We have been told Tasmania is on “the cusp of a golden age”. Robert Allen Zimmerman said it better.
“For Tasmania is a-changin’…”, Bob Dylan could’ve penned in more recent times. Instead, Dylan famously offered in his 1964 anthem:
Come gather 'round people/Wherever you roam/And admit that the waters/Around you have grown
Hobart is shifting as population grows, becomes more urbanised, and businesses clamber for capital city locations.
Regrettably, where we roam is also a-changin’ as regional towns across Tasmania become more transient, with the result, far less opportunity to raise a family, make a living and contribute locally in the dispersed fashion we have become accustomed.
This is extremely sad, a tear in the fabric of Tasmania’s traditional society and collective sense of community.
However, it’s the trend across the world and how we respond will be crucial.
Significantly increasing tourism numbers, which are welcomed, were always going to lead to folks wanting to move to our idyllic state – with clean fresh air, space, world class scenery, amenity, and a general sense of safety.
In response, turning people away is not smart and doesn’t lead to world class cities nor desperately needed growth in jobs.
Come writers and critics/Who prophesize with your pen/And keep your eyes wide/The chance won't come again
In Tasmania, everyone has a view. Whether it be football or forestry, salmon or shacks, a plethora of opinions spew from our vernacular unabated, full of colour, vibrancy and passion. But we’ve hit a serious snag, resulting in another of our great debates, not in my backyard, simply, a discussion of the past.
To be faced with the dire situation where young families, in crisis, are trying to embrace school attendance during the depths of winter, is not right. We hear many, from different walks of life, campaign strongly for the need to provide support and shelter, yet in another conversation campaign against amenity created by smaller residences in the central business district and surrounding suburbs.
The chance is to plan. We have an incredible opportunity to rebuild off the solid economic base that has presented. However, if we continue to criticise rather than unite, to argue rather than find solutions, we will miss an opportunity that may not come again for a generation.
Come senators, congressmen/Please heed the call/Don't stand in the doorway/Don't block up the hall
City deals should provide the framework for Hobart and Launceston of the future. The strategic planning required must be found in conversation which brings people together.
When infrastructure in Tasmania is of the age we currently find it, investment must attempt to play catch-up as it has not kept pace with demand.
Perhaps, there has been a lack of political leadership over many years, requiring us to consider how infrastructure is funded into the future.
We should embrace a 30-year infrastructure plan, we should consider what our cities would look like with less modes of transport, and once and for all, we should make significant investment in futuristic public transport.
State politicians must work in unison with local government, leading in a manner not often witnessed, with vison beyond election cycles, togetherness, and a common cause, to sand-bag our state for decades.
Come mothers and fathers/Throughout the land/And don't criticize/What you can't understand
The state yearns for a positive education story. The rebuilding of a once enviable training reputation through TAFE, and expansion of our university to add vibrancy and a clear view of the benefits of education, remains essential.
But rebranding, moving and delivering world class buildings is just a catalyst, as our community must not only embrace education, it must embrace disrupters, in all forms, to ensure the jobs of the future are created by our graduates for our graduates, with the result, retention of the best and brightest.
Tasmania is at a sweet spot in its journey to self-reliance. We depend heavily on GST, nevertheless, we must insulate against any potential changes through anticipating and seizing growth.
The order we have become accustomed to for so long in Tasmania is now in a constant state of upheaval.
The way we overcome these challenges will define us for years to come. If we don’t, we will again go from first to last as Robert Allen Zimmerman advised.
The order is/Rapidly fadin'./And the first one now/Will later be last/For the times they are a-changin’
- Brian Wightman is a former school principal and Tasmanian Attorney-General