Townsville enjoys a seaside location with more than 300 days of sunshine per year and is often considered the capital of Northern Queensland, Australia. But it is no stranger to crisis, from the loss of key industries to natural disaster. It is pushing back with a relentless focus on innovation. The city has been and still is an industrial center, as it is home to one of the world’s largest zinc refineries, a major nickel refinery and other industries. Townsville is currently expanding its port as part of a $30 million operation to allow for passage of larger cargo and passenger ships. The city also contains a number of natural attractions, including “The Strand,” a long beach and garden strip, the Riverway parkland on the banks of the Ross River, a large tropical aquarium and museum, among others. Townsville aims to build on these strengths with further innovation and engagement with its own people and many visitors.
Northern Australia’s physical distance from major markets has made access to affordable, high-speed internet access historically difficult. This has led to newer businesses, particularly in digital services, lagging substantially behind traditional industries in the region. The city aims to change that with the Townsville Connect program. The program will bring together multiple commercial partners in the region to establish a 10G network between major productive precincts of the city, such as the Health and Knowledge Precinct, as well as tertiary providers, key stakeholders and much of the small-to-medium business community. This first step will dramatically improve connectivity for key areas of the city, attracting new businesses to the region and providing a successful model to further expand broadband access in the future. As of 2020, the Townsville Connect program is midway through the EOI process for commercial partners.
Supporting the Community through Smart Precinct North Queensland
Beginning in 2019, Townsville has partnered with a variety of regional stakeholders, including James Cook University, Burdekin, Hinchinbrook, the Charters Towers and Palm Island Councils, Cubic, Safety Culture, TAFE and local entrepreneurs, to create Smart Precinct North Queensland (SPNQ). SPNQ has established itself as an innovation hub, the center of an innovation ecosystem made up of high-growth companies in North Queensland. Bringing together these stakeholders in one ecosystem will provide much-needed support for local start-ups and established businesses, as they work together to attract investments and build new technologies. Since its launch in 2019, SPNQ has deployed a new incubator program for the region, run eight community events, provided direct support to 25 local businesses and launched a hardware accelerator with a smart manufacturing initiative now in the works.
Building for the Future with the Townsville City Deal
The Townsville City Deal is a 15-year commitment between the national government of Australia, the state government of Queensland and the Townsville City Council. The City Deal lays out a plan for investment in Townsville through which government works with the private sector to improve infrastructure, attract investment, create new jobs and foster growth throughout the community. Thus far, the City Deal has led to a revitalization of the Waterfront Priority Development Area, growth of the Townsville Port and many new investments in the State Development Area. These infrastructure improvements have led to greater export and freight efficiency, facilitating business and service industry developments and making it easier to connect people and places throughout the region.
As of June 2020, the City Deal has led to the creation of the Townsville Smart City Strategy, the new North Queensland Country Bank Stadium and the Haughton Pipeline Duplication Project. It has also attracted significant investments for projects to develop Townsville’s global education and training programs with support from the Queensland Education and Training Partnership Fund.
Creating Water Sensitive Townsville
Beginning in 2015, the Townsville City Council worked with the Cooperative Research Center for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC) to develop a Water Sensitive Vision and Transition Strategy for the city. As a dry tropical city, Townsville requires complex water management to maintain a healthy ecosystem and handle its dramatic natural water cycles. The project has thus far seen more than 7,000 smart water meters installed across the community, with each meter delivering data to a publicly accessible web portal. This allows the government, community members and businesses to identify leaks and other sources of high usage, providing ways to easily reduce water use.
Townsville’s focus on innovation, conservation and engagement with the community on both fronts has the city poised to lead North Queensland into a brighter and more connected future.
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Photo by Leonhard Fortier