“Capital” Gains

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-By Aleisha Parr

Although the northern region of Australia spans half the country, it continues to be under-recognised and under-developed in regards to infrastructure and opportunities vital for nurturing its future growth. Whether it be due to its oil and mineral deposits or its key placement for international trade through the Asia Pacific region, Northern Australia is responsible for a steady increase in economic opportunities – and subsequently, wealth – throughout the country.

In a recent growth summit held last year, QLD Premier Anna Bligh announced that the time was upon us to consider new strategies for growth to meet the ever-increasing opportunities developing in the northern region of the state, suggesting that she would be looking into regional centres such as Townsville in regards to becoming a second capital.

Reports David Lynch, Manager, Planning and Development, “Subsequently, [the Premier] has in fact announced and is now pursuing what is referred to as the Townsville Future Plan to develop Townsville as a second capital for the state of Queensland.” As a centrally located and economically stable city in the historically under-represented region, Townsville is uniquely positioned to step up and help bring to the region the infrastructure, representation and, ultimately, the respect it deserves.
Though it has always enjoyed a steady growth rate, the City of Townsville has recently been working to increase its national infrastructure capabilities, especially in developing its CBD to allow for the natural integration of regionalised government services. To accomplish this, Townsville City Council has set itself a development goal, through its CBD Master Plan, of essentially doubling its CBD core population to 30,000 by the end of this decade. Also included in the scheme are in-depth planning for the development of new housing and commercial opportunities, creating jobs, and cultural offerings to entice citizens into the area. Reports Cr Crisafulli, “There’s a good, strong future mapped out not just for the city as a whole but the CBD too. We’ve been continuing to fight the fight to get infrastructure delivered ahead of time because we value that lifestyle and we want to make sure that people continue to only ever be fifteen minutes from work and a couple minutes to the local shop and right next door to the local park – all of those things that make the lifestyle so special.”

“Our economy is the most diverse economy anywhere in regional Australia,” reports Cr Crisafulli. “No one sector dominates our overall economic chart, and it’s a beautiful model for strong long term sustainable growth. We do not suffer booms and busts, we do not suffer peaks and troughs; it’s just good, steady growth on the back of a beautiful economic growth chart.” This diversity makes for a uniquely stable climate for workers within the construction industry, who can safely enter into the market with no fears that the boom will be over the next day, week, or month, with little warning and nothing to fall back on.

“When people think of Townsville,” explains David Lynch, “they don’t necessarily think of it as being this city of 200,000 people that is in a fantastic place as far as economic opportunities are concerned. We have an unemployment rate of around about 4% so there are great opportunities so far as jobs are concerned and a much higher than average income.”

“One of the things that I think really distinguishes Townsville from other regions is the collaborative approach that we have in regards to its development. I’ve never seen a region that works as well as Townsville does in singing from the same hymn book and working cooperatively between governments and industry, and it’s forged through organisations like Townsville Enterprise and we’ve got a really good relationship here locally with the Property Council of Australia and QLD, whereby instead of having an adversarial approach which traditionally has been a feature of local governments and development industry, we’re working with them and you’ll see that in many of the praises that both the EDIA and the Property Council of Australia sing in regards to many recent initiatives in Townsville.”

Furthermore, the city has a wealth of resources available in the area of Tropical Expertise. With James Cook University, the Australian Student Marine Sciences facilities and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, as well as the Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIRA), Townsville offers access to world class field research facilities and experts.

Says Mr Lynch, “We’re right on the edge of one of the fastest growing regions as far as the tropics are concerned and that’s presenting fantastic opportunities for us in the area of tropical expertise. We’ve got a lot of very smart people and very good institutions here and there’s a great opportunity in regards to continuing investment into those areas, which is coming through, we’re seeing the commitment. So from that point of view, as far as the diversity of Townsville is concerned, it does provide a huge array of different types of employment, from the top experts in the field as far as academia or research, through to opportunities in mining and minerals processing which is increasingly becoming obviously more and more technical; these are all very high paying jobs.”

“Townsville has grown phenomenally in recent times; it’s gone from being a typical regional centre to being fundamentally a metropolitan centre,” boast David Lynch, “It has all those things that you would normally attribute to capital cities. You can see top quality plays and sporting events; the lifestyle is fantastic, the weather is brilliant, the temperature is fantastic. From a lifestyle perspective, you would be hard pressed to find a comparable place to live.”

It’s easy to understand his enthusiasm for the city, Queensland’s largest northern urban centre, located halfway between the tip of Cape York and Brisbane. The surrounding area is as diverse as Townsville’s economy, with the city enjoying on average three hundred days annually of dry weather, yet still only half an hour’s drive from the wet tropics. Remarks Mr Lynch, “From a tourism perspective it’s fantastic!”

As the city continues to grow and develop, it will also continue to face new challenges and no doubt will have to evolve to meet them, something David Lynch says Townsville is prepared to do. Most of the potential growing pains he anticipates will come in continuing to establish infrastructure. He reports, “We’re actually very well placed from a local point of view in regards to things like water and waste water and waste and local roads and such, but our biggest issues are national infrastructure; it’s things like the competitiveness of our energy and the fact that most of our energy comes from central QLD, which is a good almost thousand kilometres away, so local based power and the opportunities in relationship to renewable power – we’ve got some fantastic opportunities there – are things that need to get the focus of government.”

Additionally, he says that the city will need to really ramp up its focus on road and rail infrastructure, in particular in relation to the freight industry. To this end, Townsville City Council is currently focussing on increasing access to a 5000 hectare area of land adjoining its airport, offering the potential to create a major freight gateway. Currently, new rail and road access is under construction, giving direct access to the Townsville port, connecting all directions of trade across all modes of transportation.

Says Mr Lynch, “Everything that we produce here or use here is either travelling a long way to get here or alternatively travelling a long way to get away from here and so… freight infrastructure, in particular road and rail and inter-mobile is vitally important.”

“To me, the greatest achievement of Townsville has been coming of age as a city in the last decade,” boasts Deputy Mayor, Cr David Crisafulli. “It’s always been renowned as a great big country town but as we approach 200,000 people, we’re also starting to kick goals on the urban renewal front and with that comes a more sophisticated lifestyle. Interestingly, the “x” factor for Townsville is maintaining balance between the diverse economy which is leading to strong growth in the region but still with an attitude where the lifestyle is first class and people still matter. It’s still a place where you know your neighbour and you’re proud to live here. So, it’s got those features of a smaller centre, but it’s also got the economic diversity, job opportunities and general lifestyle amenities that come with living in a major city. I just love the place.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

January 21, 2021, 10:59 PM AEDT