What’s in a name? Plenty, apparently, when it comes to gaining funding from the state government.
Lismore’s leaders were mortified in 2016 when their city was downgraded from regional city to regional centre in the draft North Coast Regional Plan. Tweed’s leaders on the other hand were delighted that their city would be upgraded to regional city status.
The difference meant that Lismore would be relegated to ‘second-tier’ regional centre status in the North Coast Regional Plan, which aims to guide strategic planning for the next 20 years.
But after a strong lobbying effort by the Lismore City Council, the NSW Government has announced this week that Lismore will once again enjoy regional city status, along with Tweed Heads, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.
The North Coast Regional Plan covers the council areas of Ballina, Bellingen, Byron, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey, Kyogle, Lismore, Nambucca, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Richmond Valley and Tweed.
The plan targets growth in nominated ‘regional cities’ and the Lismore City Council was deeply concerned that second-tier status would seriously disadvantage Lismore’s chance at securing state government investment.
Lismore Mayor Isaac Smith said he believed arguments put forth by council staff in a joint submission with Richmond Valley and Kyogle councils, and strong advocacy from Lismore MP Thomas George, had helped sway the NSW Government’s stance.
‘This is fantastic news for Lismore – we could have potentially missed out on significant recognition and consequent state government infrastructure funding. Now we have a seat at the table with our other three regional cities, Tweed, Coffs and Port,’ Cr Smith said.
‘We are thrilled we have been able to negotiate with the state government and secure this significant change in the plan. The reality is, for hundreds of thousands of people living on the North Coast, Lismore is the regional city and where they come for important services. We need to grow our population to maintain our prosperity and in order to do that, we need to see continued investment in infrastructure and health services to meet the needs of that growing population.’
Direction 7 of the NCRP is to grow the North Coast’s regional cities as a focus for economic activity and population growth. Regional action plans will be prepared for regional cities, in collaboration with councils, to coordinate future investment and infrastructure for housing and jobs growth.
Lismore MP Thomas George said that for many years Lismore had played the role of a regional city and it was considered the business, sporting, education and medical capital of the Northern Rivers.
‘I believe the inclusion of an inland city is vital to highlight the important economic and social benefits inland areas contribute to New South Wales and Lismore can certainly do that,’ Mr George said.
The council put forward a strong case to be upgraded to a regional city, citing major regional government services that require ongoing funding such as Lismore Base Hospital, a district court and Southern Cross University, as well as the fact that the NSW Government’s own Fit for the Future report singled out Lismore as the regional centre of the Northern Rivers.