Lismore City Council has positioned itself to lobby for big ticket public funding and private investment with the development of the new Lismore Prospectus. The document was presented to local state and federal politicians at a jam-packed breakfast launch on 8 October, with the aim of the prospectus ending up on the desks of cabinet ministers in Canberra, senior civil servants in Macquarie Street and private investors throughout Australia.
At the launch, NSW State MP Thomas George said that he’d be able immediately to put the prospectus to good use, whilst Federal MP Kevin Hogan announced that he’d established a high-powered task force to maximise outcomes from the document.
The 32-page Lismore Prospectus provides a comprehensive guide to private sector investment and public sector funding in a bid to attract multi-million dollar investments and projects to the city whilst promoting the benefits of Lismore. These include the city’s role as the business centre of the Northern Rivers, a stable and skilled workforce, the largest retail and professional services sector in the region, a business-friendly council and excellent transport links to Sydney and Brisbane.
How it came about
The prospectus is the brainchild of Lismore City Council’s executive director for sustainable development Brent McAlister. Brent explains that until the production of The Lismore Prospectus, Council would tend to approach potential investors for specific projects on an ad hoc basis: there was no single document that encapsulated Lismore’s growth prospects and key offers to potential private and public sector investors.
“Now we have the perfect tool to sell Lismore,“ enthuses Brent. “Reaction to The Lismore Prospectus since the launch has been so positive we’ve had to organise two reprints and order extra thumb drives for the e-version of the document.”
Mick McKinlay, Managing Director, North Coast Petroleum – “Factors such as the availability of talented people to build our team, along with the cooperation we receive from Council and local business houses, have all contributed greatly to the success of our business. I have the utmost confidence in the economic future of Lismore.”
Dr. Austin Curtin, Surgeon, St Vincents Private Hospital – “The new infrastructure being built on the Lismore Base Hospital site will lead to the development of clinical academic departments. I predict that this will be the basis of a new explosion in medical services in Lismore.”
The Lismore advocates
As Lismore’s Mayor Cr. Jenny Dowell explains, “Before producing The Lismore Prospectus we agreed that it was important to feature one of our greatest strengths – the people who make the city ‘tick’ and who have achieved success in their respective fields. We describe them as ‘Lismore advocates’ and their belief in the city’s prospects for growth is immediately apparent.”
The Lismore Advocates are from sectors such as health, education, business, development, the arts and sport. A sampling of these individual champions is included in this feature, along with their (abridged) supportive comments which appear in the prospectus.
Lismore’s role as the regional hub
Lismore City generates almost $2billion in GRP annually and the Lismore LGA is host to some 4,000 businesses and over 20,000 jobs. The city is serviced by daily commuter flights to Sydney, with easy access to international flights out of the Gold Coast and the freeway to Brisbane. Health, education, community services and retail trade are the dominant employment sectors in Lismore, with construction, finance, insurance, property and business services expanding significantly of late.
Lismore’s workforce has the highest level of bachelor degree and post graduate qualified workers in the Northern Rivers and the city also enjoys the highest level of vocationally trained workers in the region. With an annual budget of $130m+ Lismore City Council is also a key employer in the LGA, providing over 400 jobs directly.
In a reflection of Lismore’s role as the regional hub, the city has seen considerable construction and development activity of late. Major projects completed recently include Southern Cross University’s $28m hi-tech Learning Centre, the $10m renovation of the Woolworths Lismore Central shopping centre, the construction of Council’s $15m Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre, the construction of the $6m Gateway Motel accommodation and conference facility, the building of a brand new $10m Woolworths supermarket and retail premises at Goonellabah shopping centre and the $6m refurbishment of Lismore City Hall.
Recent development at the South Lismore Industrial Precinct has been matched by significant investment in land for residential housing by the Lismore Catholic Archdiocese and private sector developers. These activities have been complemented by the first stages of a $270m expansion of Lismore Base Hospital.
Projected population increase
The Lismore Local Government Area’s current population is 44,700 and is predicted to grow by 5,900 residents over the next 20 years. Lismore’s population is growing at a sustainable level, with the city’s residents maintaining the highest household income for the region. The major factor helping to generate population growth is the employment opportunities contained within the major economic growth sectors which underpin Lismore’s position as the ‘heart of the Northern Rivers’.
Julie Dickson, Founder & Managing Director, Black Sombrero – “As the epicentre of an acknowledged clean, green food bowl, Lismore is superbly placed for a business like Black Sombrero: we benefit from having top quality fresh produce at our fingertips and a Council that is on the ‘ war-path’ to reduce red-tape for its business constituents.”
Karey Patterson, Founder , eReserve – “Lismore is an innovative and creative hub that provides fertile ground for global ventures such as ours. The city punches above its weight in terms of services and facilities and there is a large and well educated population of university graduates that seek work here.”
Key growth sectors in lismore
This sector cements the city’s strategic regional importance and includes:
- The Lismore headquarters of the Northern NSW Local Health District, with a staff of 3,600;
- Lismore Base Hospital, with 985 employees and currently undergoing massive changes, including the staged expansion of the Lismore Base Hospital and construction of a 520-vehicle multi-story car park, at a total cost of $270m;
- The Lismore Health Precinct, which is primed for new medium density housing and other development;
- St Vincents Private Hospital campus in East Lismore: voted one of the top 10 private hospitals in Australia in 2015; and
- Southern Cross University Health Clinic, which is currently servicing 7,000 patients per quarter and expanding rapidly.
Lismore contains important tertiary, secondary and other education assets, including:
- Southern Cross University, which contributed $220.8m in gross regional product, $135.1m in household income and 1652 full-time equivalent jobs in the Lismore LGA in 2013; and
- The University Centre for Rural Health (North Coast).
Lismore is also the administrative centre for the North Coast Institute of TAFE and home to the largest number of public and private primary and secondary schools in the region.
Lismore has the greatest number and widest range of professional service providers in the region, including:
- Major state and federal governmental institutions such as health, justice and community services; and
- Accountants, legal practitioners, financial institutions and investment advisors; and
- Town planners, surveyors and other specialist services linked to building and development.
The city has the largest number of Real Estate agencies in the region. Other significant economic sectors and elements contributing to Lismore’s current success and future growth prospects include tourism, agriculture, the arts, residential development, retail, transport, industrial services and the ongoing revitalisation of the CBD and nearby riverside recreational precinct.
A snapshot of investment opportunities in the prospectus
Potential private investment opportunities in Lismore include a medi-hotel and serviced apartments for the medium-density health precinct around Lismore Base Hospital; a large transportation hub in South Lismore; a major events and entertainment centre on the outskirts of the city; and large greenfield developments to provide housing for Lismore’s projected population increase of just under 6000 people over the next two decades.
Public sector funding opportunities include the Lismore Quadrangle project that encompasses relocation of the Lismore Regional Gallery; Lismore Park being redeveloped as a ‘destination’ recreational facility such as Hyde Park in Sydney; and major infrastructure upgrades such as a bridge over the Wilsons Rivers on the edge of the CBD, to service North Lismore Plateau, and a major new road, the Goonellabah Link, which is planned to alleviate traffic density on Ballina Road and the Bruxner Highway.
Many more business and investment opportunities have been identified. These are summarised on the ‘at a glance’ advertisement on the accompanying page – and covered in more detail in the document.
Adam Gilchrist, Australian test cricketer – “I have fond memories of playing first grade cricket in Lismore at the age of 14 as a student at Kadina High, and it is exciting to see the planned development of Oakes Oval –the home of cricket in the Northern Rivers. I can think of no other regional sporting hub in Australia with as much potential for so many sporting codes as Lismore.”
Ben Lamont, CEO, North Coast Cabinets – “We made the move from Casino to the South Lismore industrial estate to be close to many of our suppliers, and to establish a stronger presence for our current and potential customers. Lismore has provided us with such strong growth in operations that we are now planning to build our own greenfield factory here in the near future.”
A business-friendly council
Lismore City Council has earned a reputation as a proactive organisation with a proven track record of assisting partners involved in major planning projects, developers and business in general. Council’s economic development manager is responsible for significant procurement and partnering initiatives and is the single point of contact for existing businesses that need support in such areas as finding new markets, relocating to Lismore, or upskilling their workforces.
Help for developers and business investors
Council has a ‘can do’ approach in terms of new development; routinely providing pre-lodgement meetings to ensure all issues and information required from applicants are identified upfront. Council employs an experienced strategic property development manager for major developments, and the services of an in-house urban designer are brought to bear on larger DAs. In regard to the future rezoning of residential land, Council offers a fee-based and unique design charrette service for larger rezoning projects.
The organisation is committed to making continuous improvements: it conducts annual development industry satisfaction surveys and holds regular focus group meetings to ensure that the assistance offered to developers and business is relevant, consistent and effective.
For more information visit The Lismore Prospectus to view a pdf or emailable version; or contact Mark Batten, Manager Economic Development, Lismore City Council.