Young families needed to boost Ballina’s economy
PETER Carmont says he is too young to live in a "retirement village" so he is pushing for more "recreational infrastructure" to encourage families to move to Ballina Shire and boost the local economy.
The chairman of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce was last week at the chamber breakfast meeting reacting to population figures released in Ballina Shire Council's Community Strategic Plan.
The figures show that Ballina's population only grew at an average rate of 0.7% over the past 10 years, which was well below the state average of 1.1% - figures that even surprised former mayor Phillip Silver, who was at the meeting.
And the 60-plus age group increased from 23.9% of the population in 2001 to 28.8% in 2011, well above the state average of 20.3%, confirming a reputation Ballina has as "God's waiting room".
In the same period, the percentage aged 18-34 decreased from 16.5% to 14.6%, with the council report noting "we need to encourage our younger residents to remain in the shire".
If we want families to come here, we need to make it an attractive area in which they want to reside, with amenities for them to enjoy
Mr Carmont said he welcomed retirees to the area, but the shire needed a more "balanced population" to ensure a healthy economy.
He said young families were the spenders who were more likely to build houses, but they weren't staying in the area or arriving in great numbers.
He admitted a lack of employment was a factor and, even as a real estate agent, he recognised the market had driven real estate prices up over the past 10 years.
But he said there needed to be more for young families to do to make the shire an attractive place to live.
"We have the river, beaches, a jet airport and we're two hours from a city, which should mean a healthy population growth rate," he said.
"If we want families to come here, we need to make it an attractive area in which they want to reside, with amenities for them to enjoy.
"And if we increase our growth rate, we will get a more vibrant community that can sustain business growth, which leads to jobs and fuels the local economy."
He congratulated the council for a land buyers' subsidy that applies to 94 blocks at Wollongbar and will apply to another 100 blocks at Cumbalum. He also gave the council a big tick for the redevelopment of Ballina surf club.
But he pointed at some works-in-progress that needed to be pushed along.
They were: Ballina-to-Lennox Head shared pathway; indoor sports centre; a children's water park at Captain Cook Park; and a revamp of the Lennox Head surf club.
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