Presidents Report October 2019
Once again, I wish to thank the committee members for their support and contribution over the last year and especially to our admin officer Karlette Perry who unfortunately will be moving on.
This year we put together a 5-year plan, our vision for where we would like our community to be from 2018 to 2023. We presented this plan to Council at a workshop in September. Most of the project proposals we have been working on for some time but this is the first time that we have actually packaged them together and set out objectives and pathways to achieving them.
1. Residential Development.
Long range land use planning requires a policy basis to help guide future growth and development. Circular Head population has been stagnant for many decades even though there has been growth in new and existing businesses. With some potential large new developments in the pipeline our group can see the need for the release of more executive style building and lifestyle blocks which will not only attract and retain new residents but also free up existing housing stock. We are working to identify potential sites and facilitate land owners with Council to progress development.
2. Sealing of Western Explorer Road.
The Western Explorer, if sealed, would provide a vital piece of enabling infrastructure to support the growth and development of tourism activity in the Circular Head region and beyond. A sealed road would then present an opportunity for the 115,000 tourists who stay overnight in Strahan, many in rental cars, to carry on their journey completing a loop through Circular Head and back to the North West Coast. Extra visitor nights are paramount to our tourism success and this sealed loop would provide that opportunity. The Tarkine Coast Progress Group has done a preliminary business case study and presented this to government with a response that $100,000 has been budgeted in the 2019/2020 financial year for an in-depth study into sealing the road.
3. Heritage Centre/Visitors Centre/Makers/Cafe.
Since 2015 the Progress Group has been investigating new premises to show case the district’s heritage and late in 2018, we brought together the Heritage Centre Committee and the Agritas Board to progress the opportunity to work in partnership to develop this concept of a multi use centre. It seems a perfect fit with Agritas having the land and an ideal location and the Heritage Committee the exhibits and volunteers. With Council encouragement, and lobbying from the Progress Group and interested parties, Federal Government funding of $2.8 million to proceed the project was assured prior to the Federal elections. This multi use centre will become a tourism drawcard and will also become a source of pride for locals once they see the extent of the history of farming, fishing, forestry, culture and machinery that makes up the heritage of our region.
4. Economic Development Officer.
Circular Head is on the cusp of an exciting new era. Known pending developments include:
Dairy Factory recommencement at Edith Creek.
Wind Farm Developments.
Salmon Farming Proposals.
Plantation clearing and dairy developments.
Barcoo Rd power line extension.
Tourism infrastructure, eg. Heritage Centre, Cradle Mountain tourism expansion, West Coast walking trails, Western Explorer sealing.
Residential rezoning, development and building expansion.
Bass Highway upgrade and emerging possibilities for coastal village expansion.
Neither the State Growth’s Co-ordinator General’s department, nor Cradle Coast Authority has delivered on economic development aims for our region. The many mooted economic development opportunities must be harnessed and so often developers need special assistance to progress their development and cut through seemingly endless red and green tape. Lost opportunities will be at great cost to the future of the district. We cannot afford to let these entrepreneurs move onto another region or state because a lack of willingness to assist or encourage from our part on a way forward for them. Our Group is realistic in recognising that Council has financial constraints but perhaps a solution could come from working in partnership with adjoining Councils, local authority or State Government to come up with solutions.
5. Old Stanley Road.
Old Stanley Rd was the original access road into Smithton prior to the Bass Hwy being constructed. Smithton must expand its residential stock and the North and North East of the current town boundary has been mooted as a possible direction. Old Stanley Rd can provide a strong link towards Seven Mile Beach for Smithton residents. Old Stanley Rd as a tourist route also has merit.
6. Togari Land Clearance and Conversion.
Although broad scale land clearing of native forest has been legislated against, originally 31,000 acres of Togari swamp was earmarked for conversion to dairying under the Soldier Settlement Scheme after WW2. However only approx. 7.000 acres was converted. Without realising it at the time this land, with drainage and appropriate liming and fertilisation has become without question the highest producing dairy district in all of Australia, on par with the best in the world and yet there are many thousands of acres of the same government owned land under performing and not being put to its highest end use. There are many other examples in Circular Head of underperforming State-owned land and we have done many trips to Hobart to talk with relevant Ministers about a higher end land use for these blocks, unfortunately to no avail. There seems to us that there is a lack of big picture vision, a continuing revolving door for Ministers changing portfolios and an obvious reluctance to “rock the boat ” from Minister’s minders and bureaucrats.
A more positive dialogue however has been had with Corporate Forest Plantation owners and we have had some success in having these blocks of land sold back to farmers and returned back to pasture for both dairy and beef.
7. Beach Access/ Shell Pits.
The long-held ambition of the Tarkine Coast Progress Group and many residents has been to open up Smithton to some of its beachside asset. Lifestyle for the growing Smithton community will be enhanced with more walking tracks, and particularly access to a beach. We will approach State Government to source funding to extend walking tracks towards Flowery Flats Scout Camp and investigate the potential of a walkway across to the Shell Pits.
Sometimes these aspirations may feel “pie in the Sky ” but unless we start the conversation nothing will happen. As committee members we sometimes are asked “so what does this Group do? ” and as in the case of the Heritage Centre success of $2.8 million-dollar funding it has been 4 years in the making. It helps enormously that when we lobby for funding for projects or with meetings with politicians that we can say that we speak for our community, both business and private, and this has more weight than individuals on their own. Just as the Council speaks on behalf of ratepayers, we can represent our community and so your membership is vital if you wish to have a voice out there.
I also represent our community on Circular Head Education Training Consultative Committee, Circular Head Irrigation Scheme, and Dairy Advisory Group.
I chaired the Meet the Candidates forum for the Council elections and similarly for the 5 Braddon electorate hopefuls in the Federal election.
I have met with Anita Dow and Shane Broad, Braddon members of Parliament, as well as Ruth Forrest MLC and Daryl Connelly from Cradle Coast, and Gavin Pearce our federal member in Canberra, often at their request just for them to keep up with what ‘s going on in Circular Head.
Our Christmas breakfast on Dec 7th was an opportunity to receive an informed update from John Hammond on the Robbins Island wind farm proposal.
Myself and the Tarkine Coast Progress Group committee are passionate about our region and the potential that it holds and it is often frustrating that this potential seems to be constantly held down by both State and Federal policies that may be relevant to much of Tasmania or Australia but are having a stranglehold on the potential of our Municipality and the people who live and work here. With the help and encouragement of our membership we will strive to obtain the best results for our community.
Your continued support through membership will be much appreciated and if you feel we are a voice for how you feel about our region then we are proud to represent you.
Tarkine Coast Progress Group