Damned if you do…

There’s a comprehensive article in the Examiner today about the legal battle over the acquisition of the Paterson Street central car park site. A year on from the Creative Precinct’s announcement, there’s still a car park there and no sign of that changing anytime soon.

An artist’s impression of the Launceston Creative Precinct

Without doubt, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and ultimately, you have to let these legal processes run their course. Frustrating as it is, the Chamber would never endorse a position where the current owners receive a return on their investment less than it’s worth, but equally, there’s that and holding up progress. It’s hard to see a solution that doesn’t somehow wind up costing the City more than anticipated; and they’ll be pilloried if it does…  We KNOW they want progress as much as anybody else but they’re between a rock & a hard place. Any one of the options – a protracted lengthy legal battle, a cave-in to an inflated purchase price, or any other solution exposes Council to cost blowouts… but what is the price of progress?

You see, it’s not just about the car park… It’s about what it unleashes… It’s the relocation of the bus stops in St John Street to a newly created Bus Terminal on that car park, It’s the pedestrian thoroughfare between Paterson St and The Mall, it’s the opening up of St John St with the City Heart 2 project and associated greening & traffic calming initiatives; it’s the Creative Precinct that positions Launceston as a city of arts; it’s the pent-up private capital investment that’s wanting to invest and reinvigorate the Launceston CBD… It’s all the things we want for Launceston and the car park acquisition is the Keystone. 

We wish Council nothing but success here. We need Council to prevail – If it’s not solved soon, impatient investors will look further afield for opportunities and Launceston will be worse for it.


Trending changes: Mental Health in the Workplace

Commissioned by Atlassian Corporation and conducted by PwC Australia, the second annual Return On Action Report shows the extent to which expectations of employers have changed, with 77 per cent saying that businesses should speak up on societal issues, up 10 per cent on last year’s iteration of the same report. Notably, workers are prioritising their mental health more than ever before with measurable shifts attributed to work/life changes bought on by the pandemic

Mental health first

  • Over 50 percent of employees surveyed say they’d consider changing jobs to access remote work opportunities, and even more are willing to forego a promotion to safeguard their mental health. Takeaway: To attract and retain suitable employees, access to flexible work arrangements will become normalised.
  • More than 60 percent of workers also want their employers to take action on social and environmental issues like climate change, equality, and poverty. Takeaway: These are no longer just societal issues. Employers are increasingly expected to be part of the solution if they hope to attract quality talent.
  • The report shows that ‘mental health and wellness’ has overtaken ‘cost of living’ as the number one concern of employees, whereas it only ranked in fourth place in 2020. Takeaway: This change suggests that the majority of workers have shifted from a “live to work” to a “work to live” mindset.

“The consequences of inaction are very real. We’re in a global war for talent and employees want change,” Scott Farquhar, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, said. “There have never been higher expectations on business, and how we respond as leaders is crucial. If this groundswell of support for action is ignored, it will open businesses up to the risk of alienating the emerging workforce.” 

So, given those shifts in perception, what can you/we/us be doing about it as employers? Where do you start? There are a number of local resources available you immediately:

  • For you and your staff:  a Free resource from The Mental Health Council of Tasmania. It’s a wayfinder to help locate and access all sorts of resources to create and support a mentally healthy workplace.
  • Knowing what you don’t know and then closing the gaps is a great place to start also. Head 4 Work is a resource free to Tasmanian registered businesses:
  • If you’re in the Hospitality sector – checkout a resource created and delivered by Bianca Welsh (Bbhavsc) from Stillwater and Black Cow Bistro, (and of course, Chamber Board member)

TEMT: A vision at last

We’re pleased to see that the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce (TEMT) vision has been released and are pleased with the initial results. The Chamber has been advocating for some time, a vision that delivers ‘triple bottom line’ value – economic, community and environmental benefit, and we believe this vision is a great start. The report has collated the science gathered over many years to outline a strategic path to a better, healthier estuary with improved utility, replacing the ad-hoc efforts of years past.  kanamaluka/Tamar River is part of the fabric of Launceston and its inhabitants want to see real action to restore and improve the estuary.

This is a great opportunity to create a world-class wetland experience that compliments the natural beauty of the Cataract Gorge and the Tamar Island Wetlands. Please click here to see the vision.

The question now will be how best to deliver that vision? 

The question contemplates TEMT’s ability to bring it to fruition. Likely (hopefully?) to be funded under the City Deal second stage we’ll be advocating to ensure that an appropriately resourced authority is established that builds on TEMT’s vision and to contract and legislate for its achievement.  The Federal and State Governments now need to commit to this plan and ensure funding is consistent and sustained so that work can be undertaken strategically.


Launceston – where all the cool kids are coming

You may have heard us say it before… the Chamber’s view is that Launceston will inevitably take its place as a Great Regional City of the World. A superior place to work, live, play & invest.

Well, it seems we’re not the only ones… While the mainland grapples yet again with COVID lockdowns and closures, Tasmania’s perception as a safe haven continues to rise and Launceston made it into the top 5 of the Regional Movers Index, a document created and maintained by the Regional Australia Institute. (Full report here). It measures population outflows from capital cities to the regions and vice versa. In it, Launceston recorded the highest quarter on quarter growth of any of the surveyed cities – showing a nett increase in the March ’21 Quarter of 88%. Year on Year growth is a more moderate 34% but still a very significant figure. 

As a relative newcomer, I can attest to the fact that Launceston’s allure is a unique mix of heritage and forward-looking entrepreneurism served up with a healthy dose of self-assured confidence. A city where there’s opportunity, you can get things done; and with none of the congestion, agro and hassles of big-city living. Scratch the surface and there’s a LOT more going on than you first imagined. No wonder our numbers are up…

The attraction of skilled migration to Northern Tasmania has been a bugbear for some time. This new information seems to suggest that the problem is morphing, but where are we going to put these people? Property prices are rising sharply in response to increased demand, and chamber members in the property management field, report long lists of quality and eager tenants seeking, yet unable to secure appropriate accommodation.  Building approvals are up, yet access to new land releases is becoming more difficult. Finding trades is a challenge – their order books are full. Add in access to materials stymied by supply-chain issues and you get build costs escalating quickly; all of which is becoming a disincentive to investment.  We’ll be taking all this up with the Premier in the coming week.


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!

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