It is nearing 8 years post GFC and our politicians and leaders have failed to re-boot the Townsville economy. The CBD is still a commercial embarrassment, workers are losing their jobs, “for lease” signs dominate the streetscape, manufacturing and services are dwindling, building approvals are in decline, and business is dramatically downsizing.
Our Think Tank has come up with 10 solutions to pull Townsville out of the doldrums in 2016.
1. Create a Catalytic Event. Create a catalytic event that puts Townsville on the world stage. What is a Catalytic Event? For Brisbane it was the “Expo 88” world’s fair which ran for six months and attracted visitors worldwide and placed Brisbane on the world map.
Prior to this Brisbane was like a “gangly teenager in a sleepy backwater” struggling to make its mark against Sydney and Melbourne. The legacy of Expo 88 continues to this day and Brisbane’s development and renewal has accelerated at a pace beyond comprehension.
The right catalytic event for Townsville will precipitate an intense positive mood for the entire city as pride and ingenuity become the driving factors for change. Astana, Kazakhstan will hold the next 2017 Word Expo with the theme “Future Energy”. This would have been perfect for Townsville but it missed the boat. The proposed Stadium/Complex could be just one of number of construction and renewal projects to facilitate the event.
Based purely on past performance our Think Tank does not believe that the current pool of leaders and marketers of the city have the talent to devise such a catalytic event. Our Think Tank recommends the formation of appropriate alternate talent as an urgent priority.
2. Create a Second Catalytic Event. The first catalytic event becomes the driver for new industry and interest in Townsville as an appetising technological, industrial, commercial and manufacturing complex.
The second catalytic event takes it to the next level. For Brisbane it was the courting of Virgin Airlines to make its base in Brisbane. An $11 million incentive has surely delivered billions to the Brisbane and South East Queensland economy. Having a major airline in your backyard forces exponential opportunity as it did in Brisbane creating countless jobs, and support services as well as cementing Brisbane on the international scene.
Our Think Tank has identified vast tracts of wasted and underutilised land in Townsville that are ripe to attract the right type of commerce to this city. Our Think Tank has also identified brilliant technological, disruptive, alternative energy, and manufacturing based businesses that would fit perfectly into the above land usage. These businesses are the second catalytic events that are needed to crank up the Townsville economy.
3. Develop Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island must be developed. It is big enough to develop and to keep vast areas of it untouched making it a win/win for everyone.
However if Townsville wants to go to the next level, the island must be developed. Our Think Tank suggests an invitation to the top developers in Australia to come up with a holistic concept for the development of the island. The job of developing would go to the developer with the best concept.
The island would attract worldwide attention and catapult tourism to stratospheric levels. Of course there would be a balanced, economically sustainable approach. The overwhelming majority of businesses we are in daily discussions with demand change and are frustrated by the lack of vision the city’s leaders have shown. It’s time for the island to wake up out of its coma and for life to be breathed into it again.
4. Make Townsville the Alternative Energy Hub of the world. Townsville’s coastal location to wind and sun must be harnessed. Scotland are building the world’s first floating wind farm. It will generate around 30 MW and power around 20,000 households.
Offshore wind technology will be a blitzkrieg response to the hysteria propounded by traditional energy suppliers. The investment in Scotland is around 2 billion. Imagine what a $2 billion investment would do for Townsville. Uruguay has a population of around 3 ½ million. It is now recognised as a “Green Energy Leader”. Renewable energy represents 55% of the country’s overall energy mix. The global average is around 12%. Uruguay is setting benchmarks through the use of wind turbines, solar, biomass and hydro power. They claim to do this without government subsidies or higher consumer costs.
In contrast, Governments and their monopolies Ergon/Energex want to penalise off grid consumers. Why are our leaders stuck in a time warp mindset that is change resistant? Soon the world will be battery powered. The Tesla battery is a game changer. With the right vision, James Cook University could be the world leader in alternative energy research developing cutting edge technologies in energy generation and storage right here in North Queensland.
5. Migration. Townsville needs a population injection. 2014 ABS Statistics reveal 30,270 overseas migrants to Queensland in the 2013/14 year (double that for each of NSW and Vic).
Of the 30,270 Townsville receives only a small fraction, the majority going to South East Queensland. Migrants contribute to the economy because they are:
a. Risk-Takers. It takes courage to leave your country and set up business in another, leaving family and friends behind. It’s that type of confidence that is the fuel of economic stimulus.
b. Entrepreneurial. Harry Trigbuboff, John Hemmes, and Frank Lowy to name a few, are all examples of the migrant entrepreneurial spirit. It is trite to say that Townsville would benefit from the entrepreneurial spirit of migrants who see the unrealised potential of Townsville.
c. Job-creators. The combination of a. and b. above leads to the creation of jobs. Most migrant businesses start up as family run enterprises but eventually expand and provide immense contribution to the economy.
Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne are overwhelmed with migrant applications. A smart government would redirect any new applicants to regional centres such as Townsville to assist in the economic generation of those areas.
A competent government could easily incorporate the new migrant population into a newly created manufacturing/production workforce. Manufacturing and Production are the most important drivers of the economy. Politicians, through ineptitude, have permitted Australia’s manufacturing industry to be lost to other countries. Manufacturing must be reclaimed and Townsville, with the right leadership, can reclaim it. Townsville would be a major industrial player in the new manufacturing industries referred to in 6 below.
6. Re-Invent and Bring Back Manufacturing. The mining support services industry, of which the economy of this town is so heavily reliant, needs to retool and reinvent itself. Our Think Tank recommends those industries apply their trade to the manufacturing and/or service of wind turbines, solar panels and batteries.
Adapting to change is a 21 century necessity and business must now accept disruptive alternative technologies. A new industrial revolution has commenced and Townsville must adapt. Furthermore a competent government would have seized the opportunity that the failure of Queensland Nickel provides. A competent operator should be sourced to take over the plant and add value to its refining operations by creating, amongst other things, battery manufacturing.
Nickel is a key ingredient for the manufacture of lithium ion battery power. Tesla, the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer will use nickel instead of cobalt in its batteries. Other manufacturing industries, previously lost, could be reclaimed and would certainly flourish with the right leadership in place.
7. Develop the Town Common. The Town Common must be developed. All it does is house a million mosquitoes. Its use as a regional park benefits only a minuscule fraction of the community. There are a myriad of higher and better uses for the land including residential or low impact commercial.
Our Think Tank recommends talented and visionary urban planners be engaged to develop the right concepts so that the community gets more bang for its buck. Additionally the urban sprawl of development must stop. Buildings need to go up and not out. Intelligent planning demands a concentration of high rise in the city surrounds. The architecture of the city centre will improve as a consequence.
8. Landscape Castle Hill. Improve its walking tracks, create side gardens, scenic stop points and cultivate its potential as an iconic beauty to be enjoyed by locals and visitors from all over the world. In their current state both Magnetic Island and the Hill are mismanaged and failing the rate payer.
Our Think Tank envisions enormous potential in the ecological transformation of this natural beauty in the heart of the city. Look at Central Park: New York, Butchart Garden: Canada, Villa d’Este: Como Italy.
9. Build a 4 lane Motorway between Townsville and Cairns. Rapid movement between the two cities will be essential to future growth. Multi lane motorways have accelerated development of the south-east corner of Queensland. The north-east section of Queensland between Townsville and Cairns must also be serviced by a modern upgraded multi lane highway system to facilitate commerce between the two cities and accelerate growth.
10. Stop Electing Talentless Politicians/Leaders. Our Think Tank believes there has been a major failure of true leadership. True leaders are a rare breed. A true leader needs to have a vision and to be able to express that vision, whether on a local, State or Federal level.
A lack of true leadership is what has brought this City to its current economic position. If a leader can’t express their world view or at least what vision they have for Townsville then don’t elect them. As a minimum, the questions that should be asked of your politicians/leaders are:
a. What is your world view? b. What vision do you have for the city? c. What have you done to realise that vision and take it to the next level? d. What is your time frame and action plan towards implementing that vision? e. Can you provide a cost benefit analysis of that vision?
If they can’t intelligently answer any of the above, don’t elect them. They are not qualified and you will be stuck with another term of incompetence.
Many of our leaders do not have the intestinal fortitude to make the hard decisions. Their focus is on re-election and popular decisions rather than what’s best for government. Many are easily beguiled by minority interests, “big business” or are preoccupied with political correctness. The tail wags the dog. To see an example of true leadership in action have a look at the way Vladimir Putin deals with top Russian businessmen who have fallen short of their economic responsibilities.