Woodlark Street in the Lismore CBD. PHOTO: Digital Mischief
Woodlark Street in the Lismore CBD. PHOTO: Digital Mischief Marc Stapelberg

'We're telling 16yr olds they need to leave town to succeed'

THERE is a missing generation of Northern Rivers residents aged 18 to 48 we need to claw back to this region in order to prosper.

That's the view of Australia's leading demographer Bernard Salt, who has crunched the numbers for The Northern Star, as part of its Future Northern Rivers initiative.

With the population of the Northern Rivers expected to grow by 50,000 by 2030, Mr Salt believes the 18 to 48 demographic will become increasingly important.

They are more likely to still be working full-time, paying taxes and contributing to society by participating in schools and volunteering.

"We need to stop celebrating people from Lismore and the Northern Rivers who have succeeded and become famous somewhere else," he said.

"Otherwise we are telling 16-year-olds they need to leave town to succeed.

"Instead, we need to celebrate the 28-year-old bricklayer or hairdresser who opens a business, trains apprentices, is involved with a sporting club and is very much part of the community."

Mr Salt said one of his predictions for the Northern Rivers is for its population to increase by more than 11 per cent in the next decade.

"The Northern Rivers, and here I am also including the Tweed, will see another 50,000 people move here by 2030," he said.

"And Lismore, like other towns, will need to stop the exodus of young people aged 18 who leave to study and don't return until they are around 48."

Mr Salt said while the region's workforce, innovation focus, economic diversity, infrastructure and overall growth trajectory could see it flower, a critical element was to slow the exodus of young people fleeing to the city.

As the region's population increases, he said, more pressure would fall on towns to celebrate and retain their talented and successful residents.

Mr Salt said from the age of 18, there's a visible demography shift in regional Australia.

"While this is a rite of passage and Australian protocol to go to the city for tertiary education or training or job opportunities ... we need to create a culture where they want to come back earlier," he said.

Mr Salt said Lismore ticked the boxes with excellent university and TAFE opportunities, as well as being within striking distance of Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

In June, Mr Salt will speak at the Future Northern Rivers forum in Lismore, which will be sponsored by The Northern Star.