Funding confirmed for Launceston City Deal

PRIME MINISTER Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed the Commonwealth will invest $130 million in the Launceston City Deal, the centerpiece of which is the relocation of the University of Tasmania’s Newnham campus to Inveresk, near the central business district.

Mr Turnbull was in Launceston on January 16 at the announcement of the Greater Launceston Transformation Project, which aims to use connective technology and new 3D virtual city modelling tools to “transform city planning processes, deliver better educational outcomes and develop a community co-designed innovation hub”.

In addition to the Commonwealth’s $130 million, the University of Tasmania (UTAS) is contributing $64.6 million to the project, the Tasmanian State Liberal Government $60 million, and the City of Launceston Council $5.4 million. Other project partners include the West Tamar, Meander Valley and George Town councils, and Telstra.

Aside from the UTAS campus relocation, the project will consolidate coverage of Launceston with an Internet of Things (IoT) network. Similar to Wi-Fi, this network will allow low-powered devices to communicate with internet-connected applications over long-range wireless connections.

City of Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten (pictured, second from the right, with Tasmanian Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein, Malcolm Turnbull, and Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham) said that Federal government’s $130 million investment was a crucial step in realising what will be a once-in-a-generation project for the city.

“The benefits of bringing thousands of students into the CBD will help reinvigorate the city, with many flow-on effects for the Northern economy,” Mayor van Zetten said.

UTAS Pro-Vice Chancellor David Adams said the project would enhance collaboration across four streams: innovation, a digital city, digital opportunities for industry, and education and employment pathways.

In a newspaper opinion piece, Professor Adams said much of Tasmania’s social and economic drive would continue to be about local entrepreneurs creating local innovative businesses that are globally competitive. 

“Councils are in a great position to identify, stimulate and connect this spirit of entrepreneurship to opportunities,” he said. “This creates jobs and attracts others to visit and live, a valuable multiplier effect.”

The agreement includes the establishment of an IoT lab (with support from Telstra) and the creation of a Tasmanian Agritech Start-up Accelerator.

Whilst in Tasmania, Mr Turnbull also signed an agreement with Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman to advance a City Deal for Hobart under the Coalition’s Smart Cities plan.

This City Deal is expected to include development of an Antarctic and science precinct at Macquarie Point, the relocation of UTAS’s Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) centre to Hobart’s CBD, the implementation of a light rail and public transport strategy, and affordable housing initiatives.

Neither Mr Turnbull nor Mr Hodgman mentioned funding, however.

Hobart City Council general manager Nick Heath welcomed the signing as a positive step forward, saying: “It's an opportunity to shape it, to negotiate it and put it together a series of projects that will help continue the transformation of Hobart’’.

An agreement with Hobart would be the fourth Smart Cities deal, following agreements with Townsville, Launceston, and Western Sydney.

There’s also a prospect of a Geelong City Deal, with the Federal and Victorian state governments signing a memorandum of understanding on January 17 to work on a partnership agreement.