Well Done, Launceston!

Well done, Launceston! You managed to fill the biggest breakfast event of the year this morning in a showcase event ‘Breakfast with Grace’. Co-hosted by the Chamber with TasICT, the event was sold out at 270 guests in just 72 hrs a few weeks back, dwarfing the Hobart running of the same event. 

The 2021 Australian of the year, Tasmania’s Grace Tame was the drawcard and did not disappoint. In a frank and quite candid interview, Grace was unguarded but also quite upbeat in recounting of her previous struggles with sexual abuse. She had an amazing cut-through with the audience. Her messaging resonated deeply,  and the audience rose to give her a standing ovation. As I looked around the room, there were more than few teary eyes.

Thank you Grace for coming to town; your strength and resilience were inspiring.


Cityprom: Changes Ahead

The City of Launceston has just today voted to accept changes to the Cityprom operating model, the result of an extended consultation and determination period.
The Launceston Chamber of Commerce has long held the view that Launceston should take its place as one of the great regional cities of the world, a preferred destination to live, work, play and invest. It’s self-evident that a thriving, activated CBD forms an integral part of that vision and the role of a dedicated CBD marketing and activation organisation in that function cannot be underestimated.
Cityprom has been in existence since 1988, however, the environment in which it operates has inevitably changed over time; so its operating model needed to be updated to remain fit-for-purpose in a modern context. Its role in marketing and promotion of the CBD through activations, events and promotions must remain front and centre in its endeavours; and a wider geographic boundary reflects the changing nature of the Launceston CBD.
The Chamber welcomes the results of the Cityprom decision with its recommendations, and we fully support the City of Launceston’s decision to apply changes to the Cityprom operating model. The changes under that new arrangement to be phased in over four years, and is in our opinion, a more equitable model. When we have a thriving, activated CBD, the whole city benefits.
Though the Chamber receives no direct benefit from the changes, we are adamant that it’s for the betterment of the CBD, so the Chamber has been offered, and has accepted a role within the Cityprom transition working group. We’re looking forward to working with the Cityprom Board and the City of Launceston over the next year or so to implement the agreed changes. It’ll take a bit of work, but we enjoy a close working relationship with Cityprom and appreciate the excellent work that Amanda McEvoy and her team do to support city-centre businesses. Amanda and I meet regularly to remain abreast of each other’s activities and provide assistance and support to each organisation where needed. It’s a great example of collaboration in the region for the betterment of Launceston as a whole.


The Business of Health

The Chamber maintains a number of standing sub-committees that pull together some of the region’s best people around specific topics, to examine areas for improvement, and identify paths to success. One such committee is the Community & Health Industry Committee (CHIC) where we examine the ‘business’ of the health & allied Industries. I’m pleased to be able to say that the committee includes the CEOs of many of the major health providers across the north. Typically the health industry does not imagine itself as a business; so CHIC’s role is to look at the health & allied industries sector through a business lens, borrowing on lessons learnt in other sectors. Topics under the microscope include skilled staff attraction, supply-chain mapping, just to name a few.

For as long as anyone can remember, CHIC and others have been advocating for the co-location of the Launceston Calvary (Private) Hospital with LGH. Wherever co-locations have happened elsewhere, the outcomes have been unrelentingly positive. So yesterday’s announcement that the Tasmanian Government has completed an MoU with Calvary (as promised during the recent election cycle); has paved the way for a $120M co-located hospital with LGH with land in Frankland Street allocated to the project under the MoU.  Obviously, there’s a long way to go, but this is great news all ‘round.

An artist's impression of the co-located Hospital.
An artist’s impression of the co-located Hospital. Image courtesy of The Examiner
  • It adds to the pile of construction and infrastructure builds in the North that will keep the construction industry in work for years to come. That creates demand for apprenticeship schemes, which filters down into school -> employment pathways. Estimates are (aggregate) 1400 jobs in construction from this project.
  • It creates demand and positions for Health & Allied workers; one of the hardest sectors to recruit for; especially by creating new roles for specialists across a variety of health disciplines. That gives rise to Population Attraction schemes where we will seek to attract and retain skilled professionals to the region, which in turn adds to economic activity in the North.
  • It allows load-balancing between Public & Private health patients which ideally frees up public beds for those patients unable to access the private system
  • It offers the opportunity to cooperate on critical services. Areas such as the public ED, radiology and intensive care benefit from co-location, by improving the economy of scale, funding, and ultimately the overall number of specialist doctors and nurses available.
  • All of which creates better health outcomes for Launceston and the North.

Note: The announcement comes on the heels of the LGH masterplan which was released for public commentary. You can have your say here :


Complacency will do us in (Part 2)

If the pandemic has taught us anything, its that complacency will bring you unstuck eventually. Just ask your colleagues in Victoria at the moment. But for a moment, I want to introduce the notion of complacency around Cyber-Risk. There’s a reason they call them computer viruses… they’re contagious, easily and imperceptibly passed on, they’re hard to eradicate and they make your business feel rotten

Infected PC

Cyber-risk is real. Just look to JBS Meat processing at Longford. As we write hundreds of Tasmanian employees are stood down through no fault of their own while JBS deals with a global scale event. The local ramifications are huge, employees stood down, animals needing temporary relocation, transport stoppages and local supply lines affected.

BY now, a year into the pandemic, we’ve come to expect that businesses have a COVID-19 Safety plan, and also COVID  outbreak containment plan. Transfer that same thinking to your Cyber Risk profile. Do you have similar plans in place? Are you ready for a cyber ‘event’ out-of-the-blue?

  • Do you KNOW how to recognise an outbreak and contain it if (when) it occurs? What about your staff, do they know?
  • Do you have a culture where reporting potential risks is encouraged? I once had a client whose staff member feared reporting when they’d clicked on a bd link in an email, for fear of losing their job over it. Had the event been reported earlier, we could’ve saved a lot of grief.
  • Do you have a bullet-proof data protection strategy in place. I used to counsel clients with a simple plan : 3 copies of the data, stored in 2 different formats and 1 copy off-site and disconnected from everything. 3-2-1 and you could recover from almost anything…. Got anything. Like that setup?

Our post COVID economic recovery is dependent upon business prospering. That’s self-evident, and if business recovery is to continue, it MUST therefore be digital-resilient. A business halted because it’s been shut down by a cyber event, is of little use to anybody – its owner, it’s patrons or the community in general. So a cyber-risk plan is needed for all businesses – large & small.

The Chamber is working with Gold Member The Project Lab to help shape their Cyber-Up Program. Take a look at the program and we encourage businesses in Launceston with less than 199 employees to register their interest. We’re also working with TAS Tafe to assist with shaping their Cyber Risk training courses within their IT streams, ensuring that graduates are real-world work-ready; with skills to match.

And.. we have many Quality IT providers within the Chamber membership that can assist with developing your Cyber Risk management plans. Pick up the phone and get them working for you. Do nothing, and be assured, complacency will do you in, sooner or later.

Eaglecrest Technologies
The Project Lab
AQ Advisory
Another IT Group
Launceston IT
Link Technologies Tasmania


States race ahead of Tasmania…

In yesterday’s Examiner there is an excellent editorial with the headline Countries race ahead of Australia. This headline dragged me in, and I was soon reading about the mixed-messages we as a nation are receiving about COVID-19 vaccinations. The headline though, got me thinking, if we consider a different topic, the headline could easily be changed to States race ahead of Tasmania. The topic I have in mind? Start-Ups and Scale-Ups.  

Northern Tasmania offers the Start-Up and Scale-Up business communities a number of benefits, whether it be the affordable cost of living (as Start-ups put everything into their business), reliable and fast internet (especially if you’re with Gold Chamber Member Launtel) access or the excellent facilities for open-plan working at Enterprize. However, we also let our Start-Ups and Scale-Ups down on several fronts, particularly:

  • Facilities and co-working space when privacy is required.
  • Access to mentors and venture-capitalists.
  • Access to a Start-Up Eco-system
  • Access to a Chief Entrepreneur.

Queensland and South Australia both have an Office of the Chief Entrepreneur (Queensland are currently recruiting a new Chief Entrepreneur), and both are enjoying the immense benefits of supporting the Start-Up, Scale-Up and Entrepreneurial Communities. The Office of the Chief Entrepreneur in Queensland has developed a Precinct which brings together start-ups, incubators, investors, and mentors under one roof which also accommodates a 250-seat stadium which allows entrepreneurs and start-ups to host events. Can you imagine the economic benefits a development like this could bring to Tasmania? Launceston is the perfect place for it!

The Office of the Chief Entrepreneur in South Australia stimulates the entrepreneurial eco-system from school student to start-up to those seeking a new business. In February when Amazon announced it will be expanding its presence in South Australia, South Australian Premier Stephen Paterson MP, said “Not only will Amazon create more jobs for South Australians, the company will grow its innovation programs to support local companies, from start-ups to bigger businesses… The decision by Amazon to invest here is proof that South Australia is a major drawcard to international companies across high-tech and high-growth sectors…”

These states are leading the way, but Tasmania should not be last. We think its time for a Tasmanian Chief Entrepreneur. With the State Election behind us, now is the time. But let’s not just ‘keep up’, its time we got ahead!


Maintain your focus

In a 1996 advertisement for what is now an outdated technology, visitors to a Zoo are busily trying to focus their fancy SLR cameras to photograph a fast-paced primate. While they try to get their equipment focussed, the primate instead whips out a Kodak disposable camera and takes a photo of the visitors instead… the slow-movers lost their opportunity…

The Kodak Primate

It’s all about focus. As a region, we sometimes get so wound up in small issues we lose focus of the bigger picture. By the time this newsletter hits your inbox, the  Gorge Hotel will have (hopefully ) had the next stage its development approved. Everyone has been focused on how high it is, or what it looks like, or whether it fits into heritage context. We can’t however ignore the jobs it will generate – during construction, from operations; and in the upstream supply chains as well. Then there’s the additional tourist dollars it’ll bring with the benefits of attracting larger conferences to Launceston. There’s solid evidence that people who visit as conference delegates return as holidaymakers and sometimes as settlers.  A point of reference is Devonport. The difference a convention centre can make is palpable. We must maintain focus and allow private capital & developers to pursue investments that deliver benefits to the whole city. Make it too hard and they’ll simply go elsewhere and we’ll be worse for it. We need to get ahead, not just keep up.

Then there’s the Estuary. Setting aside the issue of how to “fix” the Tamar;  why does the River/Estuary divide us so? We had a presentation from Professor David Adams at the Tamar Valley Leader’s lunch yesterday, and the overarching theme was that until we get a cohesive reimagining of who we are as a community, we’ll be stuck-in-the-mud of the divided opinion of how best to move forward. How to define ‘us’ seems to be the big question… The Chamber’s view remains focussed on advocating for a catchment authority that takes the science-based recommendations of TEER / TEMT; considers the equal needs of environment, community & economy and lays down policy and process to deliver a program of remediation that will survive generations and political cycles. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, but it will be a path forward. Let’s focus on that.

Post Script: In the newsletter 2 weeks back I spoke of complacency in the Community around social distancing, masking-up and the need to remain vigilant around COVID. I referenced an interaction at the airport which a few have gently pointed out sounded critical of the Airport. I need to make clear that the airport staff were faultless in their execution of COVID-safe behaviour. Indeed, for the most part, all venues are doing better at this… My focus was that it’s us the consumers who need to be better at distancing, hygiene and checking in. Stay focussed on that too…


OK. As you were…

The state election is run and won; and the budget has been delivered. Time to get back to business…

Our congratulations to the Gutwein government on their return to majority government last night. With that in hand, we’re looking forward to updates on a number of the election promises delivered over the 5 weeks or so of the election cycle. Tasmania’s continued Post-COVID recovery requires a deft hand, and an iron will. It feels like we’ve got those in place; we’re doing well, but there’s a long way to go yet. With certainty; repairs can continue.

We’re yet to form a solid opinion on the tangible value of the Federal budget for Tasmania in general, and Launceston specifically. There’s plenty of budget analysis out there for reading; we’d commend economist Saul Eslake’s analysis to you and we’ve noted a few links below …so we won’t parrot those here. Safe to say though, the devil is in the details. It’s a big-spending statement of confidence in the future of the country, and probably the budget that had to be delivered, but some of the projected deficit and debt numbers are breathtaking. It’s the second budget from this Treasurer that no longer seeks fiscal prudence and surpluses as a primary objective, instead recognising the role of Government in post-COVID economic recovery. Budget repair will have to wait awhile.

For more on the Budget, take a look at some of our Members’ budget analysis:

Newton & Henry

MDH Accounting and Business Advisors



Complacency will do us in

I travelled to NSW last week for a couple of family weddings and noticed a couple of changes since I left there mid-pandemic last year.

  1. Everybody takes social distancing very seriously. Standing in the checkout line at Bunnings, a bloke was guarding his space using a 3m stick of lumber. 1.5 in front & 1.5 behind… He was assiduously keeping other shoppers at bay.
  2. Masks are no longer a foreign concept. As of today they’ve re-introduced an instruction to wear masks on Public Transport, but I saw a lot of people wearing them voluntarily when in mixed-company and inside spaces – think shopping centres, restaurants, theatres etc.  Just 12 months ago people were questioning why anybody would ever need a mask…
  3. Everybody checks in; everywhere. It’s habitual and nobody questions the need. As a result, NSW has an elevated capability to do rapid contact tracing.

Despite all that, NSW now has a mystery case of community transmission and they’re scrambling to quell an uptick in infections… They’ll likely succeed for the above reasons.

In contrast, I stepped off the plane Sunday afternoon and was shepherded through the Bio-Security maze at LST with absolutely nobody keeping their distance. Admittedly, all were masked while in the airport, but it was a crush despite LST staff’s best efforts to keep us separated.  One declaration and a temperature check later, and I was on-the-loose and into the community. At the baggage carousel, no social-distancing… Later that day I became ill and toppled quickly. The next morning, a COVID test was arranged and though thankfully, I was negative, it was worrying to learn on Monday of Sydney’s new mystery-case. Though I was nowhere near the exposure sites ( I was up in Byron Bay) its easy enough to believe a casual cross-infection could make its way to Tasmania.

Back at work today, I had a couple of coffee meetings and had to ask to scan-in at one of the venues. There was no sanitiser available and no masks being worn. I’m not going to name & shame but we need to be better at this (I’m pleased to say the 2nd venue I went to, a Chamber Member, was much much better at it.)

We’re well past 300 days since a community transmission event in Tasmania and we’re getting complacent. Sure our moat has helped; sure the government’s strong stance on border control has helped, but complacency around the basics of infection control and contact tracing may be our undoing.   As oft-repeated, until we’re all out of danger, none of us are. So, bring on the vaccinations (if you’re over 50, have you booked yet?) and let’s remind ourselves to keep our distance, practise hand-sanitation, and always check in using the Tasmanian Government’s check-in app.


High hopes for the road ahead…

For a colourless gas, Hydrogen sure comes in an array of colours – Brown, Blue and Green. The colour refers to how the hydrogen is sourced, with the best environmental option – renewable electricity splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen as the “green” case. It’s also the one that the hydrogen proponents at Bell Bay are confident will be in demand in the future. As we’ve indicated in prior newsletters, the Hydrogen opportunity for Tasmania is significant, but, it’s not an easy technical path to scaling up a fuel to power the world. I would encourage you to watch the video at Cosmos for a great explanation that takes some of the technical & scientific jargon around Hydrogen production and simplifies it so we can all understand the opportunities and challenges.  One of our newest Members 123v Tasmanian Hydrogen is a Tasmanian based Hydrogen proponent who’re proposing smaller scale Hydrogen Transport options, right here in Northern Tasmania. They’ll be presenting their vision at the May Chamber Business Breakfast on May 26. We’re still finalising the details but please save the date… you can even download a calendar file here!

Two weeks back we spoke about our elections wish-list. Space constrained us to Health and the Tamar, but with less than a week to go, another idea that’s gathering some interest, and as noted on ABC Radio and in the Examiner last week, was our suggestion of a Chief Entrepreneur to promote the start-up economy,

Tasmania’s start-ups are more likely to come from the sectors where we’re naturally well-endowed. Agritech and food production come to mind straight away, especially when you add in fermented products, but with a more supportive ecosystem for start-ups the sky is the limit. There are many barriers to a great start-up sector in Northern Tasmania, notwithstanding good early work from the Office of the Coordinator General, FermenTasmania, Enterprize and Start-up Tasmania. Now is the time to take that early work to the next level and for the State Government to appoint a Chief Entrepreneur – a formalised role that catalyses and coordinates between government and the innovation community to start-up and scale up Tasmania’s entrepreneurs. In practical terms, this means removal of impediments, access to mentors and venture capital, financial advice and other support to advance ideas and plans that creates attractive investments. Where other states have created this role, their start-up eco-systems have flourished. Launceston has a proud history of firsts, and we need to focus forward to get ahead, not just keep-up.


It’s all about Confidence…

The identity of a city tends to form over a long time period. A city is shaped by its geographical characteristics, cultural elements, architectural character, tradition, customs and lifestyle. For that reason, these elements that define a great city should be considered together, as a whole.

Such is the challenge now facing Launceston. A beautiful city maintaining a rich cultural and architectural heritage, while also confidently re-imagining itself as a 21st Century city – a great regional city, a city of education, a city of entrepreneurism, a city of start-ups; and a vibrant city doing surprisingly well in a post-pandemic context. If new developments are to succeed, they need to confidently contemplate all those objectives and build them into the fabric of the building. We’ll be bursting into print on those topics in the lead-up to the May 1st election, but we draw to your attention a development that reeks of confidence and must surely be applauded. We all wish for city vibrancy? Here’s a city heart-starter…

The Tatler Arcade re-development in St John Street creates a dining precinct in the retail heart of the city. Featuring a collection of eateries – cafe’s, restaurants, wine bars, retail and office spaces; the mock-up images we’ve seen, and indeed the site tour our Board undertook is reminiscent of Melbourne’s laneway culture. It’s something new in the heart of Launceston, and it embodies Launceston’s confident entrepreneurial spirit.

But what of the buses at it’s doorstep? Relaxed, unhurried outdoor dining is at odds with buses noisily belching diesel smoke all day as they drop-off & pick up. They should’ve been relocated by now but Council’s plans for the Paterson Street Bus interchange have been stymied by others. For now,  the problem needs a re-think and an interim solution for getting the buses out of St John Street …now! The success of the Tatler Arcade project needs it. Indeed, the City of Launceston’s Draft Transport Strategy needs it too… That envisions a city more connected and suited to active transport, one of tree-lined streets with pedestrians and cycleways. We’re thrilled by this – people cant spend in the retail heart while they’re sitting on their wallets in cars…. But again it’s at odds with the Buses.

There’s too much at stake to let problem sit unattended. To maintain the confidence of developers risking private capital on projects that benefit the city as a whole, there needs to be an interim solution until Paterson street gets underway. Let me hear your ideas – we’ll make sure they get heard by others.

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