Why Townsville Sucks

The new 'Transformation of Townsville' plan outlines opportunities that would give the city more national and international appeal.

I’m going to be honest by saying this article has been a long time coming. We’re expressing opinions we’ve felt for some time now, and apologise if it offends. But these things need to be said.

Apparently Townsville is dead. That’s the impression we’ve been given from the recently-released Transformation of Townsville positioning plan, which includes a large survey of local residents and business owners. The research within the plan covers everything from the image of the CBD and reputation of the Strand, through to the positioning of the Indigenous community locally and the fact that millennials are running from Townsville the first chance they get. To be clear it is not the writers of the report or local businesses we are pointing the finger at. We can not sing their praises enough or support the incredible things they do. It is the local residents who were surveyed and who provided some interesting and laughable quotes that we have beef with.

Yes, there are some statements within the report that are completely true. But then others, courtesy of members of the population who have never bothered to open their eyes, made us feel the need to write this.

Townsville, as a city, does not suck. But there are a number of local complainers who do.

“If you took the Strand and the Cowboys out, we wouldn’t live in Townsville.” This one in particular made us laugh. It is one of the underpinning reasons HUXLEY was formed: for the people who constantly say that if there isn’t a home game of NRL on the weekend, then there’s nothing to do in the city. There are an incredible number of local galleries, theatre companies and live music venues who would gladly prove you wrong. Every weekend, our team is faced with a dilemma of which events we can find the time to attend – and catching a game of footy is one task we find it especially hard to make time for over the winter events season. Don’t get us wrong, the Cowboys do incredible community work locally and are a great asset for our city, with the tourism they attract and the heightened profile they provide for Townsville; but we do have more to offer! It’s understandable that there are some people who want nothing but a meat pie and some footy to pass the time – but we’re fairly sure this statement is primarily a jab at the false belief that there is nothing to do locally. You will be hard pressed to find much fun at the Strand or on the footy field when (if) the next wet season arrives – and the beauty of Townsville’s cultural events is that a majority of them are held indoors, with the protection of a ceiling and promise of air conditioning for most.

“The CBD’s hot and awful.”  There are so many reasons to give the CBD a second chance – we absolutely love the street art trail snaking its way through the city, there are some incredible boutique retailers to discover, and coffee culture is really gaining traction. While that may not be a fun walk in the sweltering summer months, it’s certainly a walk we recommend at this time of year! And when the warmer months arrive again, see above. The city is host to so many great venues including Umbrella Studio, the Herbert Hotel, Perc Tucker, Crown on Palmer and dozens more, who are all playing their part celebrating and showcasing incredible creative talent indoors, with air conditioning.

How DARE the buildings of our CBD be defaced. How awful. Why can’t buildings go back to being boring grey concrete. Then I wouldn’t complain about standing in the sun, because wouldn’t want to look at them.

“The Strand is a great place to walk the dogs after work … But there’s absolutely no entertainment.”  I call bullshit! While living in tropical North Queensland means being mindful of potential cyclones, during the winter months there is no better place in the world to be. We can host fortnight-long celebrations such as Strand Ephemera on the beach without fear of bad weather; buskers are becoming a regular occurrence on the Gregory Street Corner and near Rock Paper Scissors; The Full Moon Drum Circle never fails to draw a crowd; The Surf Club, Sea View Hotel and Longboards regularly host live music; you can catch a pop-up cafe every Sunday morning thanks to Breakky at the Bay; the night markets provide a great ambiance… Shall I continue?

“I wouldn’t want to be stuck here.” This is issue number one. Townsville should not be seen as a place where people become stuck. If these people have traveled at all, they would realise how good they have it here. Our real estate is cheaper than almost anywhere else, it’s 20 minutes tops to get from the Southern suburbs to Northern suburbs, we have a jam-packed events calendar, and the views from atop Castle Hill are unrivaled. Career opportunities are a common point of contention which gives many people the ultimatum of moving on, however we often hear from artists and creatives that they have access to opportunities they’d never get in the big cities thanks to our friendly community and eagerness to back locals.

The common complaint of millennials is: “Townsville is starved of events. People are hanging out for things to do.” G’day millennials. It’s a fellow millennial, here to tell you that you need to get your head out of your butt, look for events outside of the one local music festival you cover yourself in glitter for, and book tickets earlier. Events will stop coming or downsize if there is a lack of ticket sales – because in a lot of other locations, tickets are booked weeks or months in advance. You would be hard pressed to get a ticket on the day of a lot of events in other cities, because the people there appreciate that they could miss out if they don’t book early and the organisers themselves need to see a desire for that event. Knowing what is on around the city is as easy as typing ‘events this weekend’ or ‘events near me’ into the Facebook search bar. You will be presented with a range of innovative and exciting local events, and may discover a new regular favourite. Please try it, and if you aren’t satisfied then I’m more than happy to help you shove your head right back up from where you pulled it.

We surveyed a millennial too. They said “what’s the point of supporting local events if I don’t get to complain about the price of a ticket, have glitter falling out my ears for the next month and then post nothing but negativity about it on social media?”

“We should change Townsville’s name to compete with more touristy names like the Gold Coast.” Do you really think the name of our city is the issue? Do you really think there is enough funding to change the name of our city when you’re also still busy requesting a new dam, a new lagoon on the Strand, a new entertainment precinct, and lower rates? The name of our city has never been the issue, it is the people determined not to sing our city’s praises that make promoting the region difficult. As for the people saying the city “won’t innovate, won’t change and won’t get into social media,” please check the #townsvilleshines hashtag on any medium and then check yourself.

Okay. That’s it. My rant is over. The plan also outlined a lot of positive feedback – especially when it comes to the city’s culture and arts sector.

“There is a very strong local arts community that is unappreciated”; “People are just starting to understand the value and benefits of cultural initiatives”; “There needs to be some strong visionary voices supporting the arts within the community.” 

The Transformation of Townsville plan can be found here, and proposes opportunities to open our city up as a national and international destination. Key take-aways include:

Strengths

  • Strong community passion and sense of belonging
  • Vibrant arts/cultural community
  • Strong sporting community
  • The Strand is a very well-liked precinct
  • Strong reputation as an education community.
  • Jonathan Thurston the most inspirational community leader to young people
  • New Flinders St bars/cafes are well liked by younger people
  • Gregory Street shops are microcosm of what CBD retail could be
  • Townsvilleans are the most Queenslander of all Queenslanders

 Weaknesses

  • CBD has serious image problem disconnect between CBD and suburbs
  • Townsville little reputation as tourism destination
  • Rock Pool; is dirty and isolated from shops and cafes
  • Airport presents poorly, uncompetitive with Qld’s major tourism airports
  • Starved of events
  • Flinders Street criticised as being badly lit, unsafe at night
  • Low visitation to Magnetic Island by locals.
  • Young people bored and disenchanted
  • Poor food, beverage culture

Recommendations include activation across the city with:

  • Strand  – Saltwater lagoon
  • Review of PDA in inner-city to take in additional options including Castle Hill, Radical Bay on Magnetic Island and Rowes Bay Golf Course
  • Upgrade and greening of Palmer Street and Victoria Bridge
  • Central Park – to become premier green space in CBD with gardens and cafes, paths, ferry access and fishing platforms.
  • Bridge and tunnel linkages to the new  sports stadium
  • Entertainment and Exhibition Precinct on Stadium site
  • Centre for Excellence and Rehabilitation including training field for Cowboys;
  • Hotel development on stadium site
  • Indigenous Arts and Cultural precinct
  • Entry statements at city approaches, airport and in main suburbs
  • new Concert Hall in CBD
  • Upgrade and modernisation of Perc Tucker Galley
  • Ferry terminal options, ferry stops upstream to new stadium and other locations
  • Pedestrian linkages – shaded and green walkways

The report sets out the next steps for action:

  • Document new master plan with architectural overlays
  • Develop overlay of funding models and scenarios based on council endorsed projects
  • Understand the Council funding available for delivery of projects
  • Develop projects briefs, concept designs and budgets for all proposed activation projects
  • Seek Federal, State Government funding for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Centre
  • Commence negotiations for the Stadium site hotel development
  • Negotiate with Cowboys on the Centre of Excellence & Rehabilitation
  • Begin design and discussions with Crystal Lagoons to enable concept design of Strand Lagoon.
More from Nathan Toll

Family Values at heart of Art Fair

North Queensland’s largest celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and...
Read More

7 Comments

  • Very well put together Nathan,some interesting facts and even more interesting comments.Good Luck with a top story!

  • Love this article, so true. You only need scratch the surface of our city to find a range of events and organisations that provide entertainment and things to do. Keep ranting / spreading the word Nathan Townsville is not just footie, fishing and flinders east!

  • I read your article with interest. Everyone has an opinion and it will vary depending on your lifestyle and age. We love North Queensland and living in Townsville. The climate, activities and size are just right for us. Since we came here 30 years ago there have been a lot of changes – some good some not so good. That will keep on happening. The pollies never get it right according to some even though we put them there.
    All I can say is if you don’t like certain aspects do something about them or go somewhere else. I’ll be staying here in beautiful NQ.

  • Nathan, a most perceptive article and one that I think shows some of our local deficiencies that we all hope “Huxley” might solve. Millennials, or anyone who is relatively new to the City will have no memory of what, for instance the Townsville Bulletin once was – a truly great local paper. Well constructed and carefully argued reviews for arts events appeared the day after opening night; arts news appeared daily as a matter of course; the Thursday lift-out was a comprehensive guide to the cultural events and activities in the week to come, (and you didn’t have to pay to be listed) and accompanying articles were both in-depth and accurate. Needless to say “everyone’ read the Bully! One of our local TV channels had a weekly arts segment, and in the pre-social media days that was really an important for communication. Now with those mass communications diminished we have a plethora of smaller, more targetted communications options, that are perhaps much harder to find. Nevertheless, the Perc Tucker’s “Culture Matters” report that is only just two years old shows what significant audience support cultural activities in Townsville draws, and recent sell-outs of two unknown plays of TheatreiNQ (Frankenstein and Alice) shows that there are plenty of residents who recognise quality when they experience it and will take a punt on the unknown and be rewarded.
    It is true that Townsville no longer gets many of the extraordinary touring shows and exhibitions that it once did, that is a result of burgeoning local activity and a lack of venues. Highly solvable!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *