Promoting the benefits of country living

September 2, 2008

Sydney people who say they can’t let their children play in thefront garden were among many who enquired about moving to the Gwydir Shire during Country Week.

Gwydir Shire staff, Jenny Mead, Danielle Perrett, Sara Marle and Mandy Pilon represented Council at the three day expo at Rosehill Racecourse, which has now been running for five years. Comments made to staff members seemed to have a common theme of discontent with city living and included: “Our children can’t play in the back yard unsupervised let alone out the front or walk down to the shops”, “I haven’t seen a sun-rise or sunset in years”, “To own a home here you have to give up asocial life and be prepared to com-mute usually”, “The area where we live has become so violent I’m hardly game to leave my house”, “We want to start a family and have no intention of doing that while living in the city”, “It’s not a safe place for kids now compared to 20 years ago”, “Can you park down the street all day and not get booked and get a park in front of the shops?”

All of these comments and questions provided great opportunities to talk about the country way of life, and the wonderful facilities and communities that the towns and villages within the Gwydir Shire have to offer. The team travelled down on the Thursday before the expo taking everything needed for the display with them in two vehicles.

While it was a bit of a challenge getting all equipment down there in one piece and keeping everything dry, it meant a considerable saving on hire costs for furniture and allowed for a unique presentation. The stand was designed to represent a country lounge room and evoked a considerable amount of good feedback on how well thought out the concept was and how wonderfully it was presented. It also generated interest in local produce particularly arts and craft.

Feedback given to Country Week organisers was that the Gwydir stand looked terrific and that the staff were bright and cheerful, making everyone feel welcome to stop for a chat and to get information.

Over the course of the three days staff extolled the virtues of living in the country, particularly Gwydir. With use of local knowledge and information answered questions and offered insight into the types of sports played, what events occur, weather, water supply, community amenities and medical facilities etc.

Two hundred and fifty information packs containing brochures, tourism information, real estate information, up coming events flyers and small novelty giveaways were given out and 176 people were scanned as visiting the stall.

The actual number of people spoken to is estimated to be much higher closer to over 600 as there were a lot of family and extended family groups, with a very high percentage of young families either with young children or those thinking of starting a family being very keen on relocation.

While numbers on the second day were a little down on previous years due to the running of a race meeting at the venue, the event still produced a lot of enquiries which appeared to be from people genuinely looking to relocate out of the Promoting the benefits of country living Jenny Mead, Sara Marle and Danielle Perrett at this year’s Country Week Expo exhibition city to a more rural location.

The key  things that most people were looking for in communities they were considering a move to be were; safety, good medical facilities, good schools, affordable lifestyle, amenities such as shops and job prospects. A diverse range of people visited the stand, including a microbiologist, a dentist, plumbers, a nurse, and a number of other people.

Follow up on Country Week will include a letter of thanks and the offer of more information to those that visited the Gwydir stand. Promotional material is “on the drawing board” to bring tourists through Narrabri to Bingara, a meeting of Rocky Creek residents was told last Wednesday. The meeting, which was held in Rocky Creek residents, Don and Jenn Capel’s garden, was called to let residents know what Vision 20/20 has planned for the promotion of the Killarney Gap Road section of the east-west link from Coonamble to the coast, which has seen great activity this year.

The plan is to have the initial information available in time for the Motorhome rally in Bingara in October. Don Capel, who has a keen interest in the project, welcomed residents to the meeting and encouraged them to think how they could contribute to the project. Vision 20/20 member, Carmen Southwell out-lined to the gathering what has been discussed so far, with a heart-felt explanation as to why she believes it is important to continue to promote Bingara as she “would hate to see it become a suburb of Inverell.” Tourism officer, Jen Mead also attended the meeting.

Carmen reported that Vision 20/20 President, Rick Hutton is working on a geological tour along the road, focusing on five resting spots. The first would be Sawn Rocks, second would be Killarney Gap itself, third is the Glacial Area, fourth would be the Horton River and the last stop would be the Benbraggie Hills near the property, Zaba. Rick has written a geological explanation of each of these stops. Residents were enthusiastic about the potential for the project, Staff also had several requests for the Gwydir Learning Region DVD.

Mandy Pilon has represented Council at several Country Week events. “Overall while numbers were down a little on previous years and given the costs involved, the benefits of participating in the expo are still very high, not only from an economic development view but also from a tourism outlook by getting the Gwydir Shire into the minds of people and having them look over the mountains when thinking of re-locating or a vacation,” Mandy said.