How important is the past, or is it far more important to go forward and work on what and how the future can assist this great State.
By any standards we’re kind of unique as Tasmanians! For more than 200 years conflict and rivalry between the northern and southern halves of the island have been an enduring factor in Tasmanian life. This division also spawned a sub-region, the North West Coast.
Right from the very beginning of settlement, historical events conspired to develop a spirit of rivalry between the north and south of the island. In the same year that Hobart Town was founded, two colonies were established, divided at the 42nd parallel. The major settlement, at Sullivans Cove on the Derwent River, was made directly from England. The second, on Bass Strait at Port Dalrymple in the north, was made from Sydney. From 1804 till 1813, each colony had a separate administration independently responsible to the Governor in Sydney.
Should we allow what happened well before we were born to dictate what we do in the 21st century?
Many have tried to heal the wounds of the past while others have exploited the divisions. This is particularly true of the newspapers in the three regions.
In 1959 there was the symbolic burial of the hatchet between Launceston and Hobart. I was only one year old and living in Melbourne at the time.
Did previous attempts to heal division really have any significance on setting a path for two divided cities to work together for the benefit of both cities and the State? Did we have politicians that were committed to work on a future plan for the cities?
I think not; there was little thought offered, simply postured gestures without thought of what both cities working together could achieve.
Why is it that it has taken some 53 years for another attempt for both Launceston and Hobart to come together. Maybe we understand the mistakes of the past and realise, that if we are serious and passionate about “our patch”, then working collectively with other passionate people could and would be beneficial for all parties.
There is a need to put our fear factors of the unknown in the “what if” basket. Being in business most of my working life and taking many risks over the years, I still question myself with the “what if” and have preferred to see where the “what if” will go and if it can achieve a positive outcome.
While I was just an 18 year old Italian boy when I took the big step of leaving home and moving interstate, I was very surprised with the unbridled rivalry I found here. Being in business in Hobart and Launceston I could not understand the entrenched North/South friction.
This became more evident once I became involved in local government. After 20 years experience in local politics, my concerns began to grow as the State became embroiled yet again in a North/South battle. This time on an issue that I believe would benefit the whole State with AFL being played in Hobart.
I felt it was time that the leaders of our two largest cities realised that we are living in the 21st century and not in the past. For me, this was the trigger point to act, and when I was personally attacked by a number of people who did not know me, I decided it was time to bring an end to the negative impacts and try and shutdown the divisions.
Because of my European heritage, I become quite passionate about issues that are close to my heart and set about bringing change.
My first step was to contact the Mayor of Launceston, Albert van Zetten and arrange a meeting. Like everything about the unknown, the drive North was filled with thoughts on what would happen and how the meeting would pan out, (what if…) .
The hour and a half meeting was positive, so it was obvious to me that the time had come for a serious attempt to break down the North/South barriers. I knew that if this was to occur, it would need to be a program that would require agreements, hard work and a real desire to work colaboratively.
The drive back to Hobart was filled with positive energy as the seed to pursue a serious relationship was well and truly planted. It just needed the approval of Aldermen of both cities to nurture it and cultivate it into a bud that would hopefully blossom and bear fruit. I was also filled with positive thoughts on ensuring agreement by both city leaders.
The first step was for both cities to agree to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding. This was agreed to by both parties, so the second step was to set out what was of mutual benefit to both regions.
As each obstacle was overcome, so the hurdles got easier. Both cities agreed to pursue an MOU and no doubt the hard work of both administrations, general managers and senior directors to put together the documentation played a vital role in this process.
While the Mayors going through the ceremonial ‘lifting the hatchets’ from their resting place may have provided that symbolic aspect of moving forward, the important component was how the documentation of the MOU would be drafted and what would be the agreed list of agreements and priorities that both city leaders would agree on the way to action them.
For me, finding a day when many civic leaders could come together to sign the M.O.U., then sit down to discuss the detail could not come quickly enough. Like any person expecting a child, the excitement and the unknowns (what if), were yet again racing through my mind at a hundred kilometres and hour.
When a date was agreed to, it was like a ‘Grand Final Day’ only with two cities who were about to embark on the opportunity to play in a game where the outcome would actually be two city winners with the State ultimately winning the prize.
On the historic day of the MOU signing, the drive to Launceston seemed to take hours as it does when one has an expectation of excitement and hope as I did that everything would fall into place and that both groups would come together to forge a bond that would see a dream that many in the past had failed to archive.
On our arrival, it was straight down to business; the stage was set to remove what has been ‘a thorn in the middle of two great cities’ for two centuries. A brief introduction from both Mayors, some important comments and the time had come to sign the historic document that could finally bring about the welcome change.
In my excitement as one of the witnesses for the document signing, I signed in the wrong place but it didn’t matter, as it was where my Launceston counter- part was to sign. Thankfully the Launceston Mayor pointed out that it wasn’t a problem!
Following media interviews to record the historic occasion, we then moved into the job of discussing the details of our MOU and immediately everyone became involved. The ground rules set, the parameters agreed to, and the discussions took their course. Every priority was discussed openly and it was obvious that every person around the table was committed to the process and willing to reach agreement.
As each item was discussed, again it became obvious that both Cities had so much in common and everyone was providing vital input to the point, that I began asking again, “Why has it taken so long for us to get together?”.
Yes, the sceptics will be around and I have no doubt that there will be those that will want this to fail, to the point that some may even put obstacles in the road.
With the commitment and good will of those that were present at this first meeting, I am certain that those who would want to drive a wedge into the MOU won’t succeed.
This was so obvious with the North Melbourne proposal after the second AFL game. Success is what brings a partnership closer together and brings those sitting on the side line into the game.
I feel that this new partnership will bring success, but irrespective of what will be achieved, even if it’s only one out of ten priorities, it’s far more than what we have ever achieved in the past. Personally, I feel this historic document signing will forge new friendships and professional relationships that will ultimately benefit Tasmania, both cities and the wider regions.
So I urge everyone to get on the bandwagon early and forget about the past and let’s stop the negativity and divisiveness. We all need to realize that whether we were born here, (or if an import like myself), we are all Tasmanians and passionate about where we live.
Irrespective of our address, we should all work toward the one outcome in putting “Tassie on Top.” In particular Tasmania not being left off the map and being bullied by the bigger States who claim we are not pulling our weight.
We have an opportunity, so let’s all get together and not allow the knockers to bring us down. I hope that Tasmania can ditch its two headed image and become the Twin City State.