Ballina will never de-throne Lismore: Expert
By JAMIE BROWN
RESPECTED demographer Bernard Salt reckons Ballina will never surpass Lismore as a regional centre.
But Lennox-based developer Chris Condon, and Ballina retailer Elton Cummings, reckon the twin regional cities are already growing to complement each other.
Mr Salt, a partner in Melbourne-based property management group KPMG, has only spent about four days in Lismore but is familiar with the 'old money' business momentum that established country cities thrive on.
And new, brash, burgeoning centres just don't have it.
"Ballina will always be subordinate to Lismore. It is not in the same strategic position," Mr Salt said.
"I know country towns and they all benefit from a clique of established family business interests that make a substantial contribution to the local business muscle.
"It comes down to the family dynasty factor and you can't do dynasties on the cheap, and you can't create them quickly."
Mr Salt said Ballina had plenty to offer, but had not been a big town for long enough.
"It doesn't have the critical mass that reaches back 100 years," he said.
Mr Salt said established patterns of shopping by local families, laid down over the course of a generation or more, resulted in loyal ties to regional centres like Lismore.
"You can't just flick across from one choice of centre to another," he said.
When it comes to residential lifestyle, Mr Salt admitted Lismore was lacking, but nearby coastal villages filled that role.
He said parallels could be drawn with Rockhampton and Yeppoon, and to some degree with Nambour and Maroochydore, except that the Sunshine Coast grew to the point where critical mass of population took the wind out of its inland centres.
Will the same happen on the Far North Coast?
Mr Salt says that is unlikely.