Regions on the Move

Insights and commentary from the 50 regions across Australia – the history, regional industries, issues, opportunities and national collaboration.

Insights and commentary from the 50 regions across Australia – the history, regional industries, issues, opportunities and national collaboration.

The Shoalhaven region in NSW – opportunities in wine and dairy

The region has a mix of manufacturing, services, retail and lifestyle, with a population of almost 100,000. Nowra (pop. 35,000) is the focal point.

Shoalhaven oyster growers are increasingly active in export markets. And the NSW Government’s recent approval of a large lease (50 ha) for a mussel farming operation in Jervis Bay is noteworthy. This is long-awaited development, and is expected to open up export opportunities with Asia.


The region is not widely known for its wineries, and there are only a dozen or so. But they are quality operations. Below is a sample.

Crooked River Winery is an example of a recently established winery. It dates only from 1998 as a family owned and operated winery. It is based at Gerringong where rich volcanic alluvial soils are found. The commercial winery consists of 280,000 litres of stainless steel fermentation and storage tanks and 70,000 litres of oak barrels. The winery has won multiple awards for its premium red and white wines, and is the largest vineyard on the South Coast - 125,000 bottles per year.

Silos Estate Winery can be traced back to 1870. It produces a range of premium wines that emphasises the unique characteristics of the Shoalhaven region viz. local maritime Shoalhaven climate with cool, moderate sea breezes during the ripening period. There are 12 acres of vineyard - seven varieties of grapes - Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The company produces champagne, which retails at $20-30 per bottle. The company matches this with oysters in its restaurant, but not on a regular basis.

Coolangatta Winery was established in 1822, and is the site of the first European settlement on the South Coast. It is located on the foothills of Mt. Coolangatta, two hours south of Sydney. It offer tastings of its estate-grown wines from the cellar door as well as accommodation in convict-built cottages. Tourists can take a stroll through historic grounds, and enjoy the view and fresh local produce.

There are about a dozen wineries in the region, and they could collectively build a sizeable  food-wine tourist trail. The particular opportunity is to further develop the region as front-of-mind gourmet food and wine weekend destination for residents of Sydney and Canberra, as well as interstate and international tourists. The Barossa and Yarra Valley might be seen as models.

The region is also undergoing a population growth spurt, which will also should boost local demand for local food and wines.


The South Coast Dairy at Berry is an example of a boutique producer of quality milk, cream and yoghurt. It is a division of the Berry Cooperative Society and gets supplies from seven farmers. It has recently established a new plant.

Unicorn Cheese in Nowra is another go-ahead company. Its brand began in 1977 when Frenchman Gilbert Pesenti established Piam Pty. Ltd as a small cheese factory in Yagoona, NSW. In 1980 the business was moved to the current site in the Flinders Estate, Nowra. The company won the 2016 Dairy Industry Association of Australia’s (DIAA) best cheese and the most outstanding show exhibit awards, specifically for ‘the Emporium Selection Washed Rind’, a cheese made for ALDI.

South Coast and Highlands Dairy Group

This is a potentially important organisation. The DIG (South Coast and Highlands Dairy Industry Group) was formed in 1991 to:

  • Improve the lifestyle and profitability of dairy farmers by promoting and coordinating action on relevant industry issues.
  • Foster industry cooperation between milk producers, processors, regulators, advisors and researchers.
  • Maintain, encourage and develop dairy industry research and effective communication of results.

The original group consisted mostly of representative farmers from each of the Dairy Farmer Association sub-branches in the district, together with representatives from NSW Agriculture, NSW Dairy Corporation and Australian Cooperative Foods.

The DIG membership was enlarged by additional representation from the Dairy Women's Group, Future Dairy Leaders Group and local farmer regional discussion groups to reflect DIG’s changing role as a Regional Development Group with links in strategic direction and funding from Dairy NSW.

DIG’s boundaries are delineated by the boundaries of the five local Councils: Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee.

John Dunn of the NSW Farmers Federation, based at St. Leonards in Sydney (0411 833 559 ) is keen to test the potential to develop dairy product and meat exports by getting the famers engaged in collaborative development agendas.

The process of farmer engagement in collaborative agendas (as above) would seem to depend heavily on identifying ‘champions’ among the farmers and local ancillary businesses such as abattoirs, transport companies ,restaurants etc. There is also a need to get the NSW Department of Agriculture on-side so that funding for a facilitator can be accessed.

Cluster agendas – the smart way forward

Arguably the best way forward for companies wanting to push the envelope in the Shoalhaven wine and dairy industries would be to learn from overseas cluster experts who are further down the track.  

In this regard, we met with Andrew Martin of the Welsh Food Cluster in June 2017 to discuss the possibility of collaborative activities between Welsh and Australian food and beverage networks i.e. for companies to pick up ideas, marketing techniques and leads, commercial opportunities from each other. Andrew is an impressive chap and has a wealth of knowledge and a range of contacts. He would be an ideal speaker at farmer gatherings around Shoalhaven and indeed across Australia if funding can be arranged. 

Such a visit might also involve Ifor Ffowcs-Williams (Welshman based in NZ), who tours the world educating businesses and governments on the benefits of clustering concepts, how to facilitate business collaboration, and how to make contact with like clusters and networks in other countries. 


Prepared by the Cockatoo Network, Canberra. Please contact us to collaborate in this region via OR phone 0412 922559.

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The Eurobodalla Shire in NSW – opportunity to resurrect the cut flower industry?

The Eurobodalla Shire has a population approaching 40,000 and is firmly within the orbit of Canberra. The main towns are Bateman’s Bay, Moruya and Narooma.

There are 60-70 food producers in this area, but most are locally or domestically focused. There is a medium-term possibility that some could develop an export focus. The River Cottage TV show filmed at Tillba (showing in 16 nations) could assist the process.

Eurobodalla Council has big plans for Moruya Airport as a road/air freight hub. This could develop into a logistics hub viz. seafood, dairy etc.

The particular competitive advantage of the region is its good soils, rainfall and coolish climate.

In this context, cut flowers is a potentially significant industry. Indeed it would fit well with increasingly sophisticated global markets and the gourmet product emphasis of the region.

There used to be 15 flowers growers in the area, and one used to export to Japan and France. The numbers have dwindled mainly because the growers were hobby farmers and not committed to long-term operations, which require scale of the order of 5 acres.

The cut flower industry is also seasonal and margins are tight, which makes it difficult to achieve regular revenue streams. In this regard there is potential to high value-add horticultural products on the same farms in order to broaden revenue streams.

Currently there are only 4-5 cut flower growers in the Eurobodalla council area. The biggest and best of these is Protea Patch, west of Broulee. It has been growing proteas and Australian natives since 1986.  It supplies flowers to retail florists and wholesalers, and we would like to assist its growth aspirations.

There is also an opportunity to attract hard-working business migrants to his industry in order to inject cash and labour into the industry, and to emulate other regions successfully exporting cut flowers, such as the Barossa, Mid North Coast, Gippsland etc.

Prepared by the Cockatoo Network, Canberra.

Please contact us to collaborate in this region. OR phone 0412 922559.

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The Sapphire Coast of NSW

The Sapphire Coast is on the south coast of NSW. Its main towns are Bega, Bermagui, Tathra, Merimbula and Pambula and the population is around 35,000. Some 75% of the area comprises state forests and national parks. The key drivers are dairy, beef, seafood and tourism.

Below are notes on some of the key industries and companies in the area.

Bega Cheese

This is one of Australia’s oldest and biggest cheese producers. It was established in 1899. The company shed its farmer co-operative structure and went public in 2011. About half the company’s shares are still held by local farmers.

The main products are natural cheese, processed cheese, nutritionals, cheddar and mozzarella, cream cheese and skim milk powder.

Turnover is $1,112,000,000 (2015) and annual production is 225,000 tonnes. The company has two other plants - Strathmerton (northern Victoria) and Coburg (Melbourne). Total employment is 1,700.

The company owns the Heritage Centre in Bega, which is well worth a look.

Australia’s Oyster Coast Ltd.

Australia’s Oyster Coast Ltd was recently established to market quality oysters under a rigorous environmental management regime. The AOC group has around 40 oyster farmers as suppliers, representing 75% of total production on the south coast. There are about 100 oyster farmers in total on the south coast – 60 in the Bega Valley with the balance around Tuross, Narooma, the Clyde and the Shoalhaven.

The AOC group is currently researching markets, identifying customers and supply chain partners and developing an Oyster Trail. It has also assisted in additional estuaries being granted export approval by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. AOC Ltd. says that oyster driven tourism is beginning to deliver visitors to the region.

The rising income levels of the Asian economies and their focus on luxury products are seen as a key backdrop to AOC members’ future. The fascination with the ‘story behind the product’ is part of this - the region, the environment and the people. Market testing in China, Hong Kong and Singapore has been positive. 

The Ulladulla Oyster Bar is a core player – it is very busy in the high season. Some growers run tours (e.g. on Pambula Lake and the Clyde River) and joy rides (e.g. at Narooma/Wagonga Inlet). There is also potential for ‘oysters and white wine’ tourist offerings via partnerships with the likes of Silos Estate and Coolangatta Wines.

South Coast Sea Urchins

This Eden-based business specialises in the harvesting and processing of sea urchins. These are delicacies in many Pacific, Asian and Mediterranean nations. Traditionally eaten raw, KINA (Maori) is a favourite in New Zealand and Australia. UNI (Japanese) is widely used in sushi and sashimi and Ricci di Mare (as it is known in Italy) and is shown off in delicate pastas and seafood dishes.

The company was established in 2005 by local divers Keith Browne and Andrew Curtis. With their diving experience and research into sea urchins, they established a sustainable fishing program which includes selective hand harvesting. It is a fully licensed processing facility, located near pristine dive locations and close to Merimbula Airport.

Eden Smokehouse

This is a small business specialising in premium smoked seafood, and more recently chicken and pork.

The owner is a regional food champion. He stresses that local producers as well as butchers need to carve out a point of difference – he examples Disaster Bay Chillies as another local company that has done this. He has a vision for specialist food producers exporting to increasingly sophisticated markets. He arguably needs more allies to break through the ‘traditional’ way of thinking on the south coast.

The cruise ships that now berth at Eden from time to time may provide a catalyst for attitudinal change, as well as international tourists arriving at Canberra Airport.

Far South Coast Farmers Network

This Network involves some 100 farmers from Eden to Narooma. Membership is mostly beef farmers, but sheep and dairy farmers are included. 

The focus is on improving farm management, and in providing a hub for social interaction and education about the economics of successful farming and the sustainable management of soil, water, vegetation and animals.

Some of the beef and lamb farmers are keen to develop high quality meat for export, along the lines of King Island and Cape Grim producers as examples. The opportunity is to leverage the clean-green image of the NSW south coast, fertile soils, year-round quality pastures, synergies with Bega Cheese etc. This may be pursued by initiatives along the supply chain into metropolitan and key Asian markets e.g. brand development, an accreditation system around the brand, processing facilities, collaborative road/air transport arrangements, market development with Asian partners.

South Coast Cheese

This is a boutique business established four years ago in Tilba, south of Narooma. The brand names are Tilba Real Milk and South Coast Cheese.

The owner is a very progressive and personable lady, and she has a strong network of friends and business owners. This company is an example to others in the region.

In summary

The Sapphire Coast has vast, under-appreciated potential. Its climate, soils, beautiful landscapes and seascapes, as well as classy food products provide a platform form for the future. 

There are two key constraints however.

The first is transport access. Airfares into Merimbula and Moruya are quite expensive. It’s a fair drive from Sydney and the Princes Highway can be dangerous. And there is no rail service.

The second constraint is the current lack of quality food tourism product. This is partly because of a quaint NSW arrangement dictating that the bulk of the local seafood must be shipped to the Sydney markets i.e. it then has to be trucked back. Locals seem to accept this oddity. There is also weak regional branding, no signature dishes and a relative lack of restaurants specialising in local foods. Local stakeholders variously mention the need to emulate other regions by leveraging its food resource, scenery, clean/green attributes, the River Cottage TV program, and its airports

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Geelong: A De-Industrialising City

By Meave Noonan, Researcher-in-Residence, Geelong Region LLEN

The Geelong Region LLEN (Local Learning and Employment Network) is one of 31 such networks across Victoria. LLEN’s were created back in 2001, to address the region-specific issues and barriers to young people remaining engaged in education and training, or making the transition from education/training into sustainable employment. Working with local education institutions, community organisations, employers, industry, unions and all levels of government, the Geelong Region LLEN regularly scans the local Geelong region environment to identify those issues impacting on employment and education attainment – sometimes stepping outside the bounds of our focus on ‘youth’ to work with other cohorts impacted by changes to the regional labour market.

Geelong is Victoria’s second city. In 2016, the population of the Geelong region, including the Bellarine Peninsula, Winchelsea and the Surf Coast, was 281,000. Like many other metropolitan and regional centres across the western world, it is undergoing a major transition. The local manufacturing industry, a bastion of stable employment for much of the twentieth century, is now a shadow of its former self. The patterns of transition, and the industries, places and nature of employment experienced by future generations of Geelong workers will be vastly different to those of previous generations. It has been suggested that developing Geelong’s potential as a centre for culture, knowledge and research, and services and tourism will facilitate its reimagining as a post-industrial city.

For much of the twentieth century, Geelong was a booming regional centre, boasting an array of industrial operations that included oil refining, aluminium smelting, car manufacturing and glass making, as well as a significant textile and clothing industry (Johnson 2009a, p.474).

Geelong’s textile industry was established in the 1920s and 1930s, and in the 1940s, production was booming across the city’s seven woollen mills in order to supply the war effort (Rice 2009, pp.27-31). Output was on a par with the centre of woollen and worsted cloth production in Bradford, Yorkshire (UK), earning Geelong the title of ‘Bradford of Australia’ (Rice 2009, p.ix). Roughly 30 percent of Geelong workers were employed in manufacturing in 1933 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1933), rising to 43 percent in 1947, and peaking at 46 percent in the mid-1950s (ABS 1947; ABS 1954), before a period of significant and sustained decline that continues to the present day (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1: Employment in manufacturing in Geelong 1911-2011, expressed as a percentage of the total workforce. Source: ABS Census. Data for 1911 are for county of Grant, Victoria.

The mid-20th century was a period of peak optimism for Geelong’s manufacturing sector. At this time it was thought that employees of companies such as International Harvester and the Ford Motor Company could be assured of a ‘job for life’. International Harvester, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, opened its Geelong plant in 1939, and went on to employ over 2500 people by 1966, out of a total of 4500 Australia-wide (Medson 1988, p.10). In addition, the company engaged many local businesses in the manufacture of parts to its requirements. A combination of factors, including a saturated market and cheaper imports, forced the company into receivership in late 1982, with the workforce having dwindled to 600 loyal employees at the time of the plant’s closure (Medson 1988, pp.14-16).

In the 1980s, while the Ford automotive factory was the leading employer in a local economy still heavily reliant on manufacturing (Wynd 1990, p.703), Geelong began the process of re-inventing itself, planning for a future in which it would be less economically-dependent on heavy industries (Johnson 2012, p.6). However, the 1990s opened inauspiciously: the locally-based Pyramid Building Society collapsed with debts of $2 billion, leaving thousands of depositors and shareholders out of pocket (Mills & Cannon 2015, p.4). Having once boasted that ‘Driving a Ford drives Geelong’, the Ford Motor Company began its long wind down, as new technologies and international rationalisation signalled the end of car manufacturing in the region (Johnson 2012, p.6).

More recently, during 2012-2015, Geelong has been harder hit by more job losses: aluminium production at Alcoa’s Point Henry smelter was stopped at the end of 2014, leaving more than 800 workers out of a job; Ford announced that it would close its Geelong and Broadmeadows plants by 2016; three hundred jobs were cut at Avalon airport with the closure of Qantas’ maintenance facility; Boral Cement shed 100 jobs in 2013 (Paul 2014). And in April 2016, retailer Target announced its decision to relocate its headquarters to Melbourne, spelling an uncertain future for 900 employees, and the end of Target’s 90-year association with Geelong (Tyler 2016).

Against this recent history of de-industrialisation and job losses, much of the projected economic and employment growth in the region is clustered around the three sectors of knowledge, healthcare and services (G21 Geelong Region Alliance 2013, p.30). Figure 2 below illustrates the dynamics of growth and contraction across the ten main sectors of employment in the Regional Geelong Area (RGA) from 2006 to 2011.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Number of employees in ten main sectors in the RGA (includes City of Greater Geelong, Borough of Queenscliffe, Surf Coast Shire and the Golden Plains Shire), 2006 and 2011. Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing 2006 and 2011, cited in Fairbrother et al 2013, p.80.

This image of Geelong as a future knowledge-based economy was boosted with the recent relocation of several government agencies to Geelong, including the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), WorkSafe and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) (Lyons 2015, p.2). However, while the growth of the knowledge, healthcare and services sectors brings new career opportunities, there are also significant challenges, relating to the accessibility of these opportunities for young people and others attempting to gain a foothold in the local labour market. For example, it has been suggested that the growth of the research/education sector and healthcare sector may not produce an associated rise in the availability of entry-level jobs (Fairbrother et al. 2013, pp.23-24).

As social geographer Louise Johnson argues, Geelong has ‘register[ed] on its urban and social fabric some of the more dramatic changes in the recent economic geography of the nation’, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the former industrial powerhouses of Geelong’s northern suburbs (Johnson 2012, pp.6-7). From the 1950s through to the 1970s, the suburbs of Corio and Norlane were constructed to serve the Ford automotive plant, the Shell Oil Refinery and International Harvester (Johnson 2012, pp.6-7). Yet in 2011, the proportion of households earning less than $600 a week in the Norlane-North Shore statistical division was almost 40 percent (compared to an average of 23 percent for the city as a whole) (City of Greater Geelong 2011).

However, in contrast with this pessimistic picture of an industrial city in decline, there have been attempts to consider the directions in which Geelong’s economy might diversify and grow to provide

a viable post-industrial future. Geelong increasingly looks abroad to the examples set by other ‘rust belt’ cities - such as Newcastle, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, among others - which are rebuilding their economies by utilising culture, creativity and entrepreneurialism as sources of economic growth.

The city of Detroit ‘is perhaps the global exemplar of industrial decline’, contends Barnes (2015, p.iii). Its experience of economic hardship, which has been compounded by such factors as persistent racial and class division, and the bankruptcy of its municipal government, is arguably much more dramatic than anything observed in Australia (Barnes 2015, pp.iii-5). Nonetheless, the story of Detroit and its post-industrial rebuilding and reimagining is in many ways comparable to that of Victorian cities and regions in which car manufacturing is in decline, Barnes asserts. The move towards advanced manufacturing and a diversification of the regional economy to support entrepreneurship (Barnes 2015, pp.14-19) are two features that are particularly relevant to Geelong’s experience of economic restructuring.

Johnson observes that Geelong’s post-industrial reimagining was underway by the 1980s, when the city began looking to the arts, tourism and recreational industries for its future (Johnson 2009a, p.474). She suggests that Geelong has many of the hallmarks of a ‘Cultural Capital’, that is, ‘a city which has recently and consciously made the arts (and often related Cultural Industries) central to its society, economy, urban form and place identity’ (Johnson 2009b, p.6). Johnson’s interest is not so much with metropolises such as London, New York and Paris, which are readily identified as centres of culture, but in

Those cities which have been in decline; which have been industrial centres and are dealing with the agonies of spatial and economic restructuring by attempting to rebuild their economies and societies through the mobilisation of the arts. It is an ambitious and potentially progressive social and economic agenda which has and continues to offer a model to others. (Johnson 2009b, p.6)

In imagining Geelong as a world city, city leaders have sought to establish the region as a hub for cultural and heritage tourism. As Johnson highlights, in the late 1990s, this involved an unsuccessful campaign to secure a southern hemisphere Guggenheim museum for Geelong’s waterfront (Johnson 2009b, p.218). More recently, Geelong has joined a number of globalising cities that are attempting to position themselves as nodes in the emerging creative economy. Forging links with the emerging ‘maker movement’ (which is premised on the revival of small-scale craft industries and the rejection of mass production and consumption), celebrating and supporting entrepreneurialism, and urban renewal are some of the key features and goals of an arts- and culture-led program of economic recovery in former ‘rust belt’ areas (Renew Newcastle 2016; DIY transforming a dying city 2011; Bespoke 2015; Zappone 2011).

In attempting to understand and address the transition currently underway within industry and the regional labour market, the Geelong Region LLEN will host a series of events and forums throughout 2017-2018. These events will explore ways to respond to the emergent economy and changing labour market, beginning with an Expansive Learning Network (ELN) event, focusing on the gig economy in the G21 region. The event will be held at Deakin Cats Community Centre (at Simonds Stadium) on 16th August 2017, from 9am to 11am. For more information, contact the Geelong Region LLEN on (03) 5229 0922 or




Australian Bureau of Statistics. 1933, Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1933, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 1947, Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1947, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 1954, Census of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1954, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

Barnes, T. 2015, Detroit: What Lessons for Victoria from a 'Post-Industrial' City?, Research Paper No.2, December 2015, Victorian Parliamentary Library and Information Service.

Bespoke, 2015, Television program. Andrew Sully (director), Australian Broadcasting Corporation, September 3, 2015.

City of Greater Geelong. 2011, Social Atlas, retrieved April 12 2016, < pulation-density&year=2011>

DIY transforming a dying city, 2011, streaming video, Marcus Westbury, retrieved 30 March 2016, <>

Fairbrother, P., Snell, D., Bamberry, L., Vega, D. C., Homsey, C., Toome, E., Cairns, G., Stroud, D., Evans, C. & Gekara, V. 2013, Skilling the Bay - Geelong Regional Labour Market Profile: Final Report. Centre for Sustainable Organisations and Work, RMIT University.

G21 Geelong Region Alliance. 2013, G21 Regional Growth Plan, retrieved August 26 2015, < _low_res_0.pdf>

Johnson, L. 2012, Building pathways to a brighter future. Deakin University.

Johnson, L. 2009a, ‘Valuing Arts and Culture in the Community’, Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management, vol. 6, no. 2, pp.471-487.

Johnson, L. C. 2009b, Cultural capitals: revaluing the arts, remaking urban spaces, Ashgate Pub, Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, VT.

Lyons, D. 2015, ‘Geelong turns into choice destination’, Geelong Independent, 17 July 2015.

Medson, M. 1988. History and Development of International Harvester Geelong Plant [Unpublished history].

Mills, N. & Cannon, A. 2015. ‘Pyramid chief’s latest venture owes $500,000’, Geelong Advertiser, February 21, 2015, p.4.

Paul, M. 2014. Recent job losses could lead to more Geelong homelessness, welfare groups say, ABC News, retrieved August 17 2015, < more-homelessness-in-geelong/5813312>

Rice, J. 2009, The Mill of Mystery: A History of the Valley Worsted Mills Ltd, Geelong, Histec Publications, Melbourne.

Renew Newcastle. 2016, About, retrieved 30 March 2016, <>

Tyler, B 2016, ‘900 Geelong Target jobs in limbo as new boss Guy Russo searches for Melbourne base’, Geelong Advertiser, retrieved 22 June 2016, <>.

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Dismantling Canberra not the solution

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is well down the road in relocating the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority - with 270 jobs - from Canberra to Armidale. Now his Deputy Fiona Nash has entered the fray, exhorting other cities and towns to join in.  

This is out of hand. It flies in the face of the major study by Ernst & Young that concluded:

“Overall, the analysis of costs and benefits associated with the relocation of the APVMA to Armidale has found that the economic benefits for the Australian economy associated with moving the APVMA from Canberra to Armidale are modest…the strategic and operational benefits of having the APVMA operate out of Armidale appear to be limited.

The Ernst & Young report says the majority of potential benefits are not anticipated to result in material economic advantages for society…the cash cost to the government could be significantly higher than the estimated economic cost of $23.19 million.

This is clearly a case of a Deputy PM getting his own way. Indeed he has also succeeded in relocating the Research and Development Corporation from Canberra to Wagga

Instead of trying to lure whole agencies holus bolus, the Nats would be better advised to think about a hub and spoke model. In other words, keep the HQ in Canberra but have certain research spokes in the regions - BUT only once a decent cost-benefit analysis has been carried out.

It might be fashionable to kick Canberra, but stop and think for a minute. Canberra has evolved over time into an impressive administrative hub. Much of its workforce has come from all over Australia and they serve as a melting pot of ideas and aspirations. Don't tear that down for short-term political wins. 

If the Nats are serious about regional development, they should be boosting investment attraction efforts and helping to fund the missing bits of infrastructure that would make regional cities and towns much more attractive. There are some good precedents of the feds doing this e.g. Cairns (the airport development of the 1990s lifted the region onto a whole new level), Ballarat (the feds and the Victorian Government assistred some key corporates to locate there) and Newcastle (where the feds and the NSW Government helped with inwards investment following the BHP steelworks exit).

Bottom line - focus on private sector investments!

Rod Brown
Cockatoo Network, Canberra


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Introducing Central Victoria

I know as I write this that even the definition of Central Victoria, as a region, is open for speculation. My name is Paul Mizzi and I have lived in Central Victoria since 2004 after moving from suburban Melbourne to take on a role with an arm of Bendigo Bank to establish Community Telecommunications companies in regional Australia in the vein of the well-established model of Bendigo Community Banks.

Over the four years in this role I travelled from Bundaberg to Bunbury to Launceston and most points in-between to introduce the concept to business owners and councils and in the process, I was able to observe business and community development in a large number of regions across the country and helped establish Community Telcos in Sunshine Coast, Newcastle, Central West New South Wales, Geelong, Ballarat and Launceston.

Every region has its own challenges borne, sometimes, of its particular history. Some definitions of Central Victoria will take you from the Macedon Ranges to the northern edges of Bendigo and from Ballarat in the west whilst Shepparton is often included as the eastern border. This area of Australia has proved most fertile over the last two hundred years for grazing, agriculture and gold and this history often shapes any thought for the future.

I live in the shire of Mount Alexander, a curious anomaly left behind for many years once the alluvial goldfields of Chewton and Forest Creek had been sifted and forgone for the deep mines of Bendigo and Ballarat. Transport corridors seemed to bypass its main town Castlemaine though it is fortunate to have a magnificent rail station at its centre. This has attracted a great variety of immigrants of an incredible mix of culture and socio-economic variety which, when added to the locally grown spirit of entrepreneurship, has begun to transform what we lovingly referred to as “Brigadoon”, into a haven for the culturally creative.

Regional Development Victoria describes Central Victoria as sitting in the Loddon Mallee region which occupies more than a quarter of Victoria and stretches from Greater Melbourne to the northwest corner of the state that marks the boundaries with South Australia and New South Wales. The region includes the local government areas of Greater Bendigo City, Buloke, Campaspe, Central Goldfields, Gannawarra, Loddon, Macedon Ranges, Mildura City, Mount Alexander, and Swan Hill City.

Though typically dominated by large workforce employers such as councils, hospitals and manufacturers such as Don KR Castlemaine, we are beginning to see the development of social enterprises such as Growing Abundance which developed from a local project to collect unused fruit from backyard trees and prepare local feasts to feed locals who needed sustenance. I’m not sure if this was a direct response to the global financial crisis but the timing fits. This has now developed into a social enterprise managing the canteens at local schools and establishing “The Local” café in Castlemaine supplying meals from local produce and “Tiffin Dinners” which can be ordered online and seemed timed to meet the large population of executives who travel to and from Melbourne each day. The Local have released a crowd funding campaign to raise $25,000 to buy equipment for the café and to give it a kick start so that they can start putting profits back into community activities and keep the revolution rolling. If you are interested then check the info at

Another phenomenon of business in this region is the development of distributed businesses using internet infrastructure, cloud-based platforms and IP telephony. One business that I know of has its head office in a Melbourne suburb with resources based in Central Victoria and Phoenix, Arizona. This has been assisted by the early deployment of the NBN fixed wireless network in the region though Castlemaine, which was due to be serviced by fibre to the premises (fttp) has now been delivered with fibre to the node (fttn). This may have been a missed opportunity to harness the local community of creative artists with expertise in digital media, graphic art, music and film production mixed in with the science, technology, engineering and maths that also exists in this region.

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Geelong - Industry Positioning for an “Assistive Technology Economic Ecosystem”

My name is Steve Zanon and my company provides a suite of services around four principal activities:

Management Consultancy Services in:
     1. Developing and Deploying New Products and Services in Emerging Markets
               - New Commercial Operating Models
               - Business Process Redesign
               - Bringing ‘Next Generation’ Technology to Market
     2. Assistive Technology for Seniors/Ageing and Disability (primarily around cognitive and sensory decline)
     3. Educational Pedagogy for K-12 schools and VET/TAFE (IP portfolio)
     4. Senior Level Project and Program Management Services

One of my current projects involves Geelong (Vic), which is in a unique position to be a global leader in Assistive Technologies (MedTech) and an international centre for disability and aged care services development – a market sector with perpetual growth, both here and overseas.


Geelong already has the industry segments needed to create a viable “Assistive Technology Economic Ecosystem” with key convergent industries in manufacturing, health, education and insurance. A co-ordinated approach is all that is required to build on existing strengths. This offers significant economic and social benefits for the region as a whole.


The Assistive Technology Market in Australia has been estimated at $4B p.a. Asia is 60 times larger. One in every ten Australians relies on Assistive Technology in their daily lives. (ABS 2004) 9% of the Australian population under the age of 65 experience core activity limitations ranging from mild to severe. The number leaps to approximately 40% for people over 65. Unfortunately, consumer drop off rates exceed 50%. Approx 85% of Assistive Technology is currently old technology and imported. Effective Assistive Technology provision can reduce long-term care and healthcare costs, increase participation in employment and education, and significantly improve the lives of our ageing population, those in rehab or with a disability.


We’re in the process of aligning the following key industries to produce something unique in the Asia-Pacific region.


Insurance : Geelong has become the regional and national hub for social insurance. It is home to the headquarters of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), Transport Accident Commission (TAC), and WorkSafe Victoria. Together these three organisations form the backbone of the newly created Australian Injury and Disability Insurance Network (AIDIN) positioning Geelong as the centre of excellence in the field. This combined industry expertise and access to big data is unparalleled in Asia-Pac.


Manufacturing : A significant blue and white collar manufacturing skills base and engineering infrastructure exists in Geelong and manufacturers are seeking ways to diversify or transition away from the traditional heavy industry base. Opportunities also exist to efficiently recondition, upgrade and resupply used equipment, with client specific requirements driving the approach.


Health : A confluence of major health providers including Barwon Health, GMHBA, the Western Vic PHN, 42 residential aged care facilities, the recently merged Karingal & St Laurence, the Epworth and the McKellar Centre hospitals are all established in Geelong and they are increasingly focussed on research and innovation in the provision of their services. The NDIS Barwon trial site could provide the proving ground for the next generation of health care - a client centred response to the development of assistive technologies and health services, highly personalised for people with a disability.


Research & Education : Research and industry partnerships with CSIRO, Deakin University and Gordon TAFE are driving innovation and design in metals, chemicals, fibres, biotech and advanced manufacturing practices. Advanced manufacturing is gaining traction with exciting new developments in future fibre research, world first carbon fibre technology, i-manufacturing, additive manufacturing, device sensors, and more.


Logistics : Geelong’s transport assets including Avalon Airport, national road and rail links, and port infrastructure will support links into national and global supply chains.



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Angus M Robinson
An embedded manufacturing culture in the local community (arguably the strongest in Australia) is a key asset for this program.... Read More
Sunday, 19 March 2017 05:54
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Townsville Innovative Future

Resilient Townsville

Allow me to introduce myself and my region, Townsville. My name is Matthew Bulat and I have been a Townsville resident for the last 13 years including having the role of Chairman of the Australian Computer Society North Queensland Chapter for over 10 years. Networking has helped be participate in multiple community and industry groups. My background includes the industries of Information, Communication & Technology (ICT), Government and Education. This period and roles has allowed me a greater understanding of the region in terms of history, change, insights and the future.

Townsville has a City Deal signed by 3 levels of government to help define its 15 year future. This includes the topics of the port, defence bases, CBD, export growth, innovation, energy and infrastructure.

North Queensland Stadium begins construction this year bringing new construction activity up to 2020.

Both JCU and CQU universities opened new buildings this year.

Global mineral values have influenced how many fly in fly out miners operate from Townsville. We also provide some of the software used in the mining industry. Adani is expected to create a headquarters in Townsville for their new coal mine.

The port expansion to allow bigger ships has allowed large cruise ships to visit Townsville. It can also accommodate all the Australian Navy vessels types. This means more visitors to Townsville and boosts Tourism.

There are 2 solar farms starting this year to the south and west of Townsville. One solar farm is in response to high energy costs for the Zinc refinery. This bring new engineering and skills to Townsville.

Up to 14,000 Singapore troops will be trained in Townsville and Shoalwater Bay. This brings young people from all industries to see Townsville and possibly partner with local industry in the future.

Water availability is currently low in Townsville. There will be an options paper delivered this year. This may start new civil projects in the near future. There is a pilot wireless water meter system in place.

Energy Queensland will have a new headquarters in Townsville. This may prompt new research in energy efficiency, demand management, renewable energy and energy storage.

James Cook University created an off peak chilled water 12 million litre tank facility that provides daytime cooling for the campus buildings. This has flattened the energy use curve between day and night.

Kidston solar and pumped storage will begin construction this year. This uses 2 former open cut mines as a high dam / low dam hydro electricity generator. Solar is used to pump to the high dam when there is low demand.

Agriculture and the Great Barrier Reef have dependencies. Water flows need to be low in nutrients and silt. Earthworks and fertiliser application is avoided during the wet season. I helped design 3 fertiliser calculators to have just enough of the select nutrients to grow a selected crop. This saves money and avoids waste.

Townsville participated in the Solar City programme. This gained knowledge on how to manage energy creation and use. Magnetic Island provided the platform for new ideas such as solar, energy efficiency, smart meters and demand management. Magnetic Island now does not need to upgrade its electricity feed in transmission for years into the future. A Townsville house can generate 1000 kWh per month from solar.

Townsville participated in the IBM Smarter Cities programme. IBM helped create the future roadmap for a Smart City design. We now have a shared low powered wide area network that covers the whole city for projects like the Internet of Things. There are multiple environment IoT sensor network systems running.

NBN used Townsville as an early release site for testing. This helped establish 18 suburbs with NBN fibre to the premises. New high tech industries are now taking advantage of this infrastructure. The council also provides 500MB of NBN per day from the libraries, CBD, sporting stadiums and tourism attractions. I wrote up 74 ways to use and NBN connection. Business can update their business to take advantage of the NBN.

STEM education development can be seen in multiple ways in Townsville. CSIRO Scientist in School, Young ICT Explorer, Digital Careers, TechNQ / Tafe / CQU / JCU, Startup Weekend, iNQ Townsville Innovation Centre and Small Business Development Centre. My roles include teacher, participant, judge, mentor and lecturer. One of my interests is Skills Framework of the Information Age (SFIA) for ICT skills awareness, skills management and skills gap analysis. This is useful in planning startups, projects or organisations to meet their goals.

Other community desires include a Cooperative Research Centre, tropical energy, resilience from cyclones, energy security, water security, sustainability education, floating solar on our dam, cloud computing region management and fuel security. I wrote up 17 business models based on a community Resilient Townsville workshop.

Townsville of the future will be resilient, sustainable and smart. The article show how this is coming together. We can develop new ideas, confirm product market fit, create an advanced sustainable business model and scale up. The world can be our marketplace. If my website can reach 180 countries every month then so can yours.

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David Wallader
Reference is made to your report 'Resilient Townsville', Matthew and I am very aware of the political barriers of growth in the no... Read More
Friday, 17 March 2017 11:18
Matthew Bulat
One of the current issues that is limiting growth is water security. Townsville is on level 3 water restrictions and have been pum... Read More
Friday, 17 March 2017 20:30
David Wallader
As reported in a media release mid-February by Ashleigh James, Senior Policy Analyst of the Australian Water Association; "Diving ... Read More
Saturday, 18 March 2017 04:35
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new Food Accelerator opens on the Sunshine Coast

new Food Accelerator opens on the Sunshine Coast

GC picGrow Coastal Members12 excited foodies ready to excel as Innovation Centre’s Grow Coastal food & beverage accelerator program takes off

With a $12,000 boost and one of the world’s leading food accelerator experts at their side, it’s no wonder these Sunshine Coast food and beverage entrepreneurs are grinning.

From more than sixty applications across the Coast, the lucky handful were chosen for their innovative ideas, scalability and commercial viability.

The Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast, Food and Agribusiness Network and Advance Queensland are behind the three month Grow Coastal accelerator program, a Sunshine Coast first focussing on producers who are interested in scaling up fast and bringing their vision to life to deliver new food and beverage innovations to the market.

International food industry expert Tara Mei is delivering the program bringing a great deal of expertise as founder of Kitchen Table Projects of London, having supported the growth of over 500 food and beverage businesses from startup to scaleup.

“Demand for quality, innovative food products is growing faster than ever before and there is an opportunity for local businesses to capture that market,” she said.

“The participants are going to be thrown ‘in the pan’ so to speak as we explore crowdfunding, conduct research, host tastings, navigate publicity, engage with industry leaders, secure new customers and build major networks of helpful connections.”

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast's CEO Mark Paddenburg congratulated the successful participants of the 2017 Food Accelerator program for their innovative ideas and the quality of their products.

"Our region has some exceptionally high quality and innovative products and is well positioned to exceed locally and even globally," he said.

Grow Coastal's 12 participating food or beverage businesses:

Lauren Brisbane of QCamel


James Carruthers of Whole Blend


Pip Thrum of Pip's Real Food


Karen Barnett of Montville Coffee


Linda Tabone of Suncoast Limes


Jason Janetzki of Brightside Bagels


Natalie Dalton of Frozen Sunshine


Mathew Walker of Crazy Fresh


Andrew Terlich of At One Foods


Ange Jones of Sow Grow Eat

Peter Ansell of Sixty at Sixty


Matt Hepburn of Your Mates Brewing






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The Bundaberg Region - Introduction

I am Neil McPhillips and I own and operate an Economic Development Consultancy company called Starfire Solutions, based in the Bundaberg Region of Queensland.  I have lived in the small beachside community of Bargara for the past thirteen (13), having come to the region to perform one twelve month consultancy and have never left.  Much of my work is performed as the “Business Bundaberg Consultant”; I provide my services to the Bundaberg Regional Council for high-level economic development activities including investment attraction and business and industry development.

The Bundaberg region – my home, is nestled adjacent to the southern Great Barrier Reef and is the perfect place to reside.  Located just to the north of the hustle and bustle of the South East Queensland corner, the region presents a relaxed lifestyle alternative for those of us seeking to establish our roots in a non-metropolitan commercial centre with an array of industry in which to find employment.

Only four hours’ drive north of Brisbane lies this region, centered around the city of Bundaberg and the towns of Childers, Gin Gin, Burnett Heads, Moore Park and Woodgate.  With a strong agricultural history, the district presents an attractive and productive backdrop to a wholesome, family lifestyle.  Known as one of the country’s “food bowls” thanks to the famous sub-tropical climate, we are blessed with a smorgasbord of fresh delights such as strawberries, macadamia nuts and a huge range of fruit and vegetable crops.  Sugar cane was the original mainstay crop of the region but innovative and entrepreneurial farmers have diversified into many agricultural and horticultural pursuits.

The region covers more than 6,500 square kilometers, has a population a close to 100,000 and boasts diverse natural resources and facilities reflected in its off shore, coastal, riverine, city, rural and protected environments. With established export markets in horticulture, seafood, livestock, food/beverage and agri-processing, sugar cane, aviation and education, the area has abundant investment opportunities for the discerning entrepreneur.

The region’s business and industry have a proven track record in responding positively to change and competition in the international marketplace. This success is founded in a continued commitment by all sectors to invest in world class infrastructure, intellectual capital and quality management systems, together with persistent research and development. Considerable investment opportunities in value adding industries and a congenial mix of natural attractions, existing industry, raw produce, facilities and services.

So…welcome to the Bundaberg Region.  The home of Mon Repos Turtle experience, gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and iconic brand names such as Bundaberg Rum, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, Bundaberg Sugar…to name just a few.

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Phil Henry
HI Neil - you might recall we met in Longreach quite some years ago when you were doing some work for RAPAD. Great to see you on ... Read More
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 16:27
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Fitzroy and the Central West - an introduction

Allow me to introduce myself, and my region.  My name is Phil Henry and I've been a resident of this part of Australia for just under 10 years.  My wife and I live in Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast, which I can thoroughly recommend as a great place to live or just visit.

From late 2007 until mid 2015, I was Regional Director for the Department of State Development, under  different departmental names and some variation in responsibilities, but with core roles for business, industry and regional development for this region of Queensland.  Prior to that I spent just over 10 years in the department's head office, with varying roles including policy, support for the pharmaceuticals industry in Queensland and economic development components of the first South East Queensland Regional Plan.

Prior to that I was with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for some 20 years, doing a wide variety of work and including five overseas postings as Consul.

Central and Central West Queensland is probably best known for its reliance on the agriculture and resources sectors, with emphasis on the beef industry and coal mining, both thermal and metallurgical.  The coastal strip has a well deserved reputation for tourism, with destinations such as Lady Elliot Island, Musgrave Island and Great Keppel Island.

Poor seasons in recent years have had a substantial impact on the beef industry, although more recent rain has led to better conditions and, in turn, an improvement in cattle prices.  However many producers were forced to destock to some extent and, particularly in the Central West, to destock completely.

The effect of the mining boom and subsequent bust (or downturn) is probably well known already.  Typical symptoms included shortages of accommodation and labour, driving up prices for both and with flow-on effects for the rest of the economy.  At the time of writing, prices for coal have bounced back somewhat leading to the reopening of several mines in the Bowen Basin.  However longer term, the outlook for coal must be informed by reduced demand from China and possibly India, as well as the gradual transition to other forms of energy and, potentially, means of distribution.  That said, a number of solar energy projects are currently under way in the region and work has commenced on tapping geothermal energy in the Central West to supply towns such as Longreach and Winton.

In tourism, the coastal strip suffers from the lack of really "big ticket" 

As with all regions, the best detailed overview can be found at the Regional Development Australia's Regional Roadmap page, linked here.


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Carl Spruce
Hi Phil, My name is Carl Spruce and I am the Managing Director of the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) Outsource Institute ... Read More
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 12:07
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