnership may well be the prelude to an era of enhanced connectivity, economic growth, and unforgettable travel experiences for visitors to our region.


The word of the month is: SAFE

October is all about safety. It’s both Worksafe Month and Cybersecurity Month so the focus is on keeping yourself and your employees safe and your organisation safe from a cyber-attack.
WorkSafe Month is a time for employers and workers to focus on improving work health, safety, wellbeing and return to work; and reducing work-related injury, illness and death.
The focus for WorkSafe Tasmania Month in 2023 is Safe Bodies, Safe Minds: Working together to ensure workers return home safe and well every day. WorkSafe Tasmania is running several events around the state covering topics including:

  • Bullying and harassment in the workplace
  • Psychosocial hazards and mental health in the construction industry
  • Embracing change: Uncovering and addressing psychosocial risk.
  • Emergency Management
  • Leadership to make a difference.
  • And many more…

Participants who attend a WorkSafe Month event will receive a certificate of attendance.

For more details on WorkSafe Month in Tasmania, please click here.

October is also Cybersecurity Month. In this article, we’ve discussed cybersecurity on a number of occasions, primarily as it’s a concern for every business, of every size in every industry. This being Cyber Security Month, we’re encouraging all members to consider their business or organisation’s cybersecurity safety and be cyber-wise – don’t compromise. Cybersecurity is complex and requires careful consideration and planning. In the 2021-22 financial year, approximately 76,000 reported cyberattacks were reported. Do you have cybersecurity procedures, plans and procedures in place? Need help? Let us know and we can put you in touch with programs, resources and experts who can assist.


Attract, Retain, Develop

According to an article just published on The Examiner website, our unemployment rate has stayed at the lowest rate on record at just 3.8% in March. With unemployment rates low, finding and keeping great staff is crucial to the success of your business. Attracting, retaining, and developing good people is essential for ensuring the organisation can achieve its goals and stay ahead of the competition. Here are some strategies businesses can use to attract, retain, and develop top talent:

Attracting Top Talent:

  • Develop a strong employer brand: Create a positive and recognisable image of the organisation that reflects its values, culture, and mission. This can be done through effective marketing, social media, and other communication channels.
  • Offer competitive compensation and benefits: Ensure the organisation’s salary packages are competitive and aligned with industry standards.
  • Provide opportunities for career growth: Show potential employees that there are opportunities for advancement and career development within the organisation.
  • Leverage technology: Utilise modern technology such as social media and online job portals to reach a wider pool of potential candidates.

Retaining Top Talent:

  • Provide a positive work environment: Foster a culture of respect, collaboration, and engagement to create a positive workplace culture.
  • Offer professional development opportunities: Provide training and development opportunities to help employees build new skills and advance their careers.
  • Encourage work-life balance: Offer flexible work arrangements and encourage employees to prioritise their personal lives to avoid burnout and promote wellness.
  • Recognise and reward top performers: Acknowledge and reward employees who consistently exceed expectations and contribute to the organisation’s success.

Developing Top Talent:

  • Create a mentoring program: Pair high-potential employees with experienced mentors who can provide guidance and support as they develop their skills and advance in their careers.
  • Provide ongoing feedback: Regularly provide constructive feedback to help employees improve and grow in their roles.
  • Offer stretch assignments: Provide challenging projects and assignments that allow employees to stretch and grow their skills.
  • Invest in training and development: Provide opportunities to help employees build new skills and advance their careers.

Having great staff is crucial to any organisation’s success. By attracting, retaining, and developing great employees, organisations can ensure they have the skills and capabilities to achieve their goals and stay ahead of the competition. Take care of your people, and they will take care of your business.


State of the States: Tasmania slips into second…

This week saw the release of the January 2023 Commsec State of the States report and while Tasmania was ranked Australia’s best performing economy in the previous report, we’ve now slipped to number two. While we still lead the nation with our investment in plant and equipment (76.8% above the decade average), Tasmania falls behind in areas such as inflation, with Hobart having the highest inflation rate in the September quarter at 8.6% and retail spending, which dropped by 0.9%.

There is real concern that this drop in retail spending is a sign that increased costs of living, and decreased discretionary spending is hurting our economy. A big contributor to increased costs of living and a huge expense to business is energy pricing. According to an article published on The Examiner website this morning, wholesale electricity prices have started to drop and federal market intervention to cap prices has made an impact, but is enough being done to reduce the cost of living and to ensure power prices don’t jeopardise the viability of our local businesses? Is it time for government action to decrease the cost of living and increase confidence?


Hey UTAS, if Hobart’s CBD won’t have you, we will.

Following the results of the southern Tasmania elector poll on the UTAS move to the Hobart CBD, the Chamber has an invitation for the University of Tasmania: Head North.
As passionate advocates for Launceston and northern Tasmania and keen observers of the UTAS Northern Transformation Project, we value the University’s growing presence in the North. As an entrepreneurial city with high aspirations, we would welcome the shift of more University courses and entities northward from Hobart.
The benefits of the Northern Transformation Project to our region are significant:

  • The new buildings at Inveresk come with a commitment by the University to tailor courses to the skills needed for our city and region.
  • The building themselves have raised the bar in terms of architecture, sustainable design and use of local materials – something private sector developers should note.
  • The future plans for the Newnham site should see it develop very positively to a vibrant site with the mix of Australian Maritime College (AMC), a Defence Innovation Precinct that will see AMC’s role as our national maritime institute preserved, the headquarters of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and a new housing development.

The UTAS Northern Transformation Project has been a transformative project for Launceston that will embed the University as a pillar institution for our city. If the University of Tasmania were to move more University courses and entities to Launceston, the Chamber would be in full support.


Federal Budget 2022 – a mixed reaction

On Tuesday Night, the Federal Government handed down its first Federal Budget. The Budget has been described as a sensible budget considering the current conditions. With the reserve bank increasing interest rates to combat inflation, and inflation the enemy of the economy, the Federal Treasurer had a tough task when implementing cost-of-living relief measures. The measures to be introduced will include cheaper child care and encouraging downsizing to free up housing stock.

In regard to infrastructure and priority projects, we’re thrilled with the news that Northern TRANSLink, an intermodal facility to be located near the Launceston Airport, will be funded. This facility will improve access to interstate and overseas markets for perishable goods and considering Launceston and northern Tasmania’s designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, the demand for northern Tasmanian produce will be in hot demand. This is fantastic news for agribusinesses in the region. TRANSLink is a regional priority project identified by the Regional Collaborative Framework (RCF). The RCF was a concept born in the Chamber and brought to fruition by the Northern Tasmania Development Corporation.

Health funding announcements for northern Tasmania were pleasing with $4 million over four years committed to a Medical Research Centre at the Launceston General Hospital and $20 million over four years for the development of a new hospice to provide palliative care in the region.

On the negative side, we are concerned with the lack of funding for two of Launceston’s priority projects:

  • The TEMT vision for kanamaluka/Tamar Estuary will bring a triple-bottom-line benefit to the banks of the Tamar and will provide vital infrastructure for active transport users to travel from Kings Wharf to Riverside. 
  • City Heart Stage 2 will enhance the corridors that connect our three primary assembly areas (which were refurbished as part of City Heart Stage 1) and provide vital infrastructure for Launceston’s night-time economy. 

With the cancellation of the Building Better Regions program by the Federal Government, the future of these two key projects is unclear, but we look forward to working with all levels of government to ensure the delivery of these key projects for Launceston. 

Reference: Ruddicks Chartered Accountants advice article, available here. Ruddicks Chartered Accountants are a gold Chamber member.


R U OK? How about your staff?

Today is R U OK day, a day for checking on those around you and starting conversations with the simple question ‘Are you ok?’

So, let me ask you, are you ok? Let me follow that up with, are your staff ok? Have you checked in with them recently? In these challenging times it’s never been more important to look after your mental health and that of your team, but where do you start?

It could start with ‘Are you ok?’, a simple question that starts a conversation.

Before you ask that question though, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. according to mental health educator and Chamber Director, Bianca Welsh, if you as a business leader are concerned about the mental health of a staff member, here are the first steps you should take:

• Ask yourself, am I mentally well enough to have this conversation? As you never know what you may be confronted with, could it be a trigger for your own mental health?
• This should be followed by the question; am I the right person to be having the conversation? Is this better filtered through someone that they have a better connection with or trusts more?
If you feel confident that you are mentally well enough to have this conversation and are the right person:
• Make sure you’re in a place where both you and your staff member will feel comfortable.
• Ask the question in your own, casual way e.g. How are you travelling? Bianca suggests starting with; “I’m concerned about you, and I wanted to have a chat to see if you’re okay. I’m a little bit uncomfortable and I don’t want to cross a line, but I just want to start a conversation with you. I’ve observed X, Y, Z. I’m concerned about X, Y, Z in your behaviour.”
• Always come from a place of genuine care and empathy, putting aside any judgmental thoughts.
• Temporarily remove your employer hat. Yes, you are their employer, you have a business to run, and they have a job to do, but if you come from a place where you want that person to get better, you can’t go wrong.
• Be prepared should the conversation not go as planned or for what you may be confronted with. You might refer them to their GP, your businesses’ Employee Assistance Practitioner, or another support service such as Tasmanian Lifeline, HeadSpace, Head to Health, Anglicare, Enterprising Aardvark, or The Men’s Table (to name a few). If you’re not sure, it’s ok to admit to them that “I’m not sure where to start, but let’s do this together, I’m here to help you.”
With worker’s compensation claims for mental health-related conditions increasing, it’s important we monitor the mental health of our employees. Here are a few additional ideas for you and your business:
• Have you considered undertaking and/or having one of your staff undertake a Mental Health First Aid Course? Please see the next newsletter article for more details on an upcoming course.
• RU OK? has developed a number of resources for workplaces. You can register to become an RU OK? Workplace Champion (free of charge) and gain access to their suite of resources.
• October is WorkSafe Tasmania Month. The theme for 2022 is Safe Bodies, Safe Minds and Worksafe Tasmania are running a number of events, some focussed on mental health in the workplace.
• Have you considered an Employee Assistance Provider for your workplace?
Let’s all keep an eye on each other, ask the question, start the conversation and make sure WE R OK.


Big problem in need of a solution…

No Vacancy

In my conversations with members from just about any industry, it’s an understatement to say that staff shortages are a big problem for businesses in Launceston and northern Tasmania. According to a release by Everybody’s Home on Tuesday, the lost economic output due to vacant jobs (per year) for our region is $201 million. The report states that Launceston and northern Tasmania is one of five regions where the shortage of affordable housing in these communities is undermining the capacity of employers to attract staff.

In addition to this report ABS data has revealed that increases in our population have dramatically slowed, with the four years to June 30, 2020, seeing an average increase of 1320 residents per year, and the year to June 30, 2021, saw an estimated resident increase of just 105.

The anecdotal evidence for this is that people want to move to the region but can’t find anywhere to live. These people could fill the current vacancies but to find accommodation, particularly if they bring a family with them, is tough. Combine this with the increases in homelessness in the region and it’s apparent that housing is the major challenge to our region.

So, what is the solution to housing in the region?

  • Should there be incentives for property developers who build medium or high-density affordable residential accommodation?
  • Would incentives for property owners to create affordable housing in unused inner-city buildings (infill developments) assist?
  • Do we need incentives for those with short-term rentals to move to long-term rentals?
  • Does Tasmania need more public housing developments?
  • Do we need incentives for those with empty bedrooms to take in a border or incentives to downsize?

 Launceston and northern Tasmania are not alone in battling the challenge of housing shortages with other Australian states, New Zealand, and the US all looking at solutions for housing shortages. In Victoria, one council is installing cabins on council property to provide temporary accommodation. Elsewhere in Victoria, an international concept called Home Share is matching an older person (often an older person with a disability) with someone who can provide support, practical help, and companionship in a suitable house.

Are staff shortages a challenge for your business?
Do you have any ideas for possible solutions?
What are your thoughts on this important issue? Please let us know.

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