Geoff Helisma, Clarence Valley Independent
Clarence Valley’s mayor, Jim Simmons, has gained unanimous support from councillors to support the council’s “economic priorities, major projects and key initiatives for 2021” and submit them to the “Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers Committee [RDA-NRC], so that they can pursue support from the Federal Government on [Clarence Valley] Council’s [CVC] behalf”.
Mayor Simmons tabled the mayoral minute at the February 23 CVC meeting, in response to a request from RDA-NRC committee chair, Donald Page.
“It is my intention to provide RDA Northern Rivers with a copy of the Clarence Valley Regional Economic Development Strategy [2018 – 2022],” the mayor wrote in his minute, “which identifies [CVC’s] ‘Engines of Growth’ as being tourism, agriculture (beef cattle, blueberries, macadamias and sugar cane), aquaculture, forestry, logging, sawmilling, marine manufacturing and logistics.
“I see our focus being on growing these ‘Engines of Growth’, along with improving our digital connectivity within the area, to capitalise on the state government’s recent decision to decentralise the public sector workforce to regional areas.
“Marine engineering and, in particular, the Harwood Marine Precinct are opportunities for employment growth, along with developing the region’s tourist attractions and precincts.
“Our growing aged care sector, along with health services, retail and public administration, particularly in Grafton, I see as priorities.
“Our goal is also to reinstate Grafton as a regional city and, in turn, establish Grafton as a tourism destination.”
The mayor also noted other ‘growth’ priorities, including initiatives outlined in CVC’s Local Strategic Planning Statement, and nominated the development of various strategies, such as growth management, integrated freight and transport strategies, to facilitate growth.
“I also see the need for us to strengthen our support of the agriculture sector,” he wrote, “which forms a significant part of the Clarence Valley’s economy and I know the development of a rural lands management strategy has already been commissioned by council.
“We are also developing a resilience plan to respond better to natural disasters and this will have a number of initiatives that will need funding – of immediate importance is to improve mobile phone coverage in the upper Clarence catchment black-spot areas.
“The upgrade of the Grafton waterfront precinct, the development of the Grafton CBD Masterplan and the implementation of the riverside precinct plans for Ulmarra, Harwood and Maclean (stage 4) are all priority projects for Council in 2021, as well as the upgrade and sealing of the unsealed section of Clarence Way, which will improve our freight connections in the Upper Clarence and beyond into South East Queensland.”
In 2019, the Australian Government extended its funding of RDA until July 2025.
The RDA Northern Rivers’ letter to CVC outlines its revised charter, which aims to enhance the branch’s “active and facilitative role in [its] communities, with a clear focus on growing strong and confident regional economies that harness their competitive advantages, seize economic opportunities and attract investment”.