Launceston stands on the precipice of some very important decisions.
The next few months will shape the future of the city for a generation and I worry there has not been enough discussion about what it all means. The catalyst for this comes from the requirement of the University of Tasmania to lodge their development application for the Inveresk site.
The lodgement of this plan will lay out the infrastructure and services for the Inveresk site but also shape the rest of the city.
This is because there are a number of other important conversations that are happening in parallel to the university project that will be influenced by what happens in the next few months. The two most significant are the future of TasTAFE and the future of health services in the North. Let’s start with TasTAFE.
The University of Tasmania has a Memorandum of Understanding with TasTAFE that has enabled them to discuss co-location of student training and buildings.
The two most significant are the future of TasTAFE and the future of health services in the North.
The integration of training to allow students to easily transition from vocational education to tertiary education is sensible.
As is the sharing of infrastructure such as laboratories and the general vibrancy that comes from large student numbers in a precinct. Three big decisions need to be made in the next few months, firstly should TasTAFE co-locate with the university on the Inveresk site. Second how much of TasTAFE could collocate and thirdly, when co-location should occur.
Some of TasTAFE’s infrastructure needs replacing sooner rather than later.
But co-location could be considered over a longer period of time by making provision for future expansion opportunities on the Inveresk site. Of course co-location has risks as well as opportunities.
For both the University and TasTAFE it would be critical that any colocation does not diminish independence and identity.
These are big decisions and they need to be community decisions.
The lodgement of the development application with the City of Launceston council will require the University to clearly identify the layout of the site so a decision about what buildings go where and what purpose they have will need to be made very soon.
The second significant issue is health services.
The University of Tasmania is also making decisions about the clinical schools that train our health professionals – the future and location of the health learning and teaching sites and the health research sites.
There is enormous potential for Launceston to create a more dense and sustainable health precinct that brings together clinical training, primary, allied and community care, acute care and aged care services in an easy to access site centred around the Launceston General Hospital as the hub.
At the state election Tasmanian Labor proposed to create a Launceston health precinct to assist in the delivery of patient services but also help the north attract and retain the quality staff the state needs.
The first task would be to undertake an audit of the public land surrounding the Launceston General Hospital and then develop a master plan for developments to occur in a strategic way to support the growth of the health precinct.
It would be important that any increased university presence did not diminish the Inveresk precinct but rather created a critical connector through the city heart between the two precincts.
This is the work that needs to be done to ensure that key partners, such as the University of Tasmania, can make informed decisions about the location of their infrastructure especially the clinical services and clinical research to provide the best outcomes for Launceston and the northern economy. Without clear leadership from the community, the City of Launceston, state government and University of Tasmania will be making these important decisions in a vacuum. These decisions will shape the future of Launceston, both the physical infrastructure that will define the layout of the city, but also the health and education services that will influence whether Launceston will become one of the greatest regional cities in the world.
While there is no formal community consultation happening now, once the development application is lodged with the City of Launceston there will be an opportunity for community consultation as a part of that process. Given the significance of this project I strongly encourage the community to get involved.
- Rebecca White is Tasmanian Labor leader