Plan invests in Valley?s future
By JULIA ILES
AT about $600 per page, the Clarence Valley Council has produced a mammoth 244-page Economic Development Strategic Plan to implement over the next three to five years.
The plan, which cost between $140,000 and $150,000 and took five months to compile, includes research from 150 industry stakeholders, 400 businesses, a team of consultants and a council committee.
Earlier this week it went on display at council offices in Maclean and Grafton, and will remain there until the end of April.
"The whole plan, plus any recommendations, will be voted on hopefully at the May council meeting so we can get it started by the first of June, we encourage any public submissions," council executive manager of economic development George Cowan said.
According to council manager of industry development Kerren Law, the project is based around three goals of improving income, education and employment. One strategy outlined is to ensure enough sugar cane land remains so that the industry is kept viable. The estimated budget for this ranges from $290,000 to $1.2 million.
"Sugar farmers' average ages are in the 60s, farms are not being passed to the next generation and what we are seeing is a trend of treechangers buying the farms and using them as hobby farms," Mr Cowan said.
"The critical mass is under threat and we want to put in place a scheme to attract younger farmers."
In a wider sense the plan aims to target young people in general who leave the Valley for education and employment opportunities.
"We want to build stronger links with the University of New England and Southern Cross University, increase interaction and engage them in areas of flexible learning, and the possibility of sharing the TAFE facilities, disadvantaged youth are targeted in particular."
Other components of the plan are to encourage creative industries within the Valley through multi-use precincts and retail space to enhance employment. The proposed budget for this is $110,000 to $200,000.
Grafton Chamber of Com- merce executive committee member Laurie Marchant said the Clarence Valley's future depended on the plan.
"We need it to be successful and to target problems such as high unemployment, low levels of affluence, I think in the past an economic plan has been sadly lacking, I hope it does work as the future of the Valley and of the Valley's young people depends on it," he said. "The plan will be worth every dollar if it is a success."