OP-ED: Dear Premier, Here is the North's Wishlist

Thursday 12 November 2020, The Examiner



For the past couple of months you may have noticed little hints of Christmas popping up. Tinsel and bauble decorations are being put up with the usual Christmas fare for sale at the shops.

After the doozy of a year we've had we are starting to think about what we want in the coming weeks and months and putting together a wish list for Santa.

This week, the State Government hands down the budget, being put off from the usual last Thursday in May.

A budget is the main, annual policy platform of any incumbent Government, and demonstrates how they have managed our tax dollars and shows where they have directed our precious public resources.

As the Member for Launceston, I thought in the spirit of Christmas, a northern wish list might help the Government understand our priorities and needs now, and in the years to come, but of course, everyone has different priorities.

Let's start with the Launceston General Hospital. Our hospital is at the centre of our community in the care provided, and it's important an holistic approach is taken to benefit the patients and the staff.

While the announced $45m funding boost for elective surgery will go some way to easing the backlog, it follows on that it is essential we have a well-resourced hospital with more beds opened and more staff employed to care for those patients.

Nurses should not have to continually work double shifts; we must value them and ensure they do not get burned out or feel the need to seek employment elsewhere.

A dedicated, stand-alone palliative care northern hospice would complement our hospital. This has been proposed since the demise of Philip Oakden House in 2007.

While the Calvary Melwood unit provides a good service with excellent staff, beds are limited, and everyone has the right to die in a comfortable, private setting with family, friends and even pets around them, rather than a sterile hospital environment in possibly a four-bed ward at the LGH.

The government's 10-year plan for Launceston's traffic including the much-needed bridge across the Tamar linking the West and East Tamar highways, alleviating many traffic issues is something that needs to come to fruition.

Then we have the often-discussed eastern bypass concept.

This discussion has been ongoing for decades and all we have to show for it is report after report.

The latest project has received $1.5 million from the Australian Federal Government to presumably reinvestigate the same material which has already been analysed.

It is time to actually construct something and for that to happen, the State Government and the City of Launceston need to start the process. Heavy vehicles should not go through our city centre.

The Tamar River is a priority issue and it is hoped the State Government together with TasWater can expedite the proposed works to reduce the impact of raw sewerage flowing into our river at times of heavy flood, as would be seen in a third world country.

Being safe and feeling safe is a must, and adequately resourced emergency services are essential.

As for our police force, while state-of-the-art equipment is necessary, so are resources to allow sufficient officers on the ground around the clock, to ensure their safety and that of our community.

Education is always deserving of extra funding, as nothing is more important than our children. Given the extension of schools to years 11 and 12, one Launceston college with a city and Newstead campus would be worth considering.

Critical to Tasmania's tourism sector, our arts, entertainment and hospitality scene in the north, has significantly suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also be key to bringing our state and economy out of the red and back to normal, especially as we open our borders and entice people to return.

While many events and businesses have been able to adapt and survive throughout the pandemic, continuing to cater to their customers and patrons, albeit in a different way, this was not possible for everyone.

It is in our best interest for local councils and the government to ensure they have the support they need to survive in the coming months and years.

Relief by way of easing fees and taxes applicable to running businesses and events would go a long way to showing support to business owners, event organisers, and artists who rely on them to remain viable, employ staff and pay taxes.

I could go on, but these are just a few thoughts and I welcome discussion about what needs the community has and how I can best help advocate for them.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor

Rosemary Armitage MLC

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