Exodus of our young the biggest regional issue of all
THREE out of four of the students pictured above are planning on leaving the Northern Rivers as soon as they finish school.
One wants to study music in Brisbane because "that's where the best courses are", another one wants to get out of the "Byron Bay bubble", while for the other it's simply an obvious stepping stone into the wider world.
On Tuesday these four teenagers joined 30 other students at a workshop at Southern Cross University about regional priorities for the future.
How to help more young people to stay, or at least be able to return after a few years away, was not far from their thoughts.
Ballina's Emmanuel College student Jubab Howells said the departure of so many left a "hole" in the region.
He said there was no easy answer to the riddle.
"In order to battle that perhaps we can increase the number of universities here," Jubab said.
"We're talking about providing a larger variety of jobs as well, not just trades or retail."
On a different note, no-one would disagree with Byron Bay High School student Maya Wills' conclusion that rural roads were well below par.
So bad it was "scary to be a L-plater", she said.
"All of our rural areas - it's so dangerous to drive on," Maya said.
"Especially as a learner, everyone's going 80kmh on these tiny roads and it's terrifying."
Maya said public transport was also a key issue for those people who couldn't afford to drive or wanted to be more sustainable.
Josh Manning, from Ballina's Southern Cross K-12, said the sustainability of natural heritage was a core issue, such as indigenous history and surf culture.
"The natural culture we have is what draws a lot of the tourism in and it's also a big part of our everyday lives," Josh said.
He said it was crucial to find a balance between economic growth and the natural environment.