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What’s At Risk?

Attributes of the Northern Rivers Region

Situated on the traditional lands of the Bundjalung and Gumbainggir Aboriginal peoples, the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales is renowned for its outstanding natural features and the vibrant local communities and diverse cultural and creative attributes that these richly scenic lands support. Embracing the Pacific Ocean along some 300 kilometres of largely unspoilt coastline, the landscapes of the region range from heath clad stretches of white sandy beaches to verdant green valleys of cropping and grazing lands and from the sparkling expanses of meandering river systems to undulating hills cloaked in native forests, orchards and plantations.

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A closely settled region with a rural outlook, the majority of the population in the Northern Rivers is distributed across many small towns, villages and rural holdings, which nurture unique local cultures and reflect a range of lifestyle, economic and social opportunities.

The region is home to a diverse mix of people which includes Indigenous people, descendants of pioneer farming families and large numbers of more recent settlers from all walks of life drawn to the natural amenity of the region and the array of lifestyle options it offers. From within this rich, knowledgeable and creative milieu has grown an integrated community committed to developing diverse and sustainable food production and renewable energy systems, protecting and restoring the natural environment, and building healthy, cohesive and caring communities

Tourism

The scenic beauty, diverse cultural heritage, extensive National Park and reserve areas, abundance of markets and festivals, and charming rural villages make the Northern Rivers a key tourism destination1. The last decade has seen a steady increase in tourist numbers in the region, with the establishment of an expanding nature-based, eco and cultural tourism industry2. The region is host to large numbers of international visitors and currently attracts more tourists than either Tasmania or the Northern Territory. The Northern Rivers tourism industry directly employs around 80003people providing $1.3 billion in revenue4.

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Agriculture

The fertile soils, high rainfall and mild subtropical climate support a strong agricultural sector which includes traditional meat, dairy and sugar cane and a diverse horticultural industry. The region is steadily building a reputation for high quality foods and regional cuisine and also supports increasing levels of organic production1. Regional Development Australia has identified the future goals of developing a ‘regional ‘brand’ for the area as a leader in ‘clean and green’ industry development.

Biodiversity

In this unique biogeographic region, World Heritage listed Gondwanan rainforests and majestic tall eucalypt forests clothe the spectacular volcanic terrain of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest erosion caldera and the rugged escarpment of the Great Dividing Range, and support one of the highest levels of biodiversity on the Australian continent. The biodiversity of the northeast NSW region is extensively documented in the Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (DECCW 2010a). This plan notes the diverse vegetation mosaics that support significant fauna diversity in the region, including unique faunal assemblages and high levels of endemism. It also details a range of outstanding biodiversity values for the region, including large numbers of threatened species, populations and ecological communities. These exceptional natural assets provide both a source of sustainable resources and the creative inspiration for the economic activities that support the communities of the region.

Coal seam gas threat

The irreplaceable natural assets of the Northern Rivers and the industries and communities they support are under threat from the plan to industrialize the region for coal seam gas production. The vital tourism and agricultural industries rely on clean water, air and soils, as well as the clean and green reputation for which the region is renowned. The entire Northern Rivers is covered in petroleum licenses and applications and the natural attiibutes and existing industries are at risk from the rapidly expanding industry that is targeting the unconventional gas deposits of the Clarence Moreton Basin.

1 Northern Rivers Regional Plan,

2 Connecting the Northern Rivers to Opportunities, RDA Website http://www.rdanorthernrivers.org.au/page/Content?&select=List&rowid=196
3 the 2009 Data Update to the Regional Industry & Economic Plan
4 International and National Visitor Surveys commissioned by Tourism Australia
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