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In a 1996 advertisement for what is now an outdated technology, visitors to a Zoo are busily trying to focus their fancy SLR cameras to photograph a fast-paced primate.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.


State Election Priorities

The State election is on and as you might know, the Chamber is co-hosting with The Examiner and NTDC, a debate between Peter Gutwein MP and Rebecca White MP next week at the Country Club. There are still tickets available, but they’re going quickly.  If you’re planning to attend please book soon. 
While we’re not out the other side of the pandemic yet, we think it’s time to switch focus from triage and crisis- support to economic recovery & growth. With an election on, maybe it’s time to dream a little. Dream of what we might be and set some long-term goals that clearly articulate Launceston’s identity to the world. The Chamber has focussed on a few areas where we think there’s room for improvement. There’s more than these, but these are top-of-mind. 
HealthThe idea of a co-located hospital isn’t new. The model has been proven multiple times around the county. Every time you co-locate a private and public hospital the health outcomes are immediately better and the economic outcomes from planning, construction, fit-out, staffing, training and operations don’t hurt either. It’s a win-win-win and we think there needs to be bipartisan support for this to be actioned without delay. Stop talking, start building.  Let’s also find a way to delay entry into the public health system in the first place. We need more GP’s in the regions and we need them to bulk-bill so people can gain access to localised health care and stay out of the hospital system to ease the loads and clear the backlogs. A dedicated and properly resourced population attraction program would be a great place to start coupled with some health reforms.

Housing and livability New arrivals of course need housing and housing needs trades. It’s not an easy puzzle to solve, but it can be if it’s prioritised by those who form government. We’ve expanded on the opportunities for Northern Tasmania that arise from the proposed Hydrogen investment opportunity in Bell Bay. They’re immense, but to attract skilled migration, we first need to solve Health, Housing, access to Trades and oh… Education too. We’d like to see some housing solutions from anybody who may form government. Not just affordable housing, but all housing. It’s a mess.  

kanamaluka The health of the estuary has been an issue for years. It’s an important part of our heritage and a big part of our future. Its taken 150+ years to get to where the estuary is now; so we need a river health masterplan – one that takes a short and long-term view of restoring the amenity of the river with a focus on a triple-bottom-line: environmental sustainability as the foundation for recreational amenity and economic value. TEER and TEMT are doing a great job of collecting, examining and interpreting the science behind various options, but somebody needs to take that science and turn it into policy. Policy with teeth that provides real solutions.  The Chamber believe that can only come from an independent, adequately resourced, and legislatively empowered authority that can form and invoke a masterplan that takes an intergenerational view and elevates the management of the estuary above political cycles. It’ll take time, big-thinking and a commitment from this and successive governments to stay the course.

There’s more than these. Of course there is, but a serious tilt at resolving some of these issues would play well into Launceston positioning itself as a great regional city of the world. We’re keen to hear from you also. What are you seeking in this election cycle? Let us know by reply email and have a great week.

What does value look like to you?

It’s a question that I ask a lot… As I get around to meet with members, I like to ensure they’re getting value for their membership of the Chamber, and while it’s surprising how varied the answers are; it’s equally surprising how consistent they are.
At an individual member level, feedback from members suggests that access to networking opportunities is high on the list of ‘wants’ and so we maintain a busy events schedule on the website at where we list Chamber hosted events to support that demand.  We also maintain a subsidiary website with a curated list of business events that are on around town being run by members or 3rd parties and are likely of interest to members. Got an event coming up that you’d like to promote?  – talk to us or submit it here.

Ultimately the Chamber exists to enrich the economic well-being of Launceston, preserve the business system, and promote business growth and development. It’s a dynamic organisation comprised of members who seek the betterment of Launceston business through collaboration.

Collaboration happens when you can get together with potential clients, referrers, partners, and influencers. People do business with those that they know, like & trust; so what better way to promote that than create events that are free or low-cost to Chamber members and promote cross-pollination of ideas and opportunity. This month, there’s a few coming at us really soon as a demonstration of ‘value’.

The Fresh faces networking night at S. Group in February was a big success, so we’re reprising that at the Boag’s Brewery Experience. This will be a Fresh Faces night, complete with an address from Tas Recycling – free to Chamber members;

A week later, The Premier Debate to be hosted in conjunction with Platinum Member The Examiner and Gold Member – NTDC; and held at Platinum member Tasmanian Country Club.. (See? Collaboration in action to deliver value!) – This is a Free Event & filling fast so get ticketed!

In the same week, there’s the Western United Festival of Football in town with major A-League games being played here in Launceston. Chamber Members can access a discount on a Chairman’s Table hospitality package – just the ticket to entertain your clients at.

And.. we have the Small Business Masterminds event – Part 2. This one’s on Marketing for Small Businesses and limited to 12 attendees. Get in quick! 

It’s a busy few weeks in town and there’s lots on, so please scroll on for details… In the coming days, we’ll be issuing a member survey to give you a really good opportunity to have a say in what you need from the Chamber moving forward.

(This item first appeared in the Chamber member’s newsletter on 8th April 2021 – some links may be outdated)

Hydrogen = Opportunities

If you haven’t heard about the Hydrogen Opportunity for Northern Tasmania, you may well be living under a rock! The investment opportunities and the long term economic benefits accruing to Northern Tasmania are not to be ignored.

You may recall we hosted a breakfast just before Christmas with NTDC on the same topic.  It was enthusiastically supported by members and non-members alike, especially the Premier and Energy Minister. Yesterday, we co-hosted a very successful Hydrogen lunch with the Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone at Platinum Chamber member Country Club [link]. The Federal Minister for Energy Angus Taylor MP and State Energy Minister Guy Barnett MP outlined some of the opportunities that lay ahead and the future is indeed rosy, but with a decided green hue. There’s the USP.. Tasmanian Hydrogen is ‘green’ hydrogen made from 100% renewable energy and so deemed a more desirable product. Mr Taylor elaborated on the principal opportunities for Tasmania’s production of  ‘green & clean’ Hydrogen:

  • Using a green H2 (hydrogen) source in the metals processing industry, converting H2 to NH3 (ammonia) for use as a fuel and as a cost effective way to transport H2.
  • Future global demand for NH3 is as a shipping energy source that is low to no emission.
  • Local opportunities arising from use of H2 and its downstream derivatives for  fuel cell manufacture and the eventual use as a vehicle energy source.

A key point he made is the importance of innovation in driving technological improvements and a decarbonisation of the economy rather than price impediments. That is by encouraging technical innovation rather than simply imposing taxes on old models.

Of the 5 principal approved proponents, at least 2 of them are a long way down the path of feasibility studies towards investment decision; and at least one of them is readying to commence community engagement with construction trades very soon… be assured the Chamber is keeping a focus on this important opportunity and working with BBAMZ, NTDC and the proponents themselves to ensure we maximise every opportunity for Northern Tasmania.

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