Visions of Gwydir Shire in 2030

June 24, 2016

The new and reinvigorated committee of Vision 2020 is planning the next steps in developing a Vision for 2030.

“We would like to thank our sponsors for the ‘Presidential’ night – Community Mutual (whose ongoing support enables us to facilitate a number of stimulating events each year), Bingara IGA, and The River House, and to thank all who attended and contributed to the discussion, Vision 2020’s Vice President Garry McDouall, said.

Armed with ideas gleaned from the 2030 Summit, the Amanda Cahill training weekend, and from the ‘Presidents night’, Vision 2020 is not in a position to encourage the wider community to add to the ideas bank. The ‘Presidential Address’ from Tanya Heaton, one of four who spoke at the recent ‘Presidents night’, is reproduced below:

PRESIDENTIAL REPORT 2030 My fellow Gwydirians, As my term in office comes to an end, I would like to thank you for the support that you have given me during my time as president. It has been an hour and privilege to serve you. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were a little Shire under what seemed like a continual threat of amalgamation.

We didn’t meet all the criteria to be “fit for the future”, but haven’t we shown otherwise. Our Republic is now the envy of many. Our current population of 15,000 is steadily climbing thanks to community-based long-term planning and a clean, green philosophy.

When our Shire became a republic 14 years ago, the first thing (besides electing a president) was to organise a congress of equal numbers of men and women, with each having experience relevant to their elected position. For example:

The Congressman/woman for Health had a vast medical background The Congressman/woman for Education had an extensive teaching background The Congressman/woman for Agriculture an extensive farming background The Congressman/woman for Youth Affairs was under 30 years of age … to name a few.

Each of these leaders in turn were responsible for networking and liaising with representatives of small communities within Gwydir to address important issues.

Yes, the first few years of transition were hard, but we made plans for the long-term rather than embracing short-term resource endangering activities. The health and well-being of citizens and the environment were always taken into account and resources available to each community identified and utilised. The North end of Gwydir had beautiful soil and climate for cropping and growing of produce, the South wonderful grazing country and beautiful river and old theatre to attract the tourist dollar.

So, what has all the long-term planning achieved?

1) First Gwydir boasts a solar CORE project (a Community Owned Renewable Energy source), which now provides us with cheap renewable, clean energy for electricity, heat and fuel. This project continues to build community participation, resilience and empowerment and employs locals to provide and maintain the service.

2) In 2016, it was identified that the global organic industry was the fastest growing food category with demand outstripping supply in most developed countries. Around this time, many local farmers in Gwydir became interested in learning more about Biodynamic and Organic farm practices.

Thanks to the Living Classroom they were able to undertake the training needed. In 2018 our government initiated a training program encouraging these farmers to share their knowledge with local schools.

This resulted in the establishment of many school gardens where children to this day grow, harvest and prepare their own food. Between the farmers and children, locals now have an abundant supply of fresh, natural produce. These farmers today are experts in their field and their product and expertise is highly sought after.

Many farming apprenticeships are now in place and the younger generation appear keen to remain in Gwydir to make a living off the land.

3) Then of course there is our landmark industrial hemp industry. Yes, I was there to see the first reaction of local farmers to the suggestion of growing industrial hemp. I was there when the consultant explained that the major difference between marijuana and industrial hemp is that the later has virtually none of the mind-altering THC that marijuana contains.

I was also there to hear that it is one of the oldest crops known to man and that the British Empire grew it to make strong sails for their fleet. How it could sequester 1.383kgs of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of plant and how it could be used to produce textiles, paper, rope, biofuel, nutritious stock food, building materials, cosmetics, inks, act as soil carbon builder and replace plastic, wood and paper. Virtually pest resistant and requiring 50% less water than cotton, this multipurpose crop showed potential, especially if there were to be a change in annual rainfall due to climate change.

A baby industry in 2016, Gwydir was fortunate enough to embrace this popular eco-friendly product early and is now a leader in the growing of organic industrial grain crops. Originally using entry-level on-farm mills to process the product, Gwydir is now nearing completion of a new processing plant, bringing more work opportunities.

Product continues to be transported by the new Inland Rail at Northstar so it can be shipped locally and overseas. Foreign demand for this product continues to grow and we are at present discussing further options for growth in this sector.

4) Today, Gwydir has a reputation for being clean and green. Besides producing a wide range of organic produce, we are now a popular destination for those wishing for a treechange or those who just want to escape fast-paced city life.

Coolatai features a popular artists’ retreat and offers fauna bushwalks. Warialda Farmers’ Markets are rated as one of the best in Northern NSW. In 2025, the annual local Honey festival expanded into a Honey and Food Festival showcasing local produce.

Bingara’s now famous “Wellness Centre” features services from a range of local holistic health practitioners who also offer a range of workshops at the Living Classroom. This centre, well utilised by the grey nomads has helped to increase the volume of tourists into the town. Discussions are currently underway with community representatives to establish a Health Retreat, which will provide further employment opportunities. Another venture that has attracted further visitors to town is the High Tea and Movie days started by Roxy Café Manager Robert Taylor in 2018. This monthly event centres around a central theme with some more notable ones being Screen Legends, Sci-Fi and The 80’s.

Living the Gwydir Goodlife has never been better. I look forward to the future with much optimism. Thank you all again most sincerely for your support, hard work, co-operation and shared vision. Looking back over the last 14 years, I can honestly say that we are truly “THE MOUSE THAT ROARED”.

Tanya Heaton
– Retiring President