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Priority needs to be change that will help local business growth

IT’s no coincidence the Northern Rivers has both low population growth and high unemployment rates.

Data from the 2011 Census shows the Northern Rivers has some of the lowest population growth rates in NSW. Ballina, Byron Bay and Evans Head are growing at only 1.8% compared to the state’s 5.6%. Lismore is also trailing with 2.5% and Clarence at 3.3%. Bucking the Northern Rivers trend is Tweed, with 7.3%.

Population growth is an indicator for jobs, and the reason many parts of our region are not expanding is because there are not enough jobs available.

Recent figures say a total 49.87% of the people living in Ballina, Lismore and Tweed state electorates are employed, compared to a state average of 56.2%. Compounding this is the proportion of “employed” locals making do with part-time work. Part-timers make up 22% of the local workforce compared to a state average of only 16.8%.

There are parts of the Northern Rivers where one in three children grow up in household where not one parent has worked. Our average unemployment rate across the region is 8% compared to the 5.9% state average.

The numbers show we need to prioritise infrastructure and policy change that will help local industries and business grow by connecting them to national and international markets.

This will create more full time jobs, increase household incomes and support population growth across the Northern Rivers.