Over the last couple of years, there has been quite a lot of talk about what it would take for Launceston to become one of the great regional cities of the world.
Emerging from the Chamber of Commerce, the idea has caught on and become a filter through which we look to the future of the city and region.
What does it take to be great?
I recall that when The Examiner asked a similar question on social media a few years ago, the response from many was 'Big W'!
That was a pretty strong hint that we may be held back by a lack of imagination, or confidence, or both.
The reality, however, is that there are plenty of great ideas bubbling away, and it's surprising how many of them relate to food and drink.
Or is it?
Food and drink is something we do really well here in Launceston and justifiably have pride in.
Think of the vineyards of the Tamar Valley, our distinctive restaurants, our innovative agricultural sector, emerging niche food businesses and social enterprises, brewing and distilling, and our wonderful markets and food festivals.
We are being noticed again nationally and internationally.
People are travelling here to taste what we can grow and what we can do with it.
FermenTasmania promises to be the first global centre of excellence for fermentation technology.
The Harvest Market continues to win national awards.
The University is pivoting to deliver the skills and the smarts that our food future will require.
There are about 9000 people employed in the various food industries in the region, which contribute over a billion dollars to the regional economy (ID Economy, 2017-18 figures).
The deep food culture that we have here is based on our capacity to grow great produce.
This, in turn, is a product of our natural assets, including our geographical blessing as a city at the confluence of several fertile river valleys.
Our reputation for great food is bolstered by the clean green brand and is completely consistent with Launceston's historic identity as a city of enterprise and creativity.
This convergence of food and drink, industry, innovation, heritage, culture, society and environment is our region's gastronomy.
Gastronomy is a word that has come to be associated with high-end dining, but traditionally it's much more.
Gastronomy is the entirety of the relationship between people and food - growing, harvesting, producing, processing, manufacturing, distributing, retailing, consuming, enjoying.
And finally, it's specific to place - our gastronomy is unique, it includes our Aboriginal and European food heritage, and we think it stands up at a global level.
Food is something that we all need.
Gastronomy links-up our most important industries: agriculture, food processing and manufacturing, retail, tourism, education and health.
It brings us together - a strong food culture helps build a strong community.
Good nutrition and food literacy are important drivers of equity through improved social and health outcomes.
Smart approaches to the management of our local food systems will build resilience against the present and future impacts of a changing climate, other environmental threats, and global shocks such as pandemics or war.
Our emerging identity around food and drink is extremely relevant in the contemporary global economy. It's something that we can project with pride national and internationally.
To that end, one of the great ideas that is bubbling away is for Launceston to apply for designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
This will inject us into a vibrant network of over 200 cities around the world who, like us, pin creativity and sustainability at the heart of their future development.
It will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas in a travel-constrained world.
It will bring national and international recognition that there is something special and unique going on here. It will give us a much stronger sense of our identity and build pride in what we do.
So enter The Great Regional City Challenge, a local initiative that acknowledges the Chamber's vision and embodies great community spirit.
It elevates 50 ideas, mainly from local groups, for projects to benefit Launceston and surrounds.
Unlike big top-down infrastructure projects which, although important, don't add a lot of colour or character to a place, these ideas are the makings of a vibrant, creative, healthy, engaged and liveable city.
You can register and vote for your top five, and I urge you to do so before the end of May when the top 10 projects will each receive funding to further their plans.
The Gastronomy project is number 42 on the list (hint hint).
- Andrew Pitt, Launceston Chamber of Commerce president, family-owned Neil Pitt's Menswear employee and Greater Launceston Creative Cities Steering Group volunteer convenor