Analyst Bernard Salt.
Analyst Bernard Salt.

Coffs must diversify

TREND forecaster and leading social commentator Bernard Salt says the Coffs Coast is not alone in experiencing a downturn in its economy.

He says other coastal economies including the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay are experiencing the same pain as rates of (population) growth have slowed down. The government has put the brakes on migration and the sea change movement has slowed down.

“People are worried, so they are staying in their jobs in Sydney and are less likely to pull their equity out of their house and move to Coffs Harbour and retirees are staying put,” he said.

“The high Australian dollar is making places like Bali, Fiji and Hawaii very attractive so the number of Australians holidaying overseas is skyrocketing and people are less inclined to take a road trip up the coast.

“There is no magic wand – when you look at each of these drivers they are not capable of being altered locally – regions get caught up in bigger global and national shifts.

“The only protection you have as a region is economic diversity. You have to diversify the economy so you are not solely reliant on retailing or tourism or construction.

“The Coffs Coast needs to develop its education for jobs for the future – it has the SCU and has some manufacturing capacity.

“Coffs Harbour has been developing very successfully as a central place for public administration, both state and federal.

“If strategic decisions had not been taken 20 years ago, the impact today would be double.”

Mr Salt said the city’s size of more than 70,000 meant it was among the top 25 cities in Australia.

The forecaster said the healthcare market was the most rapidly growing sector in NSW after mining and the demand for those skills would increase – for nurses, dental technicians and a whole range of ancillary health skills.

Utilities like power, water and waste were other possible growth areas; adding a military component had worked well for other regions and science was another area to look at, he said.

Mr Salt said diversifying the economic base was the key to regional success and the Coffs Coast should be looking to benchmark itself against regions like Toowoomba, with its multi-pronged reliance on the military; education, agriculture and government departments or Albury-Wodonga, another well-balanced regional centre with a diverse economic base.

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