North West Tassie – The opportunities await….

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The North West economy has survived the recent economic doldrums with amazing resilience.

Yes there are severe examples of trial and turbulence in the economic fortunes, particularly in forestry, construction and retail. However, the outlook is bright, provided governments get out of the way.

The turmoil of the forestry sector has changed the region’s economy forever and it will take considerable time for the economy to adjust to the loss of revenues we all depended on. A quick look at the region’s shopping precincts highlights just one of the impacts of the loss of income – sadly, shop closures and financial ruin for so many.

The construction industry has been hit by the perfect storm with the wind-down of the huge school building economic stimulus, hideous headwork charges from government and semi-government
bodies, economic adjustment in the forestry sector and overall loss of confidence of direction arising from the realities of minority government. Sub-divisions have dried up and it has become too risky for developers to go forward and open up new sub-divisions. Building approvals have plummeted.

The largesse given to minority interest groups by governments has caused major setbacks for those wanting to have a go. We have some of the most arduous approval processes for new industry and mines imaginable, yet minority interests and often interests from outside our locality, destroy business confidence. Unnecessary appeals and unrepresentative interference by minority interests will end up destroying the economic prospects of Tasmania. Large developers now add millions of costs to developments to meet restrictions caused by these approvals processes.   Heaven knows we need big industry as well as small business. Small business is the supply chain to big industry – No big industry, no small business, yet the appeals and the interference reigns unabated. Surely government has to change the “green tape’ that has become so restrictive.On a more positive note, the North West exports its produce and manufacturing outcomes to over 80 countries across the globe. We are intrinsically linked to the world economy and are slowly tapping into the huge potential awaiting in Asia and other growing economies.

Our established businesses and economy offers stability, innovation and generally a workplace attitude that delivers quality products at reasonable prices. Our manufacturing base is tried and true, but international competitive forces test our ingenuity and competitiveness most of the time.

The recent (and long-awaited) exchange rate correction will see the industrial and food production sectors prosper in the region as well as engage further interests in the opportune areas of dairying and beef production. In fact, we could see wholesale return of plantation land to pasture base. The recent expansion of dairy factory capacity in the region has been rewarded with a 24 per cent increase in milk at the farm gate. This will add over $40 million in additional revenue to the hard working dairy families, but more importantly raise the return and viability of land clearing and intensive use of pasture.China, Hong Kong, Thailand and India are all turning their focus to food security, meaning the prospects for North West Tasmania are enormous. The next decade will see unbelievable change in the agricultural sector – if we are prepared to grasp it.However, broader economic prosperity will depend on confidence returning to the regions with majority government, at both federal and state levels, addressing the hideous burdens now faced by business at every level.

– Paul Arnold 

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