$5M win for Island hub

KING Island is set to receive $5 million to develop a multi-purpose community centre at Currie. King Island Council has been working on The Hub project for the past two years and has confirmed a Commonwealth grant will enable the vision to become a reality.

Cr. Duncan McFie has chaired a councillor working group, including Cr Vernon Philbey, Cr Gina Green and Cr Ira Cooke which, supported by council staff, has been working tirelessly to achieve a concept all councillors could support.

“The concept of a ‘hub’ that brings together different community groups and functions has been talked about on King Island for over 20 years,” Cr McFie said. “The fact that we now have an executed deed that gives us the funding to achieve this is exciting.”

A new multi-purpose building will be constructed between the Currie Museum and the Lighthouse and the previous general manager’s residence will be incorporated into the project precinct.

Council’s decision to site the building in this location was made after community consultation about the scope and location of the project, together with budget practicalities, engineering, logistics, and impact concerns.

A community lounge over-looking Currie Harbour will function as a meeting and event space and a fit-for-purpose Visitor Information Centre will provide an opportunity for King Island to be showcased.

The King Island Arts and Cultural Centre and King Island Regional Development Organisation (KIRDO) will relocate to this site. Specific feedback from KIRDO, the King Island Historical Society, King Island Tourism and the King Island Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee was sought and location of these stakeholders within the new precinct will be the next stage of the design.

Councillors strongly believe that, collectively, these actions will enhance King Island as a destination for visitors and new residents and will increase the facilities available for community members.

The Currie Town Hall is the State Government approved Emergency Recovery Centre for King Island, but it is not currently fit for purpose. Therefore, the grant deed also allows council to utilise a portion of the $5m funding to improve facilities to include adding showers and improving the Town Hall foyer entrance.

A detailed design brief is being prepared and feedback will be sought from members of the Municipal Emergency Management Committee before it is finalised.

Leada by name and nature

KING Island teenager Leada Blackie has become the first Tasmanian finalist to be named Australian Leo of the Year.

Leada took out the national award at the weekend in Melbourne, impressing the judges in a lengthy interview and wowing the large audience with her prepared speech. Leada was praised for her great confidence and maturity.

The Year 12 student was accompanied by her Leo advisor, and current King Island Lions Club president Linda Payne. “It’s humbling to watch Leada address her audience – this one being larger than the population of Currie,” Mrs Payne said.

“Everyone listens when Leada speaks.” Leada said she was honoured to receive the award. “It was an incredible honour to be recognised for this auspicious award,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed with love, joy and gratitude. I could feel everyone in the community behind me and it just made it that more special.

“I feel incredibly blessed to have been chosen to represent King Island and Tasmania as a whole, as well as the Leo/Lions organisation.” The Leo Club is part of the Lions Australia network. Leos are the youngest members of the organisation and work in their local communities to make them a better place.

There were five state finalists and 17-year-old Leada is the first finalist from Tasmania. “Leada had some stiff competition but shone through with her engaging personality and ability to connect with people of all ages,” Mrs Payne said. “Definitely Leada by name and by nature.

She’s a credit to her family, her school and to King Island. “Lions welcomes the opportunity to mentor young people and will find opportunities for them all to shine, regardless of ability.” Leo stands for “Leadership Experience Opportunity”. It is hoped their involvement makes them contributing members of society throughout their lives.

Contestants were interviewed on World events and current affairs, knowledge of the Lions and Leo organisations. Their application lists all the community service activities they are involved in – Leada is also Australia Day King Island Young Citizen of the Year 2022.

She has a role on the Premier’s Youth Advisory Council. She works part time and is completing Year 12 studies through KIDHS. Finalists give a five-minute prepared speech. Leada based her speech on the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Leada has been accepted into the Australian Defence Force Academy, following in her parents’ footsteps.

The Leo of the Year title comes with a substantial cash prize and an allowance to travel by invitation to Australia wide Lions/Leo events. Leada will serve one year on the Leo Advisory Panel with her fellow contestants, then will chair the same panel in her second year.

Incoming King Island Lions Club president Ira Cooke was also thrilled with the result. “We are incredibly pleased and congratulate Leada and the King Island Leo Club. “I look forward to watching Leada and what she achieves in the future,” Mr Cooke said.

Mine milestones reached

THREE women have been chosen as the first trainee truck driver cohort for G6M’s Dolphin Tungsten Mine.

G6M general manager Chas Murcott said the company was excited to announce more mine milestones this week. “The first three haul truck drivers trained at our Dolphin Mine are Tikki Denby, Kathleen Hunter and Rowie Murcott,” Mr Murcott said.

“A fourth truck operator, Sarah Hiscock, has just joined the crew along with three local fellas as general machine operators,” he said. “Working part time at the mine and able to still do other activities on the island is suiting many of the King Island residents,” Mr Murcott said.

“We still have further construction and operator positions available for interested islanders to apply for.” Chris Munday from Cat -William Adams along with G6M experienced operators Lucas Johnson and Phil McDougal have guided the trainees into becoming proficient operators.

“We currently have two Cat 775E trucks to be joined by a third later this month. “These trucks weigh 50 tonnes, carry 65-tonne loads with 825 hp engine so they are big pieces of machinery.

The drivers have to climb up a ladder to get into them. The trucks are loaded by the 30-tonne and new 75-tonne excavators on site and serviced by D8 dozer and 12-tonne roller. “The haul truck team have made a considerable difference to the mine site with road building in full swing.

“The haul trucks are also transporting rock to Stephen Helbig’s King Island Earthmoving crew, to be crushed, supplying material for the haul road and process plant pad.

“Rod McGarvie is doing a great job on the D8 dozer getting it to the required level. Construction of the TSF tailings dam wall with inert historic overburden begins next month.

“Haul trucks are the work horses of mines, and we are proud to have King Island residents trained and driving them at our mine,” Mr Murcott said.

Tikki Denby said she loves driving the biggest truck on the island. “It’s amazing to drive a haul truck and really rewarding to be part of the G6M Dolphin construction team,” she said. “In years to come I’ll be able to look at the haul road and say, ‘I helped build that’.”

Meanwhile, G6M has advised the Australian Stock Exchange that there has been a notable jump in the company’s share price and volume of shares traded. The share price has risen from 0.175c to 0.26c in about a week.

Hawks fly high in footy in season opener

AND just like that, its winter on King Island. The grey moody skies made for a poetic juxtaposition to the lush, meticulously manicured green of the Currie Oval – in its best nick ever, with the fresh white crisp and controversial fence encasing its borders.

The scene was set for Round One, a Grand Final replay, Grassy vs North, for Australia’s smallest league. All junior and senior players lined up for a minute’s silence to respect those players and family of players who have passed away in the last 12 months. Grassy wore black arm bands for Graham Conley, Fay Sherriff, Vikki Sharman, Jenifer Baily and Gys van Ruiswyk.

North wore black arm bands for Graham Conley – he played for both sides – Mary Vellekoop and Graham Watts. Jeremy (Jez) Summer, last year’s Keating medallist, had the first shot at goal.

Some first game wobbles saw it out on the full. North got plenty of hands on the ball in the first seven minutes with little reward, until Jye Summers found the goals as the rain started to pelt down. The first quarter quickly turned into a slippery, scrappy, messy hunt for territory. Will Cleeland gained possession for Grassy in the forward but jagged it wide.

Toward the end of the first quarter the rain came down harder and sheeted the play. For the returning game of the season, in these conditions, the ball control and skills were impressive. There was plenty of ping ponging in the middle 50 with Sartori pumping one long into the Grassy 50 only to have it retreat on him, to thrust back moments later in. It was a slow scoring affair to the end of the first quarter but at least the rain has eased.

Second quarter had Grassy with the wind, the rain stopped leaving the ground with the dangerous kind of dewy glow that sends knees one way and bodies the other. Brandon Forrest kicked a quick goal and Ellis did a lot of hard running for North, while Cleeland saw a lot of it for Grassy. Justin Summers kicked one from the cricket nets pocket.

An excellent ball up from umpire Mark, had Grassy push forward resulting in a minor score from Bowling. Monson opted for a little soccer style and in these slippery conditions who could blame him. For the on-ball athletes who enjoy running there was plenty to be had with short periods of congestion and long periods of spacious play, and plenty of meadow to frolic on. Goal for Cleeland, behind from a free and 50 for Forrest, Grassy forwards were starting to see plenty of the ball and Cleeland went for goal close to the siren but had to settle for a minor score.

At the half-time break, North went in five points up and we had a tussle on our hands in this opening game. The second half started in some afternoon sunshine. Grassy opened their second half account with a Freddy Tatawaqa goal. Behinds for both teams followed. Keenan Fanning goaled from a free and a 50 for North put them back in front to break the drought. The ball continued to find Noseda floating in the Grassy back line.

In a rare moment the ball snuck past the Ali-like backman, Mark Mackie (Macka). He took a grab from Justin’s centering kicking for a goal. A dribble kick goal for Cleeland quickly followed at the other end. Freddy lined up another for Grassy and found the big sticks and the Sartori v Jez Summers pairing shaped up to be a pretty nice competition between a couple of big rigs.

The final quarter started with Grassy eight points in front. It was back and forth up the field to begin the fourth quarter – a test of round one fitness levels, that seemed on an even keel. Wardlaw opened the final quarter account with a goal for Grassy. Grassy remained steady keeping passes clean but plenty of contested footy remained. Cleeland snapped one from 50 on what now appeared to be a gassed North backline. Lloyd Barnett doing his own rover work, pushed forward for Grassy for another, and quickly extended Grassy’s lead to 26.

Justin Summers goaled at the North end and both teams began to pile on a few goals in the last. Cleeland put on a clinic for wet weather football, pockets goals for Grassy, while Richard Sutton goaled at the other. A quick exit by Sukma Bowling from centre to a good, con- tested mark, Cleeland opted for a banana to get another. Baily Rainbow and Cleeland were a good hard contested matchup in the Grassy forward line late in the game.

After an athletic game, Jez Summers book-ended the game with another shot on goal which he hooked late. The final siren handed Grassy the first win of the season by 28 points AUSKICK has started Saturdays 10am at the Currie Football oval. Ages 5yrs – 12yrs boys and girls.

Please ensure all players are registered on play. AFL prior to commencement. Click on the register button and search for King Island Auskick. Contact Stacy Martin 0429 611 019 with queries. Next Week: Grassy v Currie. All games this season are in Currie.

Late run for Island votes

THERE has been a flurry of Federal election activity on King Island in the past week after a slow start to campaigning. With just under 10 days to go until polling day the major parties and Braddon candidates have made a last minute run for votes on the island. Independent candidate for Braddon Craig Garland visited King Island last weekend meeting and talking to residents.

Labor claimed its ‘Help to Buy’ housing scheme would particularly benefit regional areas such as King Island. The Liberals confirmed King Island Council would receive $686,000 in joint funding towards a just-over $1 million upgrade of its existing recyclables drop-off network to overcome high freight costs and reduce contamination.

Mr Garland held meet and greet events in the King Island Hotel and walked Main Street inviting King Islanders to stop, have a chat, ask him questions and tell him their story. He told King Island Radio he never envisaged standing for politics but entered out of frustration. The independent candidate was born and bred in Wynyard Tasmania and his working life has been across fishing, small business, farming and forestry.

“I have three kids aged six to eight and I’ve spent the better part of my life trading around the bush in the North West and walking the shores and fishing the ocean,” Mr Garland said. “And I just absolutely love this place that I live in, and I’m gobsmacked what’s been going on in recent years, and that’s why I’ve become political,” he said.

Most King Islanders know Mr Garland from his public stance on fish farms, particularly those proposed off the island’s east coast. “I’m not anti-salmon farms. I just want it done right, and up to this point; they’re not being regulated. They haven’t earned the right to come into this area with their adaptive management,” he said. Mr Garland said the balance of power had never been more important and independents on the cross bench had a role to ensure “the right things are done in the right places.”

“You’ve got to have the independence to be able to swing where the best information informs you and not stick to some policy that’s outdated and at odds with you and what you believe,” he said. Labor candidate Chris Lynch said the ALP’s housing package, which would cut the cost of buying a home by up to 40 per cent for 10,000 Australians per year, would especially help those in regional communities.

“This is an exciting Labor initiative and has been designed to help home buyers in regional communities like King Island,” Mr Lynch said. “This housing crisis cannot be fixed overnight. “We have worked to develop policies that will have a meaningful impact for communities like King Island and not just benefit home buyers in the big cities.”

Under the “Help to Buy” scheme eligible homebuyers will need a minimum deposit of two per cent, with an equity contribution from the Federal Government of up to a maximum of 40 per cent of the purchase price of a new home and up to a maximum of 30 per cent for an existing home. Help to Buy will be available to those with a taxable income of up to $90,000 for individuals and up to $120,000 for couples.

Labor Senator Anne Urquhart said Labor also hoped to be able to provide more social housing on the island through its $10 billion Housing Future Fund building 30,000 social and affordable homes around the country.

In Currie, Snodgrass Park, with its one- and two-bedroom units, provides vital and affordable community housing. “Snodgrass Park, plays such an important role and, for many older King Islanders, means they can downsize their home but stay in the community they know and love. “However, it has an extremely long waiting list,” Senator Urquhart said.

Trio vie for top award

THREE inspiring Tasmanian women have been named as state finalists in the 2022 Agrifutures Rural Women’s Award for their contributions, innovations and support to the agricultural industry.

The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s leading award empowering and celebrating the inclusive and courageous leadership of women and the essential role they play in rural and regional businesses, industries and communities.

Sally Murfet from Sorell is committed to effective and accessible workforce management in agriculture through her business, Inspire AG, which assists farmers in managing their workforce.

Sally Murfet

“I started Inspire AG about four years after completing a contract working in skills training and development within the industry, where it became apparent to me there was a big challenge in attracting and retaining staff,” Sally said.

“After I completed the contract, I thought I could be of service to go out in my own right, I knew there were a lot of consultants out there, but there was no one out there could help drive the performance of people.

“I left school at 16 and went into a dairy traineeship. I knew wanted to be involved in ag, but didn’t know where I fitted. It’s been the collection of experience along the way that’s culminated in where I am today, and I’ve found the space I want to work in for the rest of my career.”

Kate Field from Copping is implementing innovative by-product uses in her sustainable farm practices, with aims to activate a future industry in Tasmania.

Kate’s Leap Farm is a carbon positive endeavour producing goat cheese and meat and, in alignment with her sustainable ethos, she has turned her waste whey into a skincare line: Leapful.

“We’ve been making cheese on farm for five years where one of the waste products is whey, there’s is always a lot more whey than cheese. Looking at the whey, it felt wasteful just feeding it to pigs or irrigating our pasture, it’s so full of protein and vitamins,” she said.

Over the years, Kate and her partner Iain had noticed how quickly their hands healed and softened while working with cheese in the spring after the winter months where they typically take a break from milking and focus on the ‘farm jobs’.

“Our skin would recover quickly when making cheese, so I spent 14 months developing a formula for harnessing that and with a lot of trial and error, feedback from family, friends and colleagues, we launched in December,” Kate said.

A unique factor in Kate’s product is the use of Tasmanian native essential oils, supplied through collaborations with Angus Stewart.

“We can see a future where farmers are growing Tasmanian native shelter belts that can be harvested for essential oils, while diversifying income, increasing carbon capture and water retention with the potential to develop more enterprises, we’re building something lovely.”

Stephanie Trethewey, from Dunorlan, is working to create greater connectivity and support between rural mothers through her online group program, Motherland Village.

Stephanie Trethewey

“When I had my first child, we lived in Melbourne and had the luxury to be part of a mothers’ group. When I moved to rural Tasmania and I had our second child, I didn’t have that opportunity. I talked to other mums, and they all faced the same problem,” Stephanie said.

“Sixty-one percent of regional mothers don’t have access to a mothers’ group because of services geo-location. I’ve had more than 70 rural mums come through the program, which is proving to reduce the feelings of isolation that come with raising kids on the land, and as a subsequent result, raising their wellbeing.”

Steph’s plan is to open her program nationally and gain greater resources to best manage and support a larger group of rural mothers.

The state winner will be announced at an award ceremony at Parliament House on May 5th, and will then compete for the national award.

$60m airport pledge – Exporters’ joy at Labor plan

SOUTH-East and Eastern primary producers will have direct freight access to vital Asian markets under a runway upgrade promised by Federal Labor.

Labor Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development spokesperson Catherine King and Franklin MP and spokesperson for agriculture Julie Collins last month announced a Federal Labor Government would provide $60 million for a runway upgrade at Hobart Airport.

Hobart Airport CEO Norris Carter said Tasmania was the only state not to have a Code E standard runway.

“While the runway has been long enough for widebody aircraft, it has not been strong enough for sustained regular services, but this undertaking will make this a thing of the past,” Mr Carter said.

“KPMG figures show it will create some $120 million in economic stimulus each year, through direct freight services to vital markets such as China, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as non-stop international passenger flights to Asia and beyond, Antarctic links and defence opportunities.”

The airport is hopeful the proposal will receive bipartisan support.

“Upgrading the runway would be an absolute game-changer for Tasmanian farmers,” Reid Fruits spokesperson Tony Coad said.

“For Reid Fruits in particular, it would cut two days off travel times to some markets. When you’re talking about perishable crops like cherries, every second counts.

“If we upgrade the runway, we can increase the number and size of the markets we can sell Tasmanian produce to. It means the sky’s the limit for Tasmanian exporters.”

Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fisherman’s Association spokesman Michael Blake said the runway upgrade would help future-proof his industry.

“It means our seafood, and especially our rock lobsters, within a matter of hours can go from catch of the day in Tasmania to restaurant tables in new markets that we’ve previously never been able to reach,” Mr Blake said.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve had some challenges with our export markets, but the best way to deal with that is to be flexible.

Upgrading our freight links means that we can respond quickly, export to a wide range of markets and still get fantastic outcomes for Tasmania.”

The older part of the Hobart Airport runway is only strong enough for Code C narrowbody aircraft, which limits larger aircraft like the Cathay Pacific freighter to flying from Hobart to the mainland, rather than to Asia.

Farmer group focus on next generation

THE new head of Tasmania’s peak farming body has set his sights on bringing younger farmers and the next generation into the fold.

Ian Sauer was elected president of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers’ Association at the recent AGM when Marcus McShane took on the acting CEO role.

A farmer with more than 40 years’ experience, Mr Sauer has an enthusiasm and passion for the sector that is infectious.

He’s excited by the rapidly changing industry and the potential offered by new technology, products and methods.

However, as a farm veteran he also recognises that many next generation farmers have lost touch with the TFGA and for different reasons don’t engage or actively participate with the organisation.

He said the key was finding new ways of engaging with the younger farmers.

“I mean, it’s not rocket science. If we keep on engaging with the people that we’ve predominantly engaged with before, in 10, 20 years they will be dead or retired,” he said.

“I think in the past life was much simpler and much easier and people could contribute more to any organisation, the value proposition was a lot easier for an organisation like the TFGA to spell out, now with the younger generation, I mean, I think it’s harder to get that value proposition out there.

“We are in the process of developing a communications’ plan and part of that is what do the next generation or farmers want and how do they want it delivered.

“Agriculture has changed. It’s fairly dynamic and high tech now. “The younger farmers are not scared of new technology, they are not scared to try new things, their change management skills are just extraordinary, they just do it at a blink, where 50 years ago you had to see, taste, smell it then you’d look at someone else doing it, then you’d think about it for two years and then you might do something but now it’s just snap bang do it and they have a quick go.”

Mr Sauer said roles on the farm had also changed with increasing numbers of women driving agricultural businesses, which presented additional challenges for participation in the peak body.

“The women are the mainstay of those businesses, they are making decisions about that farm, they are working outside, they are doing the books, they are doing just as much if not more than the male.

“So when we communicate with those guys, that’s a challenge. Maybe we have to provide childcare to get women to meetings. In all seriousness, we need to look at these things.”

Mr Sauer said while the TFGA’s member base remained steady, it was not unreasonable to suggest that for some primary producers its relevance had waned.

He said this could partly be attributed to a growing workload that resulted in a reactionary rather than proactive and strategic approach.

“If you are going to tackle something head on, you’ve got to do it properly, professionally, you’ve got to get outside advice in to help.”

13-year-old Josh sees war’s horror first hand

IT started at school, says Josh Coates, as he looked around at his mates. “I’m scared,” he said quietly to himself. “Is this the start of World War Three?”

It was barely a month ago, and the 13-year-old from Sorell was asking questions about the Ukraine.

It was no idle question; despite his tender years, the student at Eastside Lutheran College has seen much of the world, and volunteered in remote locations from Mongolia and Ethiopia to Bangladesh and the Philippines His mum, Tracey Coates, said: “His generation has the potential to be heroes, to meet the world’s needs right now and Josh has everything inside him.”

His dad, Tim, got a phone call from a friend in Newcastle, NSW, wanting to put together a team to go into Poland and find ways to help those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The undertaking would be organised through Youth With A Mission (YWAM), an international volunteer movement of Christians that’s been around for 60 years, and which runs training courses for exactly this kind of work at its 200- acre property at Sorell.

“Kids discover purpose, find their own strength and their own gift. We’re unapologetically Christian in our approach,” Mrs Coates said.

Josh took a day or two to make a decision.

“I thought: I want to go, to do this. God wants to me to do this,” he said.
“It was like ‘oh, I’m too busy’ and then ‘we’re leaving in a week.’ Just like that.
“You can’t just turn up in a warzone like Ukraine, of course,” points out his father, who’s undertaken similar humanitarian and medical missions in the past.

“Not only is it unsafe, but you need housing, feeding. You don’t want to be burden, but to assist, to be useful,’’ Mr Back home … Josh and Jim Coates after their humanitarian trip to Poland.

13-year-old Josh sees war’s horror first hand Coates said.

YWAM’s Central European director was already on the job, with teams coming from Norway and the UK, Germany, Spain and the United States.

Those from Australia were largely the Coates family, soon to include Jarryd, Tim’s older stepson.

Tim and Josh flew into Budapest, Hungary.

The decision was made to set up in Rzeszow, Poland, an hour from Ukrainian border, where YWAM already had established a foothold.

“In this city, we were one of a multitude of humanitarian, political and religious groups that are helping the exodus of mostly women, children and the elderly from Ukraine,” Mr Coates said.
“The diversity was striking: Sikhs from India, another active group that called themselves ‘Chinese Against Communism’.

“More, we saw the singularity of purpose,” he said.
“It’s amazing, the collective humanity inspiring. And when all these small organisations do many small things, the sheer weight of numbers really changes the balance.
“And that’s what we see in Josh,” Mrs Coates said.

“A 13-year-old can do things, make a hot drink, give directions, make a difference to someone’s life.

That’s important.”

From the Ukrainian side of the border arrived a stream of people displaced by the war, bringing what they can carry.

They were leaving behind husbands and sons to fight the Russians. It’s cold, barely into the single digits.

“We might be providing a tent while they find where they’re going,” Mr Coates said.
“Sometimes they just need food and a drink, somewhere to sit for a while, maybe nappies or rapid antigen tests. Oddly, the thing we ran out of first was shampoo.
“More than that, what we provide is simple kindness, relief, and you can see it in their eyes.”

Three weeks on the job in Rzeszow, Josh and Tim returned to Sorell, Tasmania, late last week.

Their part was voluntary, and the whole thing was done on a budget of $7000, raised through donations.

As more and more organisations join the effort in Poland, it has become clear to Tim that the ad hoc effort requires coordination.

And Tim, whose past work demanded those very skills in transport logistics, was home barely 24 hours before he began to ask himself: what’s next?

“They want me to come back, so I need to give that serious thought.” And it looks like he’ll put together a fully Tasmanian team, and that means Tracey too.

Josh Coates has already told Year 8 he needs some time off.

Buses bust costs

THE five-week trial of free buses has been an overwhelming success with 100,000 extra people choosing to ride on public transport.

Very strong demand was experienced from the East Coasts to Sorell, Sorell to Hobart and in the Derwent Valley.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael Ferguson said bus usage was up 15 per cent.

“Due to high fuel prices we took action with this cost-busting, household budget-saving five-week fare-free period,’’ Mr Ferguson said.
“This has shown that bus travel is a convenient transport option to get people where they need to be without the hassle of tackling traffic or finding and paying for parking.

“During the free-ride period we have received great feedback from those who have chosen to try out the bus for the first time or who have come back to buses after a long break.’’

Tasmania’s largest bus operator, Metro Tasmania, reported a statewide average increase of 15 per cent, with services on weekends state-wide seeing the biggest jump in passenger numbers.

“Other operators reported various patronage growth across other services, notably up to 60 per cent growth on the new North West Express service, introduced in early 2021 to connect Devonport and Burnie,’’ he said.

The free service ended last Saturday April 30.

“We continue to heavily subsidise fares, investing about $100 million a year in connecting Tasmanians via public transport and a range of concession programs, to keep fares as low as possible,’’ Mr Ferguson said.

“Bus travel is still one of the most affordable ways to get around.”