Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I begin my reply to the Premier’s Address with a tribute to those at the coalface of Tasmania's massive floods in June last year. It was a massive event for the emergency services, local councils and a range of organisations that swung into action to support affected communities. It is often at times of disaster that we see our true heroes in the community and there were many, particularly across communities in my electorate. Thank you to them.
Replies to the Premier's Address cover many topics covering a snapshot of how we are travelling. I want to begin mine by paying tribute to our wonderful emergency services personnel, the Bureau of Meteorology, the City of Launceston and Meander Valley Council, charities, businesses and other community organisations in my electorate of Launceston that rallied to help those in need. Our communities would not be as strong as they are without the contribution of these wonderful individuals and organisations. Thank you to all those who were at the front line of protecting and supporting our communities. Their actions were heroic and the public's gratitude for all that you did will endure.
I will start with the Tamar River and TasWater. In the past year in my electorate of Launceston there has been considerable debate about the state of our ailing sewerage infrastructure and we have to ask is it reasonable in Tasmania in the twenty-first century that untreated sewage is discharged into our Tamar River? I think not. The Tamar Estuary is large, covering 15 per cent of Tasmania's land mass. It supports a huge range of interests, thousands of households, industry, agriculture, recreation and tourism.
Recent studies show there is a sense of urgency about increasing our investment in research, initiatives and infrastructure to improve the estuary's health. NRM North monitored 16 sites from December 2013 to November 2014. Zone 1 from Launceston to Legana received the worst result, a D grading. It was found to have poor ecosystem health, meeting water quality targets only half the time and finding high nutrient levels and turbidity. Dissolved metals, such as aluminium and copper, were present at elevated levels from mining long ago in upper catchment and urban stormwater run-off. The report also found significant contaminants from the North and South Esk rivers, and discharges from sewage treatment plants, urban stormwater run-off and tides which trapped pollutants were factors.
NRM North has identified that between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the estuary's nutrient loads and 70 per cent of bacteria come from catchment run-off. They are working with farmers and councils to reduce this with measures including fencing stock out of rivers, adopting water sensitive urban design and revegetating riparian areas to establish buffers and filter farm run-off.
While I acknowledge governments are helping to fund these programs and contributing resources and experts on the ground, the reality is that many more millions of dollars need to be injected, particularly into programs targeting and reducing catchment run-off.
There is obviously no single solution to improving estuary health, but devastating floods have given sharp focus to our city's ailing sewage infrastructure with sewerage treatment plants contributing up to 30 per cent of nutrient loads into the Tamar River. Floodwaters overloaded the combined system, spilling potentially contaminated stormwater with a health alert, particularly for Invermay. Members may remember Inveresk Tavern owner, Charlie Rayner, saying his hotel was badly damaged by water containing sewage. Those floods were a stark reminder about the urgency of the Ti Tree Bend upgrade, which would ensure a higher standard of discharge into the Tamar River.
Separation of the city's combined sewerage and stormwater system, consisting of over 9200 homes, is really impossible. While Taswater’s $285 million project will see a new treatment plant built alongside the existing 42-year-old Ti Tree Bend plant to support ageing sewerage plants and provide for future development, they acknowledge that while it will improve the situation, it will not solve it. This will not entirely stop overflows in heavy floods due to the pipe's limitations. We need both an upgrade to Ti Tree Bend, plus a new tertiary treatment plant to alleviate some of the problems currently being experienced. Even when funding is available, it will be a five to seven year plan to complete these works.
So much of the question about how we can improve the Tamar Estuary's health comes down to governments, federal and state, being prepared to commit significant funding for the long haul. It is interesting to hear the Government's proposed takeover of TasWater. I look forward to some further detail when the draft legislation is put forward, but I certainly will not go into that now.
Meander Valley Council has had a fair bit of ongoing investment in the last 12 months, into Prospect Vale Park. They have had ground improvements that will allow greater winter usage and meet the growing demand. The Meander Valley Council area is growing greatly with new development, particularly at Hadspen and the areas that have been developed and the new housing that is going in. In some ways it almost competes with Legana for growth. It is certainly an area of the future with the rezoning of land at Hadspen, planning for the development of infrastructure, and council's decision to fund design and construction of infrastructure to support the local landowners. There is also construction of new footpaths in Blackstone Heights to create links for pedestrians and cyclists. Areas like Blackstone are a little more difficult to traverse and it is a great idea to have links for the pedestrians and the cyclists. Anything to keep people healthy is well worth it.
During the next 12 months Meander Valley will look at rezoning land in Harley Parade, which is at the far end of Prospect, to meet residential land demand. Prospect Vale has become a very popular area and there is a shortage of land. They are also looking for completion of new nature-inspired playscapes in Prospect Vale and ongoing work at Prospect Vale to improve facilities for those properties that are already there.
In his Address the Premier said the state's unemployment rate is now below 6 per cent for the first time in six years, and the economy has recorded 11 successive quarters of growth. This is good news. I acknowledge the work of the Treasurer and the state Government in getting our state to this point. It has been a very busy year in Launceston with a number of significant developments either opening or taking shape. The JAC Group, led by Josef Chromy and Dean Cocker, opened their spectacular multimillion dollar redevelopment of the Penny Royal. I do not know how many members have been there since we had our electorate tour when it was under construction, or how many have been there since it has been completed, and perhaps had a look or tried many of the adventure tasks there, the rock climbing and the -
Mr Valentine - Have you done that?
Mrs Armitage - I have not done it yet, but we did purchase a pass at a charity recently to try out many of the more daring escapades, I guess you would say.
Mr Valentine - Are you looking forward to it?
Mrs Armitage - I have not done it yet, but I am certainly looking forward to it.
Mr Finch - We had a great adventure with our lunch group recently in the restaurant, just fantastic. So many different areas in which to choose to dine and just a stunning location.
Mrs Armitage - One of the really nice parts of the Penny Royal development is that you can go in there without paying. Previously you had to pay to get through the doors. Now you can have a look round and choose what you want to do, or simply enjoy the ambience and watch other people take the adventure tasks on. It really was a wonderful development.
The project has been extremely well received and it looks stunning. I congratulate Josef Chromy and Dean Cocker for their constant dedication to a project which shows Launceston at its finest. Their contribution to business and tourism is to be strongly congratulated and applauded.
Equally busy is fellow developer, businessman and Launcestonian, Errol Stewart. Errol's redevelopment of the old silos is moving ahead nicely. In an interview with The Examiner newspaper in January he said it was scheduled to open in December 2017.
Mr Dean - That is my electorate, isn't it? That is good.
Mrs Armitage - It is in your electorate, yes, but Errol lives in mine, so I am happy to share him with you. While it is full steam ahead on that project, he has also embarked on an exciting development with Scott Curran to revitalise the CH Smith site, which has been empty for 20 years. They are planning to add state government offices, a 300 space council car park, a cafe and a restaurant. The $25 million project is scheduled to be completed by late 2018. We all know the CH Smith building has been a derelict site for around 26 years. It has been a site with huge potential. Sometimes you need the right person to come along to truly realise what that can be. I congratulate Errol for the passion and dedication he brings to both projects and pay tribute also to Scott Curran for partnering in one of Launceston's most anticipated developments.
Mr Finch - Where I live in West Launceston I had the owner of the CH Smith building on a property on one side of me and his main opponent against the development on the other side of me. I felt as if I lived in the demilitarised zone at times. That is going back probably 30 years ago.
Mrs Armitage - It was lucky that you lived between them.
I do have a comment from Errol. He said in terms of the economy, Launceston is going the best he has seen it in the last 25 years. There is a lot more confidence and there is a willingness for corporates to put Launceston on their list. I have a little bit of a coup here from Errol. He is now looking at a big box development for Launceston, which will cost around $15 million. You heard it here first.
It is also pleasing to see a new business start up at the foundry formerly operated by Bradken in Youngtown. It is called Castings Tasmania and is run by Phil Lipski of Lip Engineering, Doug Rowe of Recycal and Peter McLinden, who worked at the foundry for 25 years. The business uses scrap shredded components and recycles them to be used to make new steel products. As one example, Castings Tasmania makes tapping pipes and gussets for Bell Bay Aluminium. The business started in October 2016 and while it is still early days, they have employed 25 casuals and orders are building. Peter McLinden says Bell Bay Aluminium has given them wonderful support.
There is also a lot happening in the vicinity of Legislative Council's Launceston office in Civic Square, with a $3 million transformation of historic Macquarie House into a cool working place for freelancers and start-up businesses, and the City of Launceston's redevelopment of Civic Square. Civic Square is being redeveloped by the City of Launceston as part of the City Heart Project, which will revitalise a number of key areas throughout central Launceston. Anyone who has been to Launceston lately will appreciate that Civic Square is an under-utilised area. It is probably a little far away from the CBD so it needs something to tie it in and bring it back into the city. I am sure this development will do that. It will make it a bright, light and friendly area, so that people will come and use the Civic Square a bit more.
As I mentioned in my special interest speech, the recent closure of Birchalls has been a significant event in our city's life. It ran for 173 years and gave many happy memories to thousands of people. The hope now is that a new business will start on that site in the Brisbane Street Mall and experience similar great success. I am confident we will see a vibrant new chapter added to this important CBD site.
I started this speech by highlighting the many wonderful individuals and organisations that helped Launceston through its devastating floods. I take a moment to pay tribute to charities throughout the Launceston electorate. They do so much for our needy and deserve recognition.
The City Mission is one of those, and the need for charity help remains strong in 2017. Last Friday, City Mission in Launceston appealed for more public donations, particularly food. Items urgently needed include breakfast cereal, long-life food, quick meals, pasta and rice. The charity has experienced a sharp increase in clients, 148 more clients in the past two months alone, which is a 25 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. The City Mission has to meet increased demand for its services at a time when it is dealing with a reduction in funding. CEO Stephen Brown says they had a 20 per cent to 25 per cent cut to emergency relief funding 18 months ago. City Mission is one of several agencies providing emergency relief in Launceston, with others including the Salvation Army, the Benevolent Society, St Vincent de Paul and Colony 47. Demand is also strong for City Mission self-service, helping people to recover from drug and alcohol addiction at Missiondale Recovery Centre. There are currently 24 beds in use, but the organisation is in ongoing talks with the state Government to see if they can obtain funding to open another 10 beds. Half the clients are treated for alcohol problems, 30 per cent for ice addiction and the balance for opiates.
Moving onto tourism, which is very important for our part of the state as it is for all parts of the state. Our tourism sector in Launceston and across northern Tasmania has had a brilliant year, topped off with RiverFly 1864 in Launceston winning a gold medal at the recent Australian tourism awards.
Hawthorn Football Club has further etched itself into the hearts of northern Tasmanians, and its games in Launceston continue to attract great crowds. I commend Hawthorn for the work they do for the community of Launceston and Tasmania. It is always wonderful to see the sea of brown and gold in the streets on game day at University of Tasmania stadium. There is no doubt that AFL football in Launceston has been a massive success, and I want to thank Hawthorn, City of Launceston and all the organisations that have supported this. AFL is a huge earner for our city, and we have repeatedly proven there is strong support here for AFL games.
When talking to Hawthorn recently I learnt about their development area - all clubs apparently have a development area. The AFL, in its wisdom or otherwise, had given Hawthorn the development area of Katherine in the Northern Territory and Gippsland in Victoria, which is interesting. I am not being cynical, but they do not have a development area in Tasmania. It makes you wonder if the AFL has other plans for Hawthorn once their contract time runs out.
How is tourism faring in the north? Generally speaking, we are doing very well. I am led to believe our year end December statistics will illustrate the north is up 11 per cent for the year. In January we travelled at plus 5 per cent, with February strong compared to last year, assisted by a very strong Chinese New Year period. However, we are still seeing variations in this growth, either specific to a week or two when numbers dipped to last year's level, or in regionally remote areas and/or specific experience, where businesses are suggesting they are not travelling at the regional average. Overall, we feel the total summer-autumn visitation period will be better than last year for almost all of the industry in the north, which is great to see.
Tourism Northern Tasmania's focus over the next 12 months will concentrate on assisting industry and councils to accommodate and successfully host major events, including the Enduro World Series in April, the V8 Supercars, the April Yamaha Australian National Band Championships. I am not sure how many appreciate how many bands are coming to Launceston over the Easter break. It is around 60, but it is a huge event that will be in Launceston if anyone here is into bands. It is worth coming to Launceston over the Easter period.
Mr Finch - Don't miss the solo night concerts.
Mrs Armitage - Yes, very true. In April we have Targa Tasmania. In April/May we have the Great Chefs Series. On 29 April we have Hawthorn versus St Kilda. We have Agfest. Then on 30 May we have Hawthorn versus the Brisbane Lions. The first two quarters of the 2017-18 period will see us focused on supporting the City of Launceston to evolve a core season strategy to attract major events and conferences, while capitalising on Hawthorn game weekends and investing in a major cultural event for the north.
As you can see, tourism is going very well in northern Tasmania. We are working on tourism initiatives that are strategically significant to the state via a partnership with the Department of State Growth, Tourism Tasmania, the Tourism Industry Council and also neighbouring regional tourism bodies. We are certainly faring well, it is good for Launceston, for the north and for the whole state because people that come in do not always stay in one area. As we know, if they go to Hobart and they go to MONA hopefully they will come to the north, and if they go to these events in the north, whether it be the band championships or others, they then will travel to other areas. It is very pleasing to see.
It was also wonderful to have Ricky Ponting back to his home city earlier this year for the Biggest Game of Cricket, which attracted more than 10 000 people to the University of Tasmania stadium. The Stan Siejka Launceston Cycling Classic brought home Tour de France competitor and northern Tasmanian cyclist Richie Porte. The crowd paid tribute to fellow northern Tasmanian cycling greats Matt Goss, and Bernard and Wes Sulzberger who raced for the final time together before their retirement from the sport. Sally's Ride 2016 attracted a huge crowd to Royal Park to raise money for youth suicide prevention.
It was fantastic to see the inspiring and talented up-and-coming tennis stars wow the crowds at the recent Launceston Tennis International. We also had Festivale which was another great event, Party in the Paddock, we had the Tennis International and the Launceston Cup. It was a really good event and well supported. The Hobart Cup was a little concerning and I did not know whether that indicated support for racing was down but I have to say that the Launceston Cup was well supported and it was a great day. It really is good to see events for everybody in the north.
Our heritage is also a big reason why people enjoy visiting Launceston. I pay tribute to the National Trust and their wonderful volunteers who do a brilliant job promoting our beautiful heritage buildings, particularly Franklin House at Youngtown. It has been wonderful attending the regular markets at Entally House at Hadspen. I thank the owners and volunteers for the fantastic work they do in promoting this beautiful property. When visiting Launceston and walking around the streets take the time to look up to see some of the beautiful artwork and statues at the top of the buildings. It is quite amazing, having lived there all my life, there are occasions when I look up and think I really do not remember seeing that before. The fabulous heritage buildings attract people to our state, particularly to the north.
Our arts and festival scene has had an amazing 12 months. Festivale was a great success with people travelling from all over Australia to attend. One thing that has been changed for next year is the date. It has been on the second weekend in February for many years but next year it will change to the first weekend in February so that it is not clashing with so many events. The Queen's Baton is coming to Launceston on that weekend, so it would have made it difficult to set the park up and have Festivale in time. From now on it will be the first week in February.
Our local theatre companies go from strength to strength. Encore Theatre Company's Wicked is currently wowing the crowds at the Princess Theatre. I went to Wicked last week and it was absolutely amazing. If you close your eyes and do not know you are in Launceston, you could be anywhere in the world. These shows are so professional. It is a great production, the people are so talented, we are very fortunate. I am sure Hobart has similar but we are very fortunate in Launceston to have such great theatre companies.
Three River Theatre, Launceston Players, Tasdance and just recently we had the Errols. Twelve Angry Men won awards and it is wonderful to see local productions and local actors winning these awards. I saw on Facebook some of the people who were in it. There was Stuart Loone and some others who were involved in the production. It is fabulous to get some recognition for what they have done.
Mr Valentine - It is a celebration for the whole state.
Mrs Armitage - It is. Even though I am talking mainly on the north, the state really benefits from all this. It is a wonderful theatre and it all comes down to balance. We have arts and a variety of things for everyone. They are all significantly contributing to ensuring that Launceston residents can see the very best theatre and performances in their home city.
I had the great privilege of attending many wonderful school musical productions in the past year. It is a reminder of how many talented young performers we have in our beautiful city. It is quite incredible when you see some of these young people in their school performances and then you see them in some of the other performances and you realise how young they are and the talent that they have. It is amazing, and they seem so humble with it. It comes naturally.
It is not just them, it is also their parents and other people who get them to rehearsals. Sometimes we forget that it is not just those people on the stage but it is all the people behind the scenes who do the costumes, that help and dress, they build the sets, and mums and dads getting them to all the rehearsals and making sure they get there and still have the chance to study. There are many people we need to recognise.
Next month Launceston will host the Australian National Band Championships which promises to be absolutely spectacular. Sixty-five bands and 300 soloists are among the competitors and entries have come from all over Australia. I am hoping that many will find the time to come to Launceston for the National Band Championships. It is important that we have a lot of people there. It is over the Easter period and we are trying to encourage businesses to open so people can be fed and have a great experience.
I am pleased the Government has opened more beds in the hospitals. It is very important to opens beds permanently. It is all very well to open a few beds temporarily but to open them permanently and have them staffed is important. I have had many meetings with the Health minister so I have to admit that he has been very accommodating. Only recently, I organised a meeting with the Health minister, the CEO Mr Alcorn, the mayor of Launceston, Jan Davis from the Chamber of Commerce and some other staff to do with the hospital and also a couple of community members from the LGH support group that I chair. The Health minister did come so we could discuss a few issues that we had. One of them was to do with accreditation for the orthopaedic area and one of the issues that had to be ticked off was accommodation for the registrars.
Not providing accommodation for the registrars could have prevented accreditation being given, which is quite frightening. I did not realise that if you lose accreditation there are a group of hospitals waiting for accreditation. It is not simply a matter of getting it back when you meet the requirements. Another hospital will pick it up and you will then go on the waiting list for accreditation, which is quite interesting. It is a bit like taxi licences - there are only so many given out and there are quite a few waiting. I was very pleased to receive a letter just recently from the Health minister to say that a letter had been written to the Australian Orthopaedic Association to say that accommodation would be provided to registrars for the period of their time at the Launceston General Hospital.
As was pointed out to me, you have registrars living on the mainland and they are then sent to somewhere like the Launceston General Hospital. They still have their mortgages on the mainland. They are sent here maybe for a period of six, nine or 12 months. Normally, in most states, they are provided with accommodation so that they are not out of pocket. That is one of the requirements, that they are not disadvantaged when they come for their training.
We need to make sure that when they go back to their former hospital they speak really well of Tasmania. Many of the surgeons and specialists that we have in Tasmania have been or have come as trainee registrars. They loved it so much they returned. It is really important that we give them a good experience, show Tasmania off, whether it be at the Royal or down the north-west or Launceston so they want to come back.
I am also concerned about the physician accreditation that has been dropped from three years to two years. That has been appealed, and I am certainly hoping the appeal will be upheld. However, I am not sure how that is travelling. Perhaps the Leader might be able to check with the Health minister to let us know how the appeal has gone. For registrars to come to Tasmania for only two years, then have to go somewhere else for their third and final year certainly does not bode well for us. It does not help in trying to attract, keep them and get them to come back with their families when they become senior consultants. It is important we can get our accreditation back to a full level.
I am very pleased with the answer given by the Leader earlier, that we are seeking the services of a gastroenterologist. We have known for some time, probably around eight months or so, that the current full time gastroenterologist at the Launceston General Hospital is cutting back his hours. He is reaching retiring age and would like to ease back, which is quite understandable given the heavy workload he would be doing. I have concerns about the number of people on the waiting list. We see all the time in the paper, or in books it says after you reach a certain age make sure you have that government test. If you have that government test, go and see your doctor so you can have a colonoscopy, because something found early is certainly better than something found late. If found early, it can be resolved and does not have to develop. That is one of the concerns I have. People say to me, 'I have been on the waiting list for a screening colonoscopy for a certain amount of years.' That is concerning. To be those people waiting is really quite worrying. I appreciate the category 1's have been waiting for some time. I do have a question for the Government at the moment to check the comparison of numbers from last year to see how the over boundary patients are going for category 1 and category 2 and category 3.
I have to say when people have told me they have been on the waiting list for two or three years for a screening colonoscopy, the advice I have given them is to see if they can find some other way of having it done. It must be very worrying to be on the list, to be waiting, then not knowing whether you have a problem or not. That is a real issue. We have a locum working there at the moment, and I hope we employ a gastroenterologist as soon as we can.
Also with endocrinology, I note we have been advertising and have short-listed for some endocrinologists. Hopefully that will be happening soon. That was one of the issues to do with the accreditation for the physicians, in that with only point 3 or point 36, whatever it was for endocrinology, the on-call period was certainly too much to have one person there. That is an issue. Hopefully the Government will be able to employ an endocrinologist very shortly. I believe they have had some applications in, and hopefully that will be dealt with.
It is really nice to mention some really good things to do with health. I ran into the interventional cardiologist, Brian Herman, at the Harvest Market on Saturday. Brian was telling me all the wonderful things happening in the cardiology department at the LGH, and the fact we are so fortunate to have someone of the calibre of Brian Herman, originally from the United States, but now, very lucky for us, living here and working at our Launceston General Hospital. To have an interventional cardiologist of his skill is wonderful for our city. It should be mentioned we are very grateful. I am sure there are a number of lives he has saved by people not having to try to travel to the Royal who might not have made the trip, and to have the ability to treat these patients in our own hospital is absolutely wonderful. I am pleased to mention the wonderful work Brian Herman does in our LGH.
I note the Premier's Address.