City of Devonport, Tasmania
Embracing the Living City
Business View Oceania interviews representatives of Devonport, Tasmania for our focus on Growth & Economic Development in Australian Cities
When it comes to quality of life, the lovely City of Devonport offers the best of everything. It has all the amenities of a fairly urban area, but surrounded by peaceful countryside and farms. Ideally located on the North West Coast, the City is just a short trip by passenger ferry or airline flight to mainland Australia, only two hours from world-famous Cradle Mountain, and features a wealth of recreational activities for all ages. With a municipal population of approximately 26,000, Devonport is the third largest city in Tasmania, serves a regional population of 65,000 and is simply a perfect place to call home.
Matthew Atkins, Devonport General Manager, reports, “Already in the last five years, we’ve seen Tasmania and Devonport become a more attractive destination. And we think that, as a result of COVID-19, we’re probably going to see that increasing as more people want to move to less populated areas.”
Mayor Annette Rockliff agrees, adding, “I think that technology is going to continue to improve that as well. We’ve certainly seen during COVID that in families, children that moved away have decided to come back because they can do the work they were doing in the city from their house. They’re able to do high-tech jobs remotely – without the commute. Here at the end of the earth, we can connect with people all over the world, so that’s pretty exciting for us and a big advantage. For businesses setting up here, it’s a great lifestyle and a wonderful opportunity for employees.”
As the epicentre of significant infrastructure investment in associated port and logistics services, Devonport is evolving into a sought-after place of growth and long-term prosperity. And a visionary plan known as ‘LIVING CITY’ is spurring that success.
In 2014, Devonport City Council adopted “LIVING CITY”, which aims to transform the region through the creation of opportunities in tourism, hospitality, arts and culture, retail and services sectors. The LIVING CITY plan intends to build on Devonport’s strategic advantages, of which it has many. Devonport is home to the Spirit of Tasmania, the state’s only passenger ferry system. Each year over 310,000 visitors arrive in Devonport on the two ferry vessels, providing the city and the north west region with a unique opportunity to capture that large tourism market. The LIVING CITY Masterplan also builds upon the region’s strong agricultural offerings by creating a food destination featuring high-quality produce from the area, which is one of the greatest food-producing regions in Australia.
LIVING CITY is one of the largest urban renewal projects undertaken in regional Tasmania and is estimated to generate $250 million in construction investment and provide up to 830 on-going jobs. The project benefits the entire north west region and is a collaboration between the three tiers of government with funding provided by the Devonport City Council, State and Federal governments. Importantly, the project also creates complementary investment opportunities for the private sector to invest and participate in the future success of Devonport.
According to Atkins, “Council adopted our LIVING CITY strategy back in 2014 to really transform the city and drive economic growth. We’re now seeing that plan roll out and seeing growth and investment starting as a result. For example, there’s a 200-room hotel under construction on our waterfront. There’s a major waterfront park upgrade that’s under construction; investment in a new, large conference and city centre. Part of the LIVING CITY strategy is to embrace food, culture and the arts and we see that as critical to tourism in this area.”
LIVING CITY is transforming Devonport through the creation of attractive new precincts, new jobs and new opportunities focused on highlighting its tourism, arts, food and service offerings. Halfway through the 10-year LIVING CITY Master Plan, Stage 1 construction is now complete, representing a $71.1 million investment. Stage 1 is incredible in its own right, delivering an award-winning new multi-purpose civic building, the paranaple centre, which is home to a state-of-the-art library, integrated customer service centre including Service Tasmania, a café, Devonport Online, Council offices and a spectacular 800-seat convention centre.
The centre also includes a multi-level car park and a food and events pavilion, which showcase the region’s premium produce through restaurants, a distillery, accredited hospitality sector training facilities and events spaces. The paranaple arts centre, housing the Devonport Regional Gallery, 400-seat Town Hall Theatre, and the Visitor Information Centre are also located within this new, vibrant precinct. This initial stage of the Master Plan was recognised by the Australian Institute of Architects awards program, winning both the best Public Architecture and Urban Design categories for the State.
Improvements at the southern end of the CBD have occurred simultaneously, with a new car park, offices and street amenity upgrades occurring over the past four years. The LIVING CITY Masterplan designates the future of the southern CBD for office and medical purposes, with Council having directly participated and coordinated land sales to enable this development to occur.
The last 12 months have seen significant progress on the second major stage of LIVING CITY, with commencement of both the new Waterfront Park precinct and the privately funded hotel development. With a combined construction value of $57 million, these projects are an integral part of the Master Plan and will result in an estimated total economic benefit to the Tasmanian and national economies of $127 million, and support 285 jobs across the anticipated construction period.
Construction on the hotel commenced in March 2020. This fully privately funded development is being undertaken by Devonport-based Fairbrother Pty Ltd under a freehold arrangement with international hotel developer Fragrance Group Limited, and incorporates in excess of 180 rooms in various configurations offering 4.5-star accommodation. It is expected the construction will be complete by the end of 2021, with an anticipated opening during early 2022.
The Waterfront Park Precinct enables Council to achieve the long-held community desire of opening the CBD to the Mersey River. The park consists of a children’s play space with adjacent BBQ shelters and public amenities, endemic Tasmanian plantings, events rotunda, amphitheatre, water feature, events common area, pathways and a 160-metre long, six-metre-wide elevated walkway and viewing area overlooking the Mersey River and beyond.
Future stages of the LIVING CITY masterplan include opportunities for further private-sector development within the CBD, along with further development of the Council-owned land to the west of the paranaple centre and Market Square precinct. Council has recently commenced a structured Expression of Interest Process, releasing four significant development sites within the CBD to the market.
“LIVING CITY is the largest urban redevelopment plan ever undertaken in regional Tasmania,” says Mayor Rockliff, “and is driving the transformation of Devonport through the creation of new civic, business and waterfront precincts, focused on highlighting our tourism, arts, services, and livability advantages. The Devonport City Council, along with our State and Federal Government partners, have committed significant investment in the early stages of the Master Plan implementation, which has been critical to establishing exciting opportunities for complementary private sector investment and job creation. With the $40 million private investment in the new waterfront hotel now on the ground, the time is right to commence planning for the next stages of LIVING CITY, and this Expression of Interest process is a significant next step in ensuring opportunities for innovative and high-quality private sector
investment opportunities in our city are readily available.”
Advantages to Business
Devonport’s diverse economy is based on retail trade, health care and social services, manufacturing, and freight and logistics management. Supported by the initiatives contained within the LIVING CITY plan, Devonport is confirming its status as the service, retail, tourism, and cultural capital of North West Tasmania. This is creating rapidly growing opportunities in traditional sectors, as well as in tourism and accommodation, food services, education, construction and professional services industries.
Devonport offers compelling advantages for business investment, including:
- Passenger and freight ports, which handle a considerable proportion of Tasmanian imports and exports, as well as hosting the Spirit of Tasmania interstate passenger ferry service.
- Devonport Airport is the third largest in Tasmania, providing major carrier services to Melbourne Tullamarine, along with freight and charter services.
- Devonport is on the doorstep of North West Tasmania’s high-quality fresh produce regions, namely: dairy, floriculture, fruit, vegetables, meat and aquaculture production and processing. The ‘food industry’ is a major asset which is building economic prosperity for the City.
- Market access – land and property values, including commercial rentals, are some of the most accessible in all of Australia’s regional cities.
- Skilled, diverse workforce that is innovative and agile by nature.
- Enviable lifestyle supported by superb coastal setting, high-quality public infrastructure, and access to excellent education and health care services.
Devonport City Council has been making significant investments in public infrastructure to make Devonport a more attractive place to live and work. In addition to this public-sector led investment, LIVING CITY is creating opportunity for private investment and growth within the Devonport CBD.
Mayor Rockliff is very proud of the path Devonport is taking and has great hopes for the future. She shares, “We’ve achieved quite a lot in the last few years and we’re well on that journey to success with the LIVING CITY plan. My wish as Mayor is that anyone who wants to live and work here has that opportunity.”