By FAY KNIGHT firstname.lastname@example.org MAYBE the television reception's not great or maybe it's just a very friendly area, but the Kyogle Shire is leading the Northern Rivers in the baby-making stakes.
While the state average for the number of children per mother is 1.79, Kyogle Shire mums are averaging 2.17 each while Byron Bay mothers are only managing to have 1.67 children each.
Kyogle Shire also leads the region in having the most space per person, with only 2.7 people for every square kilometre, while Lismore averages 34.3 people, Byron Shire 54.1 people and Ballina Shire squeezes in 83 people to every square kilometre on average. But then again, Sydneysiders are the sardines, with 6157.5 people for every square kilometre!
Kyogle Shire mayor Ernie Bennett is doing his bit for the Kyogle statistics, too, with three children of his own. "And I have 12 grandchildren," Cr Bennett said. "Maybe there's something in those statistics, because two of my children still live here and they have six and four children respectively, whereas the one in Brisbane only has two!"
Ernie said he thought it was down to local people living in harmony because they felt comfortable with where they lived, 'as you do in the centre of the universe'.
"Kyogle is a bit of an undiscovered area for a lot of people," said Ernie.
"It's within easy distance of a major capital city (Brisbane) and the land is more affordable.
"And you're amongst the best people in the country. Why wouldn't people feel comfortable and be prepared to settle down?"
Real estate agent Carol Olive, from Elders Kyogle, said while Kyogle prices had risen steadily over the past decade, property was still cheaper than in surrounding shires.
"We haven't had a major boom and so first home buyers and investors who are buying houses to rent out find it a bit easier to buy here," said Carol.
"That means people can buy a larger property or have less pressure from a big mortgage, so that may explain both trends."
Mark and Sharon Pederson of Geneva, just out of Kyogle, are certainly part of the trend. With four young daughters, they also live on a spacious rural block. The Pedersons are far from unusual in their social group, according to Sharon.
"I know a lot of families with three or four children," she said.
"I also know three families with six children." Mark and Sharon admitted they were originally planning just three children, but 'we ended up with four', said Sharon.
"It's very friendly and sociable here, there's touch footy, cricket and the swimming club.
"There's plenty to do."