We cannot just plug along as we always have


The Clarence Valley has and always will be a beautiful and ancient place to call home. There is no doubt that we are the luckiest people on Earth to inhabit such an ecologically diverse region.

Within a single day we can visit multiple beaches, climb mountains, bush walk through pockets of remnant rainforest, birdwatch natives on untouched wetlands, meet people from all over the world and even visit a farm for a cuddle with a cow, enjoying a hot coffee.

We’re rich with alluvial soils, toasty sunsets, explorable rockpools, crisp waves, freshwater swimming holes, a community full of heart in every little village, hard workers, Aussie lunacy, genuine character and old-world charm.

While it is my genuine thought that we are truly blessed, it cannot take away from the realities our region faces. People are struggling. The cost-of-living crisis has been discussed so in depth of late that we almost seem to be numbing to its meaning. It is a crisis, and many are at the brink, with another rate rise predicted for August, many are left hanging by a thread wondering when, if ever things will return to normal. And what even is normal anymore? We’ve clung our woes to floods, fires, pandemics and now this, “The Cost-of-Living Crisis” which seems to have been spawned during our hardest of times. How will we ever move on?

The price we pay to live. It is simply too high for many. It has pushed our community to the edge, literally. Not only our Valley but Australia wide, people, families, locals are losing their homes and now seek refuge in their cars, tents and caravans at the edges of many towns. It is a worrying time when many of our community’s poorest are employed full time.

Yet, here in the Valley, we continue to rely on tourism to sustain us and pull in wealthy retirees from the cities to fill the overpriced, mass-produced houses under the guise of affordable housing often built on filled land, directly contradicting common sense considering our flood prone region! And of course, we expect these new wealthier residents to pay the rates, which are used to maintain our services.

If we could get more people into homes, we could spread the burden of ratepayers over a larger pool. If we supported and promoted small business effectively, we could employ more people. If we came to terms with our natural disaster-prone area and foreplaned sensibly, the inevitable impacts and consequential costs may be reduced. If we held developers accountable, prevented land banking and incentivised building within specific time periods to deliver the homes we desperately need, we just might over time, get back on track mentally, emotionally and financially as the vibrant, energised community we once were.

We cannot just plug along as we always have. Something must be done. Prioritising people before profits, community before corporations. Shifting our focus from being a regional drawcard to being a home, at least in the short term. In doing so, we might just regain the ability to provide not only a stunning landscape for our kids and guests to visit but a sustainable, environmentally friendly and affordable place for our future generations to settle down, create memories and raise a family of their own.

Cristie Yager, Ulmarra