LIGHTBULB MOMENT: Future Northern Rivers Think Tank facilitators present the team's ideas at Southern Cross University.
LIGHTBULB MOMENT: Future Northern Rivers Think Tank facilitators present the team's ideas at Southern Cross University. Marc Stapelberg

Big ideas: Think tank explores vision for Northern Rivers

WATER security, technological innovation and housing are among the big ideas earmarked for a blueprint of how the Northern Rivers will look in two decades' time.

The Future Northern Rivers Think Tank, held at Southern Cross University yesterday, saw groups of stakeholders from the Tweed to Grafton gather to solve big problems the region could be facing into the future.

The six groups, which involved business local government, tourism representatives and young people, each distilled and presented one key idea. Among those, former Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell explained her group's plan for 20,000 extra social and affordable housing units to the Northern Rivers.

 

NSW Business Chamber' regional manager for the Northern Rivers, Jane Laverty, said the think tank involved the "best and brightest minds of a broad group of stakeholder from across the Northern Rivers".

Ms Laverty said they were focused on "outrageously ambitious future ideas" related to social, environmental and economic issues.

From 30 to 40 ideas, she said they looked deeper into just six.

"When we saw those ideas presented and unpacked just a little, what we saw underpinning that were clear values that the Northern Rivers as a place embodies and where we would be going between now and 2040," Ms Laverty said.

"We reflected early on how quickly the last 20 years went.

"It was the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and all of a sudden we're about to hit 2020. So that was a great framework for people to be thinking in."

She said Steve Tighe, author of Rethinking Strategy, helped the group to "think differently" about the decades ahead.

"(The big ideas are) stretching us to a place where we realise we've got the capability and the capacity to get to," she said.

The NSW Business chamber and Regional Development Australia, working with the Northern River Joint Organisation of Councils, will now take those big ideas forward, she said.

"We're going to write up the details around those and they will literally create a blueprint for moving forward in our future economic development and social and environmental plan," Ms Laverty said.

"I think that's what was exciting today, we had representatives from across the whole region."

Ms Laverty said it was vital they had a "significant number" of young people at the think tank tables.

She said the group's work would ultimately achieve an "overarching whole-of-Northern Rivers plan and perspective" that was so far lacking.

"We just felt that it's very important to have that," she said.

"We recognised to be successful you need to demonstrate a few things, you need to demonstrate you can work well as a region... and you understand the problems.

Along with housing, and water security, the think tank groups presented ideas on fostering innovation to become a global technology region and becoming a regenerative regional prototype.

The think tank was inspired by The Northern Star's Future Northern Rivers series, in which demographer Bernard Salt shared his visions for the region in the coming decades.



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