Macleay Valley has unrealised potential, regional development meeting hears

MACLEAY VALLEY: Action is needed in the Macleay to boost the local economy, a local meeting has heard.
MACLEAY VALLEY: Action is needed in the Macleay to boost the local economy, a local meeting has heard.

Action is needed in the Macleay Valley to boost the local economy by expanding businesses, investing in tourism and capitalising on the area’s rich agriculture, a local business meeting has heard.

The Kempsey Regional Development Strategy meeting, held last week, saw local business representatives gather to raise ideas on how to grow the Macleay Valley economy.

HIDDEN TREASURE: the Golden Hole at the Clybucca historical site is one of the most significant Aboriginal midden sites in eastern Australia

HIDDEN TREASURE: the Golden Hole at the Clybucca historical site is one of the most significant Aboriginal midden sites in eastern Australia

A major issue raised in the meeting was a lack of sewerage services at the South Kempsey industrial area making it difficult for businesses looking to establish there.

Speaking to the Argus, economic sustainability manager for Kempsey Shire Council Susannah Smith said the lack of sewerage is a stopper on business growth as the cost of developing is high.

“The reason that sewer is so important is that, without it, the cost of people developing is much higher because they have to do their own on-site treatment. There were three to four businesses on that highway corridor who reiterated the importance for them to expand their businesses or be able to sell which means we really need to get that enabling infrastructure down through the corridor. We really hope that the state government does assist with that,” Ms Smith said.

One of the businesses affected by the lack of sewerage is the Kempsey organic food distribution centre – set to be the region’s first, fully certified, organic produce distribution centre which will feed communities right across Australia.

Tourism and agribusiness were other major topics discussed in the meeting.

AGRICULTURE: Kempsey High School students Kirra Davison, Tom Harwood and Summer Henry hard at work at the Kempsey High agriculture department

AGRICULTURE: Kempsey High School students Kirra Davison, Tom Harwood and Summer Henry hard at work at the Kempsey High agriculture department

Locals said that the Valley’s rich Indigenous history and ties to iconic Australian names such as Slim Dusty and brands like Akubra and Nestle are assets significantly underutilised.

“A lot of people spoke about the huge potential for both the tourism and agriculture sectors in the Macleay. There seemed to be a lot of acknowledgment that, given our history and our attributes in terms of climate and topography and soil, there is room for more growth in the agribusiness sector,” Ms Smith said.

TOURING THE MACLEAY: Six students from the University of Sydney met with a range of Macleay Valley Food Bowl producers earlier this year.

TOURING THE MACLEAY: Six students from the University of Sydney met with a range of Macleay Valley Food Bowl producers earlier this year.

“It was identified that we do have unrealised opportunity in terms of our Indigenous culture and that more can be done in aligning that with our tourism sector. We have got Indigenous history that is rich and long and some were commenting – where is that depicted locally?

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“It was also commented that it would be great to see more showcased of the really iconic business that the Valley is home to. We have this great Australian company that exports all over the world in Akubra Hats, and similar with Nestle’s Milo which has been in the Valley for over 80 years - it’s a shame we don’t have any way of showcasing that for visitors.

Ms Smith commented that success has been seen in the Macleay Valley Food Bowl project which is shining a light on the Valley’s agriculture and which has incentivised and motivated local businesses.

There were a range of other issues discussed in the meeting which was facilitated by management consultancy firm Corview in partnership with Kempsey Shire Council.

Next steps: The state government is expected to release its Regional Economic Development Strategy within the first quarter of 2018. The strategy will detail the allocation of money from the NSW government’s poles and wires sale to regional communities. Ms Smith said council with then form its own Regional Development Strategy for the Macleay Valley taking into consideration the issues raised in last week’s consultation.