It is a pleasure to rise to speak briefly on the adjournment debate tonight about what I think is the best part of our country: the state of Tasmania. Last Friday I had the great pleasure of officially opening the Blue Tier Mountain Bike Trails in the beautiful and small community of Weldborough in north-east Tasmania—a part of the state that my good friend and colleague Senator Bushby is a big supporter of and works very hard for. The trails that I opened were funded in part by a grant from the Australian government through the Regional Development Program. There was great attendance at the launch on Friday. There were about 200 people. I make that point because it was a demonstration of the excitement around this specific project. Weldborough as a community is particularly small. There are only a few dwellings and it is on probably one of the windiest roads that exists in the nation of Australia. It is a very isolated community. So the fact that 200-odd people made it all the way to Weldborough to officiate the launch of this terrific initiative was great.
In attendance were some familiar to people in this place, including former Senator Guy Barnett, who was representing the Tasmanian Premier, donning his lycra, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, Sarah Courtney, and of course the former member for Lyons and very hardworking individual, Eric Hutchinson, was there to participate in events. It demonstrated the truly bipartisan support for this project. It was also good to see Brian Mitchell, the member for Lyons, and Ross Hart, showing that this project and others like it are supported by people from right across the political spectrum.
It is also important to acknowledge the role that local government in Tasmania had in bringing this project to fruition. I would like to acknowledge Mayor Greg Howard from Dorset Council and Mayor Mick Tucker from Break O’Day Council. Their support, coordination and pushing of these projects brought it to life. Yes, the Australian government provided the money, but it takes the local communities to come up with the ideas and push for them to be put into the final stages.
The Blue Tier project that I launched on Friday is part of a larger set of trails in the north-east known as the Blue Derby trails. In total, there are 77 kilometres of world-class mountain bike trails across that particular region, in areas like Cascade Forest and, of course, the Blue Tier Reserve. This particular attraction is bringing new visitors into the region. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 domestic and international visitors will be riding on these trails and coming to the small communities—which have not seen much in the way of visitation for a number of years—by the 2017. This project, along with many others, will go some way to complementing the Tasmanian government’s target of attracting 1.5 million visitors to our state by 2020. At present, the number of visitors coming to Tasmania on an annual basis is roughly one million. So the Tasmanian government has a great target. They are investing in some excellent marketing strategies and they are supported by the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania, in Luke Martin, the regional tourism organisations and of course the many tourism business operators across the state. So everyone has a finger in the pie; everyone wants these projects to succeed, and that is very exciting.
A big focus in Tasmania around growing tourism numbers is attracting visitors to the regions. Bigger cities and the population centres do not really need the help that some of our smaller communities need, so projects like the one I was able to launch on Friday do just that: they bring visitors out of our bigger population centres into regional communities that have struggled for various reasons in the past. These communities, including the one I visited on Friday, were once boom areas for industries like mining, farming and, in some cases, manufacturing. We all have to acknowledge that those days are long gone, but these communities are embracing the challenge of reinventing themselves, and seeing projects like this embraced by the communities so well gives me a great deal of encouragement. That is the spirit of Tasmanian people that I am so proud of.
Anyone who has ever been to Tasmania knows exactly what the state has on offer. With its rugged, wild and diverse landscapes it is perfect for adventure tourism—just like the mountain bike trails I was over there to launch—and local communities benefit financially. They have struggled at other times when they have not had these things going on, so to have these projects bringing visitors in is a great thing. When I was there on Friday I was able to see firsthand just how this new project, when it is finally up and running at full capacity, will benefit the community—and that is with the development of the Weldborough Hotel. The owners, the Winspear family and Mr Mark Ranicar, are investing a great deal of capital into expanding the offerings there, and I am sure it will not be the last investment to occur in that area. I have to tell you that it will be needed.
Mountain biking is a recreational pursuit that seems to have taken the world by storm. I have not quite got there myself; I think the prospect of wearing lycra is what keeps me away. But many other people seem to be getting involved and, as a testament to the popularity of mountain biking internationally, we have the enduro events around the world now. Tasmania has secured the chance to host an enduro event in Australia next April. There will be 400 participants in that event in this small community, and that is why this investment in accommodation and hospitality is going to be very much needed. There will be special arrangements needed for telecommunications so we can broadcast to the world just how wonderful Tasmania is and what we have on offer. I am also told that every campervan in Tasmania has been booked for the event just to make sure that people are not sleeping out under the stars! If things go well we will have the chance to host the event again in two years time.
The Australian government was able to contribute nearly $2.5 million, as stated, through regional development grants to the project, the total cost being $3 million. The trails are of varying levels of difficulty—the easy ones I could probably ride myself—and they complement a number of other recreational pursuits in the area, including the Barnbougle and Lost Farm golf courses. In this day and age we promote healthy lifestyles and people getting out and about, and this sort of pursuit is precisely in that vein.
So, there is a lot to take advantage of in Tasmania. Again, this is a great example of the three levels of government working together for the benefit of our local communities. I encourage all of my colleagues and their friends and families to come on down to Tasmania, have a ride and see what is on offer down there.