The Northern Rivers Joint Organisation has launched its priorities for the region.
The Northern Rivers Joint Organisation has launched its priorities for the region. Contributed

Northern Rivers councils lay down top priorities for region

GREATER access to public transport, providing more social housing and boosting employment opportunities across the region are the top priorities for the newly formed Northern Rivers Joint Organisation (NRJO).

Made up of the six Northern Rivers councils, Ballina Shire, Byron Shire, Kyogle, Lismore City, Richmond Valley and Tweed Shire, the NRJO launched its four-year strategic regional priorities plan in Murwillumbah today after months of deliberation .

Providing framework for the region's future, the plan looks at the five key regional priorities that have been identified by the organisation in collaboration with government, business and industry partners.

The long-awaited cohesive plan prioritises protecting biodiverse natural environments, improving community wellbeing, connecting the region, promoting sustainable energy, water and waste and providing a diverse regional economy.

The group met at Tweed Shire Council on Thursday to workshop the first five priority project areas the NRJO will move forward with in the short and long term.

A big focus will be on increasing social housing in order to meet the state average of 4 per cent in any given community.

"We'll be looking at how the social housing stocks are fairing at across the region,” Kyogle Council Mayor and Chair of the NRJO Danielle Mulholland said.

"Social housing stocks in the Tweed are just over 2 per cent, Byron's is less than that and social housing in Kyogle is basically non-existent.

"We want our region to be on par with the state average of 4 per cent.

"That'll take lobbying and advocating to the state government.

"I'm hoping this will become an election issue. It's reaching a critical point.”

Other priority projects NRJO hope to achieve will also be accelerating road repair programs across the region, developing the Rous Regional Watershed initiative, the NR Renewable Energy Investment prospectus, removing or redistributing the waste levy and removing benefit cost ratios from funding criteria.

The group also aims to be granted UN biosphere status.

Cr Mullholland will head to Sydney on March 7 with the 12 other Joint Organisations (JO) from across NSW to meet with government ministers and discuss each region's priorities ahead of the March 23 state election.

"What we're trying to do through our JO is that we as a region work with all levels of government to achieve outcomes,” Cr Mullholland said.

"There will be more (priorities) to come as we tick off the projects.

"The NRJO is uniquely placed to deliver regional initiatives across traditional council boundaries thereby ensuring a stronger region with access to funding and opportunities not available to individual councils.”

The NRJO strategic plan will be implemented alongside the North Coast Regional Plan 2036 and the Northern Rivers and Tweed Regional Economic Development Strategies 2018-2022.