Climate change protesters march from Chris Gulaptis office to Kevin Hogans officer as part of Solidarity Sit Down protest event. Look forward to a lot more protests in 2020. Photo: Adam Hourigan
Climate change protesters march from Chris Gulaptis office to Kevin Hogans officer as part of Solidarity Sit Down protest event. Look forward to a lot more protests in 2020. Photo: Adam Hourigan

Eight things the Clarence Valley can look forward to in 2020

IT’S been a rough start to 2020 but without dismissing the tragedy and challenges facing Australia, here are a few things we can look forward to seeing in the Clarence Valley community this year:

Grafton Regional Gallery extension

The $7.6m state-funded Grafton Regional Gallery extension will get under way and hopefully be completed this time next year. One of the key pieces of infrastructure to be built in Grafton city in 2020, mid-north coast family-owned construction company O’Donnell & Hanlon will be in charge of delivering the major project for Clarence Valley Council.

The addition of a huge national-standard gallery space, new cafe, conference/workshop and library facilities as well as flood protection will set the gallery up for the future and open up exhibition possibilities never seen before in the Clarence Valley.

While the arts sector is copping a hammering with federal funding cuts, having a cultural hub in a place like Grafton has never been more important.

Once up and running it will provide enormous educational, social and economic benefits to the Clarence region. Watch this space.

A bit of Grafton Gothic for gallery director Niomi and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis as they dug the first sod for the gallery's new development in December 2019. Photo: Adam Hourigan
A bit of Grafton Gothic for gallery director Niomi and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis as they dug the first sod for the gallery's new development in December 2019. Photo: Adam Hourigan

Grafton jail opening

Dwarfing the gallery extension is the much anticipated $700m Clarence Correctional Facility aka new Grafton jail which will be the largest of its kind in Australia. Located south of Grafton on the coastal side of what will soon be the new Pacific Highway, the Serco-run facility will be home to a prison population of around 1700 and employ more than 600 people.

The first inmates are expected to arrive mid-year and once it is fully operating, it will become one of the Clarence’s major population hubs.

While being a resident there isn’t an ideal outcome, general manager Glen Scholes will be striving to introduce innovative rehabilitation processes.

Correctional facilities have always been one of society’s necessities and the Clarence’s new jail which boasts modern design principles to improve the prison environment will come with high expectations moving forward.

Clarence Correctional Centre general manager Glen Scholes with Minister for Corrections Anthony Roberts, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Serco CEO Mark Irwin checking out the jail’s progress in 2019.
Clarence Correctional Centre general manager Glen Scholes with Minister for Corrections Anthony Roberts, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Serco CEO Mark Irwin checking out the jail’s progress in 2019.

Live gigs and festivals

We love a good festival or live show here in the Clarence Valley and there will be another stellar year of touring artists and local productions waiting in the wings to entice and entertain you. While big live venue spaces are few and far between, what we do have is pretty special.

The Saraton Theatre is probably the regional coup as far as grand entertainment spaces go and our country halls and smaller theatre spaces have become the next big thing in live performance.

The traditional clubs and pubs are still bringing in the big names and bands as well as the uber cool indie outfits that you might normally have to travel to Byron or Bellingen for.

Festival-wise we are smashing it.

With Plunge getting bigger and bigger every year, the new 53 Islands making an outstanding debut and the popularity of anything with a food truck involved is almost a given.

G Fest is positioning itself as one of the region’s best EDM gatherings while the rock star Jacaranda Festival is aiming to raise the bar even higher this year if that’s possible after the 2019 extravaganza.

Start filling your diaries.

DJ Natalie Sax performs at the GFest under 18's concert at Clarence River Jockey Club in December 2019.
DJ Natalie Sax performs at the GFest under 18's concert at Clarence River Jockey Club in December 2019.

Another edition of The Deadly Examiner

The groundbreaking first edition in May made history as the first mainstream publication to feature all-indigenous content.

It got the Clarence Valley and beyond talking and wanting more. The desire and excitement to put out another edition driven by our three First Nations groups is a thrilling prospect for the masthead that turns a measly 161 this year. With 60,000+ years of stories and culture to share the content, planning knows no bounds.

Stay tuned to see what the communities come up with for this year’s Deadly offering.

The Daily Examiner switched to The Deadly Examiner for a day on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 as part of Reconciliation Week. It will be back in 2020.
The Daily Examiner switched to The Deadly Examiner for a day on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 as part of Reconciliation Week. It will be back in 2020.

Clarence Valley Council elections

Time flies in election world and while the big guns were done and dusted last year at state and federal levels, it’s time to look at local government representatives.

While there is always plenty of criticism and some isolated praise foisted upon Clarence Valley councillors, now’s the time to think about who you think is worth saving or voting off the island (if they run again).

Expect a few new names in the mix and while it can’t be an easy role, if you aren’t happy with the way the Clarence is being represented why not put your own hand up when nominations are called?

While campaigning has been rumoured to be under way already, keep your eyes and ears out. The more we do that the better the result for the Clarence.

Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons. Local government elections will be held in 2020.
Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons. Local government elections will be held in 2020.

Public protests

Speaking of democratic processes, given the tragic start to 2020 with Australia’s unprecedented bushfire situation and the personal, political and social clashes arising from that, it would be safe to say that 2020 will be the year of protests.

Leading the charge is climate change which is a multifaceted beast that will challenge us morally and economically like never before and see a raft of huge new demonstrations adding to those leading the climate change charge like the School Strike for Climate and Coal Seam Gas Lock the Gate Alliances.

Smaller scale groups like the Knitting Nanas will continue to chip away while social media campaigns will be seen on a scale like never before.

The momentum for the annual Invasion Day protests will continue and increase as it comes off the back of the climate change protest that will start this week.

Other social issues like Australia’s treatment of refugees and equality for women and the LGBTI communities will also continue. The pushback may come in form of Reclaim Australia and religious groups.

While protests are not traditionally something to look forward to, seeing more and more Australians passionate and engaged with the big issues rather than just accepting the status quo certainly is.

VIEW FROM ABOVE: The Maclean interchange on the Pacific Highway upgrade was a work in progress during 2019. The highway upgrade is expected to be open in 2020.
VIEW FROM ABOVE: The Maclean interchange on the Pacific Highway upgrade was a work in progress during 2019. The highway upgrade is expected to be open in 2020.

Pacific Highway completed and opened

While the Harwood and Grafton bridges had starring roles in late 2019 as far as long-awaited infrastructure finally opening, the opening of the long, long, long-awaited Woolgoolga to Ballina section of the new Pacific Highway is even more monumental.

The $4.9 billion project will provide 155km of four-lane divided road for motorists to travel on, the missing link in the Pacific Highway between Hexham and the Queensland border will be open for business this year. While safe and efficient travelling for motorists is the big winner, the redistribution of traffic 13km away from Grafton will be a test for the inland hub and its pulling power with travellers.

For short stops, Grafton cafes will be up against the highway fast food franchises while those who may have come in for sticky beak for a little longer to shop or check out the river or historical sights might need something more to counteract the extra time. A new and improved Grafton Regional Gallery will hopefully help.

Otherwise enjoy the new and improved access you will have to surrounding regions and the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

NBN

The Clarence Valley will join the 21st century (or Australia’s version of it) when the NBN is finally rolled out and switched on here.

Fingers crossed no more Netflix buffering or annoyingly long lag times in between online shopping and Skyping loved ones.



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