Highway bypass gives new hope for Lower Richmond’s heart
IMAGINE floating down the river, glass in hand, lazily watching the Richmond River glide slowly by while you enjoy the gentle hum of a paddle steamer.
This could be one of the exciting futures for the Lower Richmond River region as it embraces a future bypassed by the Pacific Highway upgrade.
The new Pacific Hwy will pass between Woodburn and Evans Head and to the east of both Woodburn and Broadwater which it now passes through.
Richmond Valley Mayor Ernie Bennett suggested the paddle steamer as an "imaginative example" of the possibilities for enterprising local businesses in the towns of Woodburn, Broadwater, and Coraki.
"If we can encourage private enterprise to get involved with the river, that might be one way people could be attracted off the highway," Cr Bennett said.
The Lower Richmond towns face a once-in-a-generation transformation when the upgrade shifts passing traffic off their main streets. Richmond Valley Council has taken the initiative by calling a meeting in Evans Head next Thursday to discuss economic development opportunities arising out of the historic change.
Mayor Bennett said it was about "thinking outside the box" and seeing what solutions were possible. "It's about attracting people and giving them a great reason to pull off the highway. Our first approach is to talk to the community and see what options they have," he said.
The bypass makeover
GETTING a post-bypass makeover is not a new experience for North Coast towns and villages. Byron Shire's Brunswick Heads and Bangalow were bypassed in the 1990s, and more recently Alstonville and Ballina.
Wendy Grissell ran Bangalow's Splinters Cafe in the 1990s and recalled the big change. "A lot of our businesses relied on the passing trade," Ms Grissell said. "We lost all our morning and afternoon trade for 12 months. We were left with our local lunch trade."
But after a TV ad campaign, shop-local discounts and Christmas windows to encourage shopping, the town was transformed.
Ms Grissell said it was an "all-town effort", particularly from then Bangalow Chamber of Commerce president Tony Jones, who lobbied Byron Shire Council to put in new footpaths, a refurbished public toilet and plant trees.
"I think you've got to turn visiting the town into an experience," she said. "If you'd gone through Bangalow in the 1970s you would have thought you were in a Third World country... all the potholes and boarded-up windows. Now it's just amazing. That's got a lot to do with it being bypassed."