The Australian Government has reaffirmed its commitment to a strong and prosperous Tasmania with the planned delivery of more than $100 million aimed at stimulating growth.
The plan includes $38 million to expand Hobart International Airport, and the government also hopes to put Hobart on the international map in the natural sciences by providing $24 million for the establishment of a new Centre for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research.
In addition, $400 million is to be invested in the upgrade of the Midland Highway and create a Tasmanian Major Projects Approval Agency to act as a one-stop-shop for new major projects requiring Commonwealth approvals.
“The Government's Economic Growth Plan for Tasmania will fund projects aimed at stimulating Tasmania's economy by supporting economic growth and jobs,” said Warren Truss, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.
Truss said the Plan would be supported by the creation of a joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Economic Council that will include the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and representatives of Tasmanian business and the State Government.
“Funding of a long list of planned projects supports the economic development of Tasmania and provides much needed certainty to local businesses and communities,” he said.
He put a caveat on the planned projects, stressing that each will be subject to the Government being satisfied that the project represents value for money following an assessment and risk analysis.
Truss added that his department was currently in discussions with the Tasmanian Government to determine the most effective manner for progressing grant approvals.
Despite the drive to stimulate growth in the State, this hasn’t prevented Hydro Tasmania’s consulting arm from deciding to cut almost 40 jobs as a result of tightening in Australia’s engineering consultancy sector.
“Many of Tasmania’s industries including construction, hydro-infrastructure, power and telecommunications rely heavily on engineering consultancy services. Engineers Australia is concerned about the trend that includes yesterday’s announcement and the possible flow-on effects for local industry and the local economy,” said Dr Vicki Gardiner, general manager of Engineers Australia’s Tasmania Division.
Gardiner called for the Government to take greater pains to support the engineering consulting industry with the steady and consistent delivery of key infrastructure projects.
“Government has a key role in infrastructure delivery, and it is essential that government provides adequate transparency in the scheduling and provision of infrastructure projects. We need to avoid acute demand spikes across specific locations and engineering specialisations, and provide far more certainty to those employed in the delivery of infrastructure projects."