The undoubted twin highlights of the year under review were the official ceremonies to mark the opening of two major infrastructure projects: the new Sorell Causeway Bridge - McGees Bridge - on 14 December 2002 and the restored West Coast Wilderness Railway on 3 April 2003.
The $20 million McGees Bridge was the largest single infrastructure project funded by the State Government for more than 15 years. It provides a vital link between Hobart and two of Tasmania's principal tourist attractions - Port Arthur Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula and the picturesque East Coast.
The new bridge was named as a tribute to Dr Rodney William McGee, ESM, who died after a long battle with cancer on 1 February 2002, aged 47. At the time of his death he was a senior engineer with the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources and recognised interstate and internationally for his expertise in bridge engineering.
The project was marked by extensive community involvement and particular attention to safeguarding the local environment, as the bridge is in an internationally recognised wetlands site and designated heritage area.
I was present at the very successful official opening ceremony, which was also attended by the Premier of Tasmania, Jim Bacon, the Minister for Infrastructure, Jim Cox, the Mayor of Sorell, Carmel Torenius, and members of Rod McGee's family.
West Coast Wilderness Railway
The restored West Coast Wilderness Railway, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments, was officially opened on 3 April 2003, celebrating the 106th anniversary of the official opening of the railway from Queenstown to Teepookana.
As Agency Head and as Tasmania's Rail Safety Regulator, I was committed to ensuring not only that the project was finished to a high standard, but that it exemplified an uncompromising commitment to safety.
The tasks of those working on the project were indeed formidable. In three years the restoration team rebuilt original steam and diesel locomotives, completed 40 reconstructed or new bridges, made replicas of original carriages and recreated stations and associated buildings.
The opening ceremony at Queenstown was attended by the Prime Minister, John Howard, the Premier of Tasmania, Jim Bacon, the Mayor of the West Coast, Darryl Gerrity, and the Managing Director of Federal Hotels & Resorts, Greg Farrell.
Other projects and features of the year under review include the following:
The Capital City Partnership Agreement requires a strategy for the development of the Hobart Waterfront. In April 2003, the Premier and the Lord Mayor of Hobart released the Terms of Reference for the Hobart Waterfront Project that includes two primary elements:
the preparation of an urban design framework that will outline what activities and development should occur in the area; and
the preparation of an investment, marketing and coordination strategy that will outline how investment will be facilitated.
Initial work has focused on advising on the terms of reference and establishing the governance structure and process for the project.
Air and Maritime Security
The Department contributed to a multi-agency taskforce considering air and sea security. As a result, a range of measures affecting port (and port facility) operators, ships and shipping companies will be implemented prior to mid-2004. These will ensure mandatory basic requirements are in place for preventing and suppressing acts of terrorism against ships, passengers and cargo.
Introduction of Compulsory Carriage of Driver Licences
Compulsory carriage and production of a driver licence became law in Tasmania for all drivers from 1 December 2002. An amnesty period to 1 March 2003 allowed drivers to become accustomed to the new law and to get into the habit of carrying their licence with them when they drive.
Reducing the number of unregistered and uninsured vehicles on Tasmanian roads, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of enforcement activity, and reducing the incidents of the re-birthing of written-off vehicles were all high priorities for the Department.
The project has introduced CARMEN©, the latest technology in roadside numberplate recognition, which can detect an unregistered/uninsured vehicle within 1/5th of a second. CARMEN© is an effective deterrent in the effort to reduce the number of unregistered/uninsured vehicles on Tasmanian roads, providing strategic targeting of vehicles of interest. Tasmania is the only Sate currently using this technology, made available through the ongoing contributions of key partners like MAIB.
Workplace Safe Campaign
The Workplace Safe campaign, funded by the WorkCover Tasmania Board, has been extremely successful in increasing awareness of workplace health and safety and injury management. Research conducted during the development of the campaign identified manual handling as a very significant safety issue across all industry sectors. A manual handling kit for use at the workplace has been a focus for State-wide industry seminars and education and compliance activity across most industry sectors and was extremely well received. Indications show that the campaign, together with Inspectorate activity, has decreased the incidence of manual handling injury.
Review of workers compensation arrangements
In October 2002, the Minister for Infrastructure announced a review of Tasmania's workers compensation system. The purpose of this review is to examine the impact of amendments to the Act that were aimed at balancing the social and economic objectives of the system. Terms of reference for the review were released on 5 June 2003. Mr Bob Rutherford, a senior executive of the Department, has been appointed to conduct the review.
Promotion of Mineral and Petroleum Potential
The Government provided $125,000 in 2002/2003, through the Department of Economic Development, to actively market mineral exploration opportunities in Tasmania. Activities undertaken included the production of a promotional CD, and the holding of a display and presentation of a paper at the world's leading exploration forum, the Annual Meeting of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC). Promotional visits and functions were conducted in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. These visits were led by the Deputy Premier and included Tasmanian Minerals Council and departmental representation. These promotions have been successful and have played a direct part in attracting three new exploration companies to Tasmania and the generation of new exploration projects with a projected total expenditure of over $2.5 million.
The Department ensures that Tasmanian businesses are given every opportunity to compete for the agency's business. It is DIER's policy to support Tasmanian businesses whenever they offer best value for money for the Government. A total of 25 contracts valued at more than $15 million were awarded locally during the year under review.
In conclusion, I wish to thank officers throughout the Department for their continuing efforts over the past year and the enthusiasm with which they have worked to help the agency fulfil its vision.