FUTURE CV: A vision for the Clarence Valley
IN MANY respects, the Clarence Valley has a lot going for it. It's located in the Mid North Coast with a frontage to the Pacific Ocean and the Great Dividing Range at its back door. It should have seachange communities - and it does at Yamba - and treechange communities - it does in the foothills.
The region offers fertile soil, is located within striking distance of Brisbane (okay so it's a bit of a drive) and within easier access to the local "big city" of Coffs Harbour. And it has critical mass with around 51,000 local residents including around 19,000 in Grafton.
If this municipality's population was clustered together in a single town it would rank as the 30th largest on the Australian continent, fitting between Port Macquarie and Shepparton.
But as with many "regions" along the eastern seaboard, it is an amalgam of the older inland town (namely Grafton) and the newer coastal town (Yamba). The demographic analysis shows that the city of Grafton is static; it is losing its youth and it has a relatively low proportion of self-employed workers.
Yamba is different on most of these measures.
This inland/coastal divide is evident in places like Nambour/Maroochydore, Maryborough/Hervey Bay, Taree/Forster-Tuncurry. Older administrative towns evolved from the late 19th century along the Pacific Highway (and Bruce and Princes highways) but late in the 20th century lifestyle and retirement communities blossomed on the coast.
The great challenge, I think, for the Grafton-and-beyond community, is to fuse together and to project the authority of local spending power - 30th largest "city" in Australia - to the rest of the nation.
Jobs need to be found for youngsters in Grafton. Entrepreneurship needs to be cultivated within the community. Yes, this may involve government support, but it also involves locals supporting local businesses, local media showcasing local success stories, local leaders canvassing ways to "add value" to local product, be it agribusiness produce or tourism services.
Sure, things need to be done to attract business to the region, but equally we should be looking at ways of growing existing businesses.
The easy thing to do is to "identify the problem that government must fix"; the hard thing to do is to galvanise the entire community - all 51,000 locals - into a program where every day the thinking is, "what can I do to support the region?" Can I volunteer? Can I support a local business? Can I help build a culture of positivity about the region? Does the Clarence and Grafton, in particular, have ambassadors in Sydney and beyond who speak positively about their home town?
I love that quote from JFK about "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country". I say every day in every way we need to be thinking as Australians, as Graftonians, as Clarenceians (not sure if the latter term exists) about ways of making our homeland, our heartland, a better, a more prosperous, a more caring and more connected community.
I want to leave a legacy of a better Australia, a better Grafton, a better Clarence, and I reckon that every Australian deep down feels the same.
Let us this moment start a Positivity Revolution that decades into the future, a richer, a more caring, a better connected community will look back and say, "you know, it all seemed to go right for the Clarence, for Grafton, for Australia, when everyone saw and bought into a common vision".
That common vision for a stronger community starts here and now in this newspaper. Who's with me?
Bernard Salt is managing director of The Demographics Group; firstname.lastname@example.org