BETTER ALL THE TIME: Tracey Mortimer moved back to Casino a few months ago.
BETTER ALL THE TIME: Tracey Mortimer moved back to Casino a few months ago.

Casino a booming town

By Alex Easton

TRACEY Mortimer couldn't wait to get out of Casino when she was 17; less than a year ago she decided she couldn't wait to get back.

Tracey had lived nearly half her life in Brisbane by the time the urge to move home to Casino overwhelmed her in April.

She said she was driven by the desire to live somewhere quieter where she could raise her two children aged 11 and 7 in peace and safety; and be near her own family again.

And Tracey's not the only one to succumb to Casino.

New official figures show Casino has consolidated its position as the Northern Rivers' boom town, producing strong jobs growth along with the region's fastest-growing population and a reputation for housing that is affordable, but rapidly increasing in value.

New employment figures from the Commonwealth Department of Workplace Relations covering the period between September 2006 and September 2007 show Casino now has the second-lowest unemployment rate on the Northern Rivers.

The figures put Casino's jobless rate at 5.4 per cent; behind Ballina's regional low of 4.8 per cent, but well ahead of Lismore (7.2 per cent), Byron (8.4 per cent) and Kyogle (7.8 per cent).

Critically, Casino's jobless rate represents a drop of nearly 2 per cent on its 2006 figure.

Only Byron Shire recorded a bigger drop in unemployment, with a fall of 2.7 per cent.

Census figures released in June showed Casino's population had grown 5.8 per cent between 2001 and 2006.

However, more detailed figures released last week showed that growth rate was increasing; starting with 0.9 per cent growth in 2001 and increasing to 2.8 per cent in 2006; making it one of the fastest-growing communities in NSW.

Casino's population growth has been partly attributed to the cost of housing on the coast, with high prices pushing residents inland.

Casino remains one of the region's most affordable addresses, with a median house price of $217,500; compared to $610,000 at Byron Bay, $364,000 at Ballina and $257,000 at Lismore; but prices are growing at nearly 10 per cent per year.

Tracey, who works as an accounts clerk, said she gave little thought to finding a new job before moving back; but the difficulty of finding work had been a factor in her decision to leave 17 years ago.

This time she was surprised at how easy it was to get work.

"I thought it would be a bit harder to find something here," she said.

The Casino Tracey said she knew 17 years ago and the one she lived in now were broadly similar; but she agreed the town was going through some big changes.

"It used to be you'd know everyone," she said.

"I've noticed a lot more businesses opening up now than there was back then."

Tracey said the town needed a few more touches to really kick it off simple things like a cinema and something like a bowling alley, where teenagers and young adults could go for fun.

Beyond that, Casino's future was looking bright and was a good place to finish raising her children.

"I think the new Casino's a lot better," Tracey said.

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