Living in Tasmania

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TASMANIA ~ THE WORLD’S BEST-KEPT SECRET

“If I was obliged to emigrate I should certainly prefer this place.”

Charles Darwin, 1836.

Not too many years ago, the world viewed Tasmania as ‘isolated’. Tasmanians would knowingly smile at this description and ask, “Isolated from what?”

Now, as the growing influx of business and skilled migrants will confirm, Tasmania certainly is isolated! It is isolated from bustling, overcrowded and impersonal cities with the inherent problems of pollution, poverty and crime.

But it is certainly not isolated from the world of commerce, trade and business.

Modern technologies, communications and transport enable almost instantaneous business transactions between Tasmania and New York. Within a day a Tasmanian business representative can be sitting in a boardroom in Tokyo or a little longer will see that person clinching a deal in London.

The reality is that Tasmania offers a quality of life that has almost disappeared in the modern world without any detriment to business or trade considerations.

Tasmania is Australia’s island state, situated off the south east corner of the Australian mainland between 43 and 40 degrees south of the Equator. That’s about the same distance from the Equator as Bordeaux in France – but in the opposite direction.

The island of Tasmania is approximately the size of Ireland or Sri Lanka. It has a varied climate and topography, ranging from the high rainfall, mountains and forests in the west, to the warm, dry conditions on the east coast.

As the English novelist Anthony Trollope described it “…the climate of Tasmania is by far pleasanter than that of any part of the mainland [Australia]”. Unlike much of continental Australia, Tasmania experiences four distinct seasons – average temperatures in the capital city, Hobart, range from 12 to 22 degrees Celsius in summer and 5 to 12 degrees Celsius in winter.

Overcrowding, with all its associated problems, is definitely not a consideration. Tasmania’s population of 495,000 is evenly dispersed around the island. Nestled between a mountain range and beautiful, deep harbour is the capital city, Hobart.

This city resembles a mini Vancouver, but without the traffic jams, pollution, crime, stress and high-priced real estate associated with larger cities.

Apart from the lifestyle and natural beauty, one of Tasmania’s big drawcards is the quality, range and affordability of urban and rural real estate. Although prices have recently risen in many areas, new arrivals can still find a bargain - often with water views, a large landholding and access to wilderness that surrounds many urban centres.

Launceston, with its graceful, well preserved Victorian architecture and green parks, is the state’s second largest city and an important commercial centre deriving its wealth from wool, wine, agriculture, niche manufacturing and resource processing at the nearby Bell Bay industrial site. The city of 80,000 boasts two of Australia’s best restaurants and (according to many connoisseurs) Australia’s best beer.

In the fertile north-west, Burnie’s thriving dairy processors and specialised manufacturers now complement the traditional port, pulp and paper industries. Nearby Devonport capitalises on its position as the gateway to Tasmania for tourists arriving by fast ferry from Melbourne.

Tasmania’s economic outlook is the brightest in 20 years, fuelled by a number of large infrastructure projects, a surge in private investment and strong growth in sectors in which the state enjoys strong comparative advantages – food and beverage production, specialised manufacturing, high-value agriculture, tourism and forestry.

The manufacturing sector is export-oriented and includes world-competitive businesses in fast ferries, paper production, maritime safety systems, timber processing, automotive components, mining equipment, aquaculture equipment and fine food and beverages. Growth sectors include marine engineering, communications technology, wood processing and naturally derived chemicals. Two major industrial zones with excellent power supplies and port access have been established at Bell Bay in the north east and Port Latta in the north west.

Tasmania’s tourism sector is booming with the island winning praise from travel writers all over the world. Tasmania has been ranked third in Travel and Leisure’s top 100 travel destinations; named (by Conde Nast Traveller) the world’s top temperate island for two years running and had the Bay of Fires named (also by Conde Nast Traveller) as the second most beautiful beach in the world in June 2005.

Tasmania offers travellers a safe, affordable, rejuvenating holiday experience in one of the most unique and unspoilt locations in the world. Writing in the The Sunday Times, ‘The End of the World’ (8 April 2007), AA Gill said, “There are places that look like old England and there are places that look like nowhere else on Earth.

“Tasmania has a rainforest that has an elemental, speechless beauty. Rainforests around the rest of the world are smelly, soggy, dank and deeply disappointing.

“Tasmania’s cool, temperate forest is a great buttressed and hammer-beamed cathedral to the green gods….”

In the 2006-07 financial year approximately 827,000 scheduled air and sea passengers visited Tasmania, many from the growing cruise ship market. But this is a sector where even more growth is expected. Currently, in March 2008, there is more than $636 million in tourism-related product development (including redevelopment and new building) under construction around Tasmania with a further $212 million worth of projects proposed.

Tourists visit Tasmania to experience the state’s World Heritage wilderness, gourmet food and wine, cultural attractions and world-class sailing and fly-fishing; with many these visitors commenting warmly about the ‘welcoming locals’ whenever they are asked.

This fast-growing sector offers rewarding investments with a lifestyle to match. Opportunities for business people range from investment in major infrastructure to operating one of many boutique bed and breakfast establishments.

Tasmania is fast becoming Australia’s most dynamic food producer as gourmet food grown in the state’s unpolluted, disease-free soils and waters is snapped up by discerning interstate and overseas buyers. The state is one of the few places able to supply fresh, temperate-zone produce out-of-season to the Northern Hemisphere and high-quality vegetables, fruit, dairy products, seafood and meat are significant exports (over $500 million in 2006-07).

From an almost zero base 20 years ago, the Tasmanian wine industry has surged ahead producing genuine cool-climate wines the quality of which approaches that of Burgundy’s finest – at a fraction of the cost. The dairy industry tells a similar story and Tasmania’s cheeses are now winning awards all over the world. While traditional products such as lamb, beef, hops, apples, onions, potatoes and milk remain important, innovative farmers and offshore investors are also moving into high-value niche products such as olives, herbs, cherries, apricots, game meat, walnuts, wasabi, truffles, essential oils, buckwheat and saffron.

Tasmania’s unspoilt coastline, cool water and strict bio-security guarantee high-quality, high-value seafood. Tasmanian seafood exports in 2006-07 totalled $151 million. As the export of traditional products (salmon, oysters and mussels) and the potential of new areas (abalone and rock lobster) increase, aquaculture is supplementing the wild fisheries share of revenue and export earnings. The sector’s rapid growth and emphasis on self reliance has fostered the growth of local firms specialising in the production and export of salmon cages, netting, computerised feeding equipment and other hardware.

Tasmania also has a strong research and development sector and the island’s small geographic size makes it easier to achieve a ‘whole-of-state’ approach. Being an island helps with bio-security through its isolation. There have been strong links established between research and development organisations and industry sectors such as aquaculture and the growing biotechnology industry. The state’s education system is a mixture of public and private education providers offering a wide range of courses and teaching styles. Tasmania has one of the world’s highest proportions of schoolteachers with postgraduate qualifications and students can choose from well over 100 subjects in their final school years. All schools are computer-networked. The University of Tasmania, with campuses in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie, is one of Australia’s oldest and most respected tertiary institutions offering a wide range of disciplines to its student population of about 12,000. Specialised further education is also available through the Australian Maritime College and the TAFE system.

Tasmania is well served by its transport infrastructure with an excellent road network linking all major centres, three high-speed passenger/car ferries and over 480 flights in and out of the state each week. At present, power needs are supplied by an extensive, non-polluting hydroelectric system augmented by wind turbine and piped natural gas.

The island’s population is now growing strongly and is at record levels after going into decline in 1997 for the first time since the Second World War. Recent statistics from the ABS show that Tasmania’s population has grown by 15,000 people since the 2001 census to 493,341 including 600 people in the June quarter 2007.

Net overseas migration for the year to June 2007 was 1,252 persons, up 7.4 per cent from the previous year.

In recent years business migrants from all over the world have settled in Tasmania to exploit a growing range of commercial opportunities including dairying, shellfish aquaculture (oysters and abalone), crop farming, specialised engineering and metal fabrication, eco-tourism, restaurants and cafes, hotels, stonefruit orchards, wildlife parks, smallgoods and game meats, cut flowers, e-commerce and seafood processing – just to name a few.

Tasmania welcomes entrepreneurs and under current immigration regulations the State Government sponsors business people who wish to settle in Tasmania and can submit a well-researched business proposal.

Like many developed communities, Tasmania is experiencing skills shortages in a number of key trades and professions such as health professionals, construction trades, metal trades, auto trades and civil engineering.

Skilled migrants with occupations in demand who would like to settle with their families in Tasmania are invited to apply for state nomination under the Skilled Sponsored Visa Scheme.

All immigration to Australia is controlled by the Federal Government through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). Because of the potential cost and complexity of business visa applications, people considering migrating to Tasmania are strongly advised to visit DIAC’s website (www.diac.gov.au) to familiarise themselves with the requirements for Business Skills migration.

The Department of Economic Development and Tourism appreciates the difficulties associated with relocating and tailors its assistance to meet the different needs of individual migrants and their families. We offer help in the following areas:

  • preliminary business research and assistance organising itineraries for visitors
  • introduction to key contacts in the government and business sector
  • information on and assistance accessing government business facilitation and export assistance programs
  • advice on Australian immigration regulations
  • sponsorship/nomination through Australian regional migration programs.