Bernard Salt says Tasmania is poised for significant growth and prosperity in the 2020s.
Bernard Salt says Tasmania is poised for significant growth and prosperity in the 2020s.

What Tassie must do to keep thriving

TASMANIA is poised for significant growth and prosperity in the 2020s, says leading trends forecaster Bernard Salt.

As a transformative decade draws towards its end, the state is on track to enjoy more of the same over the next 10 years. That is contingent on an adept - indeed, inspired - response to both entrenched and looming demographic challenges.

That's our future in a nutshell, according to research commissioned by the Mercury for the Future Tasmania series that we kick off today.

"Tasmania's growth is unlikely to be driven by rapid population growth, as is the case for Melbourne and the Gold Coast, but around lifestyle," Mr Salt said.

He said Tasmania's population of about 500,000 people gave it the critical mass needed for continuing steady, sustainable growth - but we needed to develop a global perspective.

Asserting our independence is part of a strategic response endorsed by Mr Salt, a sought-after demographer, social commentator and business analyst who led the research.

"My overarching observation is that Tasmania needs to and has the opportunity to assert its sovereignty," he said.

"Fifty years ago, Geoffrey Blainey wrote about the tyranny of distance and how it shaped Australia's history.

"In the same way there is a tyranny of closeness between Tasmania and Melbourne. In many respects, it is terrific, but it is a double-edged sword."



Mr Salt said it was time for Tasmania to pull out all stops to arrest the long-term exodus of so-called "best and brightest" school-leavers to Melbourne and interstate. There is so much more to offer them here now.

"Melbourne sucks talent and ambition out of Tasmania and the question is whether there is a fair exchange for that," Mr Salt said. "Do those people come back with talent, experience, capital and energy?"

One of the big challenges was in convincing more Generation Zs that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of Bass Strait.

By all means, go and see the world, but do study at the University of Tasmania wherever possible in preference to interstate universities, he suggested.

Forging ahead with plans to make the Hobart Airport international in more than name only was also essential, he said.

"Tasmania needs to leapfrog Melbourne and establish its own connectivity across a broader region of Australia and a broader region of globally," Mr Salt said. "Certainly with the airport upgrade, that should be technically possible and the next step in this sort of globalisation of Tasmania."

He also said it was time for Tasmanians to redouble their pride in this amazing island - and if the AFL finally corrects the insult of denying the state its own footy team in this historic heartland of the game, we will be off to a flying start to the 2020s.

Mr Salt said embracing and celebrating an entrepreneurial spirit was also key to pride-building and prosperity. In terms of aspirational lifestyle, Tasmania really was the Loire or Napa Valley of the south, he said.

And we'd best cultivate that reputation if we know which side of our bread is buttered.

"Tasmania has a quality of life that is precious," Mr Salt said. "Why wouldn't you want to live there as a retiree, sure, but also as a 30-something and 40-something?

"I have a theory that in the 2020s the bigger, the meaner, the more congested and less safe Melbourne appears to become, the prettier Tasmania and Hobart are going to look. A lot of people will say I want a kinder, gentler, more authentic lifestyle.

"It's a recoiling from the harshness of that almost Blade-Runnerish existence to what can be on offer in the Tasmanian environment.

"You need a very clear vision of what this looks like. And you need everyone on board. It needs to be a narrative and a philosophy that half a million Tasmanians say: 'Yes, I agree with that'."