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What is the future of Lismore? Here are some ideas for what it could be

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After the devastating floods of 2022 the future of Lismore was thrown up in the air and it was time to take a long hard look at what the future of the town would be. 

Bringing together community, local, and international design experts through the Look Ahead co-design process, Living Lab Northern Rivers has generated a range of innovative ideas about what the future of Lismore could be. 

Just some of the innovative ideas that Living Lab Northern Rivers presented to the local community at a public meeting in Lismore on Tuesday, June 4 include a revitalised floodplain that includes cultural land management, recreational trails, gardens and markets; commercial flood resilient retrofits in the Lismore CBD; new urban villages created above the floodplain; and a naturalised Brown’s Creek forming the spine of a new greenway connecting the CBD and urban villages. 

‘The exciting scenarios for a future Lismore were formulated by a panel of international and local design experts, brought together by Living Lab Northern Rivers, who responded to the outcomes of previous community meetings, visits to the city and intensive workshops,’ said Living Lab Northern Rivers in a press release. 

‘At the community meetings earlier in the year, clear opportunities for the future of Lismore emerged – a desire for safer and more diverse housing, greater connectivity, a vibrant CBD, active transport, increased food security, and a cleaner regenerated river and surrounding environment. Importantly, there was the need for confidence in a clearer future.’

South Lismore. Illustration by Mark Gerada

Recovery and rebuild

Elizabeth Mossop, Living Lab Northern Rivers Academic Director explained that ‘Look Ahead is a design process that brings together local knowledge and aspirations, with technical expertise to co-design a sustainable future for Lismore. The Look Ahead project is run by Living Lab Northern Rivers and backed by the University of Technology Sydney, Southern Cross University and the NSW Reconstruction Authority. We hope these scenarios will guide and form the basis for future planning work.’

Both Elizabeth Mossop and Dan Etheridge of Living Lab Northern Rivers were extensively involved in the recovery and rebuild of New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. 

‘In our experience of working in recovery and rebuild in other places, public sentiment and people’s views on these things are often incredibly influential in where government goes in terms of making decisions. Living Lab Northern Rivers is independent, we work in the public interest. It means that we can bring people together in a way that I think other types of institutions really can’t,’ said Elizabeth Mossop. 

Living Lab Northern Rivers proposed scenarios for a future Lismore include: 

A vibrant Lismore CBD 

All of Lismore’s CBD becomes a Special Activation Precinct focused on innovation. Three distinct precincts develop in Lismore’s CBD, improving economic and social resilience. Features include commercial flood-resilient retrofits, faster planning approval, business concierge and support. 

Urban Villages 

New urban village centres develop in areas around Lismore Base Hospital, St Vincents, Southern Cross University and parts of the North Lismore plateau. 

Natural Connections 

A greenway system is created to connect the CBD effectively to surrounding areas, running along a naturalised Browns Creek. 

A Nature Based North 

After houses have been relocated or demolished, North Lismore is an opportunity for Indigenous land management, ecological restoration and large scale nature-based land uses. The rail trail corridor offers a great opportunity to drive new traffic through North and South Lismore. 

Southern Soul 

A mix of residential, business, arts and manufacturing, new opportunities present in South Lismore through the rail trail and repurposed buyback land for a vibrant mix of art, recreation, gardening and gathering spaces. 

‘These scenarios are an ongoing work in progress. They have been directly informed by community ideas from extensive consultation. There is a lot more work to be done to research technical issues, engage stakeholders again and develop formal proposals, but this is a great starting point for those final stages of the process,’ said Elizabeth Mossop. 

Watch a clip about Living Lab Northern Rivers Look Ahead process

‘When we think about the best possible future for a wonderfully complex and diverse community like Lismore, it’s a really big project. There is no other way to start than with the people who live here,’ said Dan Etheridge, Living Lab Northern Rivers Engagement Director. 

‘We’re excited to share the work that we’ve developed as part of the Look Ahead process. These ideas are important, but it’s not just about delivering a set of ideas and visions for future governments to implement. Going through this co-design process has already helped families, businesses and community groups to move forward with more certainty and make some decisions about where they want to be in the next year, three years and into the future.’

Next Steps 

Until 3 August, Living Lab Northern Rivers will be sharing these future scenarios in their Lismore shopfront, and online at www.llnr.com.au, and welcomes everyone to access, explore and have their say.  Living Lab Northern Rivers staff are also on hand to explain the designs, answer questions and welcome feedback. All responses to these scenarios will be collected and shared with local and state government for their official planning processes. 

Look Ahead: Ideas for a future Lismore 

Living Lab Northern Rivers 

Visit in person: 11 Woodlark St, Lismore 

Weekdays, Tue-Thur: 1pm – 4pm 


Late night Thursdays: 20 Jun, 4 & 18 Jul, 1 Aug: 5pm – 7.00pm  

Saturdays: 15 Jun, 6 Jul, 3 Aug: 9am – 12noon   

Online at www.llnr.com.au.

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  1. Lismore cbd is a natural born dam…the investors there have had there day…move over and out, upwards and let mother nature have a go…


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