Byron Shire Council is eyeing the RMS donga village at Bangalow with a view to creating a new industrial estate aimed at servicing the expanding gourmet food production sector.
The plan is the brainchild of council’s economic development and tourism co-ordinator, Jane Laverty, who said the idea for the new business park was in ‘the very early stages’.
The RMS is required to return the donga site, which has been built to provide accommodation for Pacific Highway workers, to its pristine farmland state at the end of the year, once construction is complete.
But Ms Laverty, who has been tasked to increase the economic growth of the shire, eyes an opportunity.
‘Feedback from Byron shire gourmet and artisan food businesses is that there is very little flood free land available for business expansion in the shire and this could limit employment generation,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘Some businesses are getting close to outgrowing their space and will need a new home. Our preference, and theirs, is to ensure jobs remain in Byron Shire,’ she added.
‘One solution raised is the land adjacent to the highway to be rezoned and master planned as a fully sustainable eco business park that fits with the local surrounds. This outcome would provide a competitive and comparative advantage for the food sector that can value add locally grown produce.
‘With the support of council and the community, the site could help existing and new businesses to stay here, achieve an advantage from a site with enviable highway access and provide more local jobs,’ Ms Laverty said.
Bangalow Progress Association president Tony Hart, who has spoken to Ms Laverty and to mayor Simon Richardson about the project, says the mayor is ‘quite keen on the idea’.
Mr Hart said the Progress Association will hold a public meeting to discuss the development in the near future, while adding ‘it’s still very much “pie in the sky”.’
‘The food business is one of the few growth industries that Byron shire has and it needs a hand to grow,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘There is a small food hub already in Mullumbimby but it is only for start-ups.’
He added that there were some potential problems with the site, including that ‘large trucks could load up there and then travel through the centre of Bangalow to Lismore,’ but there were also possible upsides.
‘There could be a tourist element to it,’ he said.
Mr Hart said that some industries that were born in Byron Shire, such as Wood & Stone brewery, had already had to take the tough decision to move outside the shire when it came time to expand because suitable facilities could not be found locally.
‘The important thing is that it needs to be carefully planned with proper community consultation,’ Mr Hart said.