What a year!
It’s been a great year for Tasmania. David Attenborough showcased our stunning island to a global audience of millions, a deal was struck for new Bass Strait ferries, while our whisky and wine shone on the world stage…and that’s just the start.
The summer celebrations were still in full swing when 2018 kicked off on a scientific note.
In January the Hobart City Deal was signed, boosting plans for the University of Tasmania’s $400 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) centre, and prompting Prime-Minister Malcolm Turnbull to praise the southern capital as “one of Australia’s premier science cities".
By February, it was the north’s turn. The Launceston City Deal was ratified, promoting a ‘smart city’ with a rapidly developing technological and ICT hub.
As the leaves turned golden in March, Tasmania headed to the polls and the Liberal Government, led by Premier Will Hodgman, was returned for a second term.
The arrival of autumn also turned the spotlight on tourism. Tasmania scooped the pool at the Australian Tourism Awards, with the Tasmanian Walking Company, Maria Island Walk, and Saffire Resort all bagging gold medals.
Tourism’s winning streak continued throughout 2018 with visitors arriving in droves. Annual tourist numbers now top a record 1.2 million, and there was a 36 per cent increase in cruise ship arrivals with 127 docking last season.
March was also accompanied by big news for a rebounding forestry industry, with the Hermal Group announcing plans for Australia’s largest hardwood mill near Burnie at a cost of $190 million. The mining sector strengthened as well, with a 40 per cent increase in exports on the previous year.
In April, Tasmanian whisky continued its global domination. Sullivans Cove Distillery was again named World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt at London’s World Whiskies Awards. Head distiller, Patrick Maguire, was later inducted into the Icons of Whisky Hall of Fame.
2018 also saw gin and vodka move out of whisky’s shadow. An innovative Sheep Whey Vodka from Hartshorn Distillery was named world’s best vodka, while the Poltergeist Unfiltered Gin was awarded double gold at the World Spirits Awards.
May produced Tasmania’s biggest ever infrastructure deal, with a $700 million contract for two new Bass Strait ferries to replace the current Sprits of Tasmania. The twin vessels will operate from 2021 providing an extra 35 per cent capacity.
Tasmania’s wine corks also popped in celebration that month. A report found the industry contributes $115 million to the local economy every year, and influential critic Tyson Seltzer, declared “the greatest sparkling wine on earth, outside of Champagne, comes from Tasmania.”
The wine accolades continued throughout 2018. Stefano Lubiana won world’s best bio-dynamic wine for the third year, and House of Arras winemaker, Ed Carr, was honoured with an international lifetime achievement award in London.
As June’s cold descended, our unique festivals fired-up. In Hobart, Dark MOFO unleashed its subversive celebrations, and we joined in song around a giant bonfire for the Festival of Voices. These festivals are now so popular that winter tourism is starting to rival the summer peak.
June also saw the hauntingly beautiful documentary, David Attenborough’s Tasmania, broadcast to millions of viewers across the world. It showcased the island’s stunning wilderness and wildlife and declared Tasmania to be “a world apart”.
By July, the state’s $442 million Antarctic sector was centre-stage. A Senate Inquiry released a bold vision of Hobart as an international Antarctic gateway, and plans were unveiled for scientific organisations, including CSIRO, to relocate to an Antarctic hub at Hobart’s Macquarie Point.
A win also for advanced manufacturing, with Liferaft Systems Australia awarded a $10 million contract to supply marine evacuation systems for Australia’s newest battleships. Tasmania’s defence sector is growing rapidly and now worth $340 million to the State’s economy.
In August attention turned to art as local identity, Neil Haddon, took out the world’s richest landscape award, the Hadley’s Art Prize, in Hobart. Craftsmen, designers and architects also attracted widespread acclaim in 2018, with one example being the multi-award winning MACq 01 hotel on Hobart’s waterfront.
As spring sprung into action, the focus turned to premium produce.
For the first time in six years, Tasmania had a stand at Fine Food Australia. And, the artisan producers who took part in the September expo in Melbourne attracted crowds with wares ranging from King Island wallaby to leatherwood honey.
Our Brand Tasmania ambassadors led the cheer-squad. Media personality, Ray Martin, hosted a forum which included Rodney Dunn from the Agrarian Kitchen. And, iconic chef, Tetsuya Wakuda, helped prepare a VIP degustation feast showcasing Tasmania’s finest fare.
In October, the Northern Midlands came alive with the sound of music. Historic village buildings, and rustic barns provided a stunning backdrop as Australia’s top musicians performed at the second Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival.
As we headed towards November it was time to celebrate Tasmania’s bounty – from both land and sea.
Super-chef, Brazilian Alex Atala, was seduced by fresh seafood during a visit to Tasmania. And, that bible of travel, the Lonely Planet, declared savouring plump oysters straight from the water at Freycinet to be one of the world’s ultimate dining experiences.
Tasmanian agriculture, watered by new dams, continued to go from strength to strength in 2018. And, history was made when Frances and Peter Bender, the founders of Huon Aquaculture, were named Australian Farmer of the Year – the first time fish farmers have won the prestigious award.
As December draws to a close and the year winds up, it’s safe to say that 2018 has been a corker for Tasmania; and 2019 is shaping up to be just as spectacular.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Image courtesy of Robert Heazlewood
11 December 2018, Edition 201