Chart showing Northern Rivers Region wages.
Chart showing Northern Rivers Region wages.

Workers are poorly paid

IT’S known as a playground for the rich and famous, but new statistics have revealed Byron Shire locals have the lowest average wages on the Northern Rivers.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report this week that shows the average wage in the Byron Shire in 2006-2007 was $30,383.

The average wages in other local government areas on the Northern Rivers were: Kyogle, $31,144; Richmond Valley $32,358; Lismore, $32,418; and Ballina, $33,587.

The lowest average wages in NSW were in the Walcha local government area at $28,160 while the highest were in the Sydney suburb of Mosman at $106,397.

Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said she hoped the broader community would take notice of the figures.

“We’re misrepresented so often as a place for millionaires and celebrities,” she said.

“This is a reality check for a lot of people and it focuses on the fact you can’t believe the hype.

“Our real community is quite a poor community.”

She said the problem was exacerbated by real estate prices in the Byron Shire that were on par with those in Sydney.

“I’ve spoken to people who spend 80 per cent of their incomes on housing,” Cr Barham said.

“But people stay here for community connection and for the environment.”

State Ballina MP Don Page, whose electorate includes the Byron Shire, said the area’s reliance on tourism was a factor contributing to the low wages.

“Even though a few businesses do quite well from tourism, there are a lot of low income earners in the industry,” he said.

Mr Page was also unimpressed by the Ballina Shire’s average wages despite them being the highest in the region.

“They’re still low and unfortunately, traditionally that’s been the case,” he said.

“We’re a low income area and we have the highest unemployment in Australia.”

Mr Page said the high number of retirees may have also skewed the figures.

“A lot of people come here for retirement so they’re not at their earning peak,” he said.

“People are quite often prepared to sacrifice money for lifestyle.

They’d rather walk on the beach.”

Despite having the lowest average wages, the Byron Shire had a higher total income than other areas in the Northern Rivers.

The total incomes from all sources (excluding government pensions and allowances) were: Ballina, $783,089,097; Lismore, $716,277,457; Byron, $551,848,585; Richmond Valley, $301,458,544; and Kyogle, $130,888,383.

Income from wages made up the greatest percentage of the totals followed by incomes from investments.

Average incomes from investments were: Byron, $10,653; Ballina, $8,367; Kyogle, $5,528; Lismore, $4,820; and Richmond Valley, $4,377.

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