A new initiative, the Northern Rivers Brand, has been developed through a collaboration of regional partners, including key business, industry and government representatives – collectively they are Northern Rivers Together.
CEO of the Northern Cooperative Meat Company (NCMC) and interim Chair of Northern Rivers Together, Simon Stahl say there is widespread support for the new initiative with more than 100 Northern Rivers businesses and community groups signed up to promote and use the new the brand in its first few months.
Mr Stahl said that NCMC intended to use the brand to anchor their products to the region, famous for natural beauty and loving, caring, innovative people.
The Northern Rivers Together committee members are: NCMC, NORCO, Northern Rivers Food, Northern Rivers Joint Organisation, Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers, Business New South Wales, Destination North Coast, Southern Cross University, and Regional New South Wales.
Backed by businesses, councils and community
Chief Marketing Officer at SCU Dean Gould says the brand is of value to the region’s university.
‘The Northern Rivers NSW brand will assist Southern Cross University to promote its Lismore campus nationally and internationally. Harnessing the diverse and wonderful assets and benefits the region offers as part of our messaging to prospective students and academic staff will make the university’s proposition even more powerful.’
Northern Rivers Together say they have been backed in the development and implementation of the brand by all of the councils in the area – Ballina, Byron, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley, and Tweed.
The Echo asked Mr Stahl what he thought the brand had to offer the Byron area, which already has ‘Byron Bay’ as a very strong brand.
‘You have hit on a fundamental point for the new Northern Rivers Brand and we see it both as a challenge and a great asset,’ he said. ‘There is no doubt that Byron Bay is in its own right an iconic Australian destination. This came up pretty strongly in the focus groups conducted on the way to developing the new brand.
However, the new Northern Rivers brand is not just about tourism; it will have a place in enterprise, the food and produce economy, and among the locals themselves.
Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson said it makes sense to create a brand for the region as we have so many businesses, (particularly food and agricultural-based ones) that cross the region and have footholds in competitive markets around the country and globally.
‘For Byron, the need for branding is less important as we already are a recognised “brand” due to decades of careful and deliberate cultivation and protection of our places, businesses and people,’ he told The Echo.
‘Byron, as a member of the Northern Rivers will support the brand, however, we won’t be dedicating any great amounts of funds or time towards it. Thinking and acting as a region always has a place and should be done more effectively, however, we continue to prioritise the needs and challenges of our community.’
Questions have been raised about the diversity of the project, in particular, by Lismore City Councillor Vanessa Ekins.
‘I had a look at the site. It’s full of white people – not very diverse. The main focus of the page seems to be tourism and consumption. I would like to see more focus on attracting investment and families,’ she told The Echo.
Northern Rivers Together’s response was that diversity is certainly a key attribute of the brand and was, in fact, a key discussion point at the brand development workshops last year, attended by over 150 regional representatives. They say they certainly encourage all law-abiding organisations – regardless of culture, ability, or gender – to register for the brand.
‘We look forward to celebrating the diversity and inclusiveness of the region,’ they told The Echo.
Simon Richardson said that one of the three pillar objectives is Liveability: Celebrating the Northern Rivers as a region that provides a quality of life driven by our intrinsic values. This is hoped to drive the identification and celebration of our diverse values.
‘The idea of a regional identification brand makes sense for businesses, however, we will have to wait and see how effective or truly representative it will become. Obviously the need for a marketable and effective branding is greater for other councils than Byron, so we won’t be doing the heavy lifting. Our businesses are embracing the concept and it is more through our businesses that connection and support for the brand will develop.
Mr Stahl said the Northern Rivers Brand is a sense of common purpose across a wider geographical area that brings people together.
‘Byron is a crucial part of that, without ever having to dilute its own message. Byron sits within the Northern Rivers, even if it has its own distinctive style and flavour. That will never be compromised.’