Nuyina arrival marks Hobart's next important chapter

Published on 09 October 2021

Nuyina at sea (Photo: Pete Harmsen/AAD)

Hobart’s role as an Antarctic Gateway City is a fundamental part of our city’s story. We are regularly reminded of the bracing influence of the great Southern Ocean and Antarctica on our island home, as weather rolls over the city. 

The arrival of the new icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, to its Home Port this time next week marks a new and exciting chapter in this story.

Our connection to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is recognised across the globe. We are ideally positioned as a natural entry point to the Southern Ocean, and a major port of call for ships, planes, scientists and tourists on their way to the frozen continent.

But we have also made the choice to nurture this connection: we are a city that cares deeply about the history and the future of Antarctica. And our residents also feel a sense of responsibility for the ongoing preservation and protection of that vast icy wilderness.

Hobart City’s work to advance our status as an Antarctic Science City was analysed as part of the Antarctic Cities Project - a collaborative research project that ran between 2017 and 2020.  The study took an innovative new approach, assessing not just the economic value of scientists traveling to the deep south from our ports, but also the importance of Antarctic relationships to the identities of each of the five gateway cities: Hobart, Christchurch, Punta Arenas, Cape Town and Ushuaia.

The project found that more than 72 percent of Hobart residents felt Antarctica was important to the city’s identity.

At present, around 950 people in Tasmania are employed in roles connected to Antarctica, across a broad range of sectors. They include members of our strong and highly-respected science community. 

There is potential - indeed an imperative - to grow our scientific and research sector. We will thrive as a city if we can attract more knowledge economy jobs and create opportunities for local people to pursue scientific and related careers right here in Hobart.

Knowledge intensive jobs require skills such as creativity, interpretation and analysis. They often involve coming up with new ideas, solving complex problems, or finding better ways of doing things. Attracting more of these kinds of jobs will be vital to Hobart’s future economy, and we are keen to discover what we can do as a city to drive that growth.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Canberra examined 25 Australian cities and analysed each of them using a Knowledge Cities Index. The Index measured a number of different factors like knowledge infrastructure (universities and research institutions) and number of people employed in knowledge industries, as well as the educational qualifications of city residents, digital access, and quality of life. 

This data was then used to compare the strengths and weaknesses of the 25 cities: to identify which were prepared for the challenges of a changing world, and which still had work to do. 

Hobart sat at number 10 in the list – the lowest of all the state capitals. Notable observations in the study included our heavy reliance on tourism and salaries that are lower than the national average – but also our potential to grow as a specialised knowledge city if we harness our unique location in terms of marine and Antarctic studies.

By working to grow Hobart’s Knowledge Economy, and position ourselves as a Knowledge City – one in which ideas and innovations are generated and shared – we stand to build our social and economic resilience and future-proof our employment sector against technological transformations.

Factors such as increased automation, artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning are a threat not just to unskilled or semi-skilled roles, but to many skilled and professional occupations too. A focus on the knowledge economy helps mitigate those threats.

The establishment of an Antarctic and Science Precinct at Macquarie Point as part of the City Deal is a crucial part of realising this goal. So too is ensuring we have the Port upgrades fitting of a global Antarctic Gateway City. Questions remain about the quality of the current facilities for accommodating RSV Nuyina at the Port of Hobart. I wouldn’t want to see Australia’s new state-of-the-art icebreaker having to be moved around or moored mid-river to make way for cruise ships and timber export vessels.

It’s encouraging though to see that the Hobart Port upgrade is included on Infrastructure Australia’s Priority List 2021, because it demonstrates that supporting Antarctic exploration and scientific research through world-class facilities is a matter not just of local significance, but a national one.

That validation is important. But as the designated gateway city, Hobart carries an additional level of responsibility. We are far more than an entry and exit point for goods and people. Our relationship with Antarctica also incorporates diplomatic, political, scientific and cultural dimensions.

The Antarctic Cities Project explored the concept of gateway cities as ‘custodial cities’ – recognising that while our citizens might never visit the icy continent, we still live closer to it than most people in the world. This proximity gives us an extra interest in caring for its future – especially in the face of global climate change.

The values that embody that custodianship – international co-operation, scientific innovation and ecological protection – align perfectly with the vision of Hobart as a Knowledge City and allow us to build on our strengths in the years ahead.

By Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds

The next Hobart CityTalks event “Exploring Hobart’s Antarctic Future” is on from 5 pm on 26 October. More information at 

Photo: Pete Harmsen/AAD

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