Nearly 300 industry bigwigs boarded the plane to ‘Bowradise’ on Wednesday.
They strapped themselves in, prepared for ignition and let their imaginations take flight during a symposium driven to stimulate ideas for the future of the Mid North Coast.
Attendees were given ‘passports’ at check-in as an invitation to think outside their own local government areas and explore the region.
Bowra local Kerry Grace and her team at Regional Development Australia MNC masterminded IGNITE MNC as a way to show off the potential of the region’s small towns like Bowraville.
“Bowraville has the highest rate of volunteers, per capita, in the state,” Ms Grace said, addressing the crowd.
And in true form, Bowra locals each had a part to play in the theme of the day—as airport security (complete with weapons detectors and sniffer dogs), check-in personnel, cabin crew, ‘Golden Wings’ lounge attendants, or as in-flight entertainment.
The main street’s venues got to show off their hospitality with a dozen venues providing refreshments and in-flight meals that far surpassed the usual plane fare.
WATCH: Highlights from the day
During lunch, the TAFE-devised Opportunities Hub in Grants Hall gave start-ups, entepreneurs and service providers a chance to showcase their ideas and initiatives.
Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, addressed the crowd in the morning, giving a run-down of the current and future infrastructure and trade developments the federal government is coordinating, including the Pacific Highway upgrades, and plans to expand the global market for the Australian blueberry, macadamia and dairy industries.
Mr Hartsuyker added that he was very fond of decentralisation.
“There is a lack of cognisance of the competitive advantage of regional areas by managers in metro areas,” Mr Hartsuyker said.
But the ability of a company to offer staff a lifestyle choice as well as work opportunities is something that’s growing on people.
SMO’s founder Pete Jeans said that his company is ‘proof in the pudding’, after successfully deciding to relocate its centre of operations from Sydney to Port Macquarie.
The day’s speakers were divided into three panels centred around the key concepts of collaboration, innovation and self-determination.
During the ‘collaboration’ discussion, panellists highlighted the need for collaboration through the sharing of resources, reaching out to those who are diametrically opposed, and letting go of territorialism.
John Gilmore from Adele House Limited likened collaboration to using a knife and fork; a harmony achieved through diversity in functionality.
He mentioned the new Organic Co-op in the region which saw agri-producers across the region starting to come together to share freight costs, information, and increase their ballast in the marketplace.
Kellon Beard from the NSW Business Chamber talked about plans to bring cruise ships into Coffs Harbour— an initiative that he says will have an economic flow-on effect to the whole region through a collaborative process.
During the innovation panel, Dr Ben Vaughan, who heads up a team of industry global leaders producing printable solar cells at Newcastle University said that “geography doesn’t limit innovation—you can be innovative anywhere”.
Keynote speaker, Todd Sampson, delivered a rousing address on neuroplasticity, dispelling many ingrained myths about age and the ability of the brain to change and grow.
He outlined the four actionable tasks behind his philosophy for improving brain function, and triggering creativity and innovation: Forced adaptivity, attention control, visualisation and emotional regulation.
“Entering corporatism is like getting hit with a freight train of conservatism,” Mr Sampson said.
“And multi-tasking doesn’t exist. It should be called sub-optimal-tasking.
“Because you cannot do two attention-rich tasks at a time.”
In the final panel, Lifetime Connect’s Paul Sekfy outlined his principles for self-determination, which lie in an investment in ‘soft infrastructure’: people.
“Sustained peak performance is achieved because people want to, not because people feel they have to,” Mr Sekfy said.
In a way, self-determination is like the neuroplasticity of development.
Kim Thomson from the Department of Family and Community Services said that, in her experience, self-determination is achieved through supporting communities to find their own solutions.
“If you want to help someone, then shut up and listen,” Ms Thomson said.
“I’m very much about aspirational-based plans, rather than addressing needs.
“If you fund needs, then more needs crop up, and sooner or later that bucket of funds runs dry.”
So, what direction for Nambucca?
Paul Sekfy outlined his ideas to Guardian News for the future development of Nambucca Shire.
“I have a dream that Nambucca will grow the best tradies in Australia,” Mr Sekfy said.
Mr Sekfy believes that the idea that the Valley is driven by the agricultural industry is a romantic notion of past eras.
He believes the dominant industries in our Shire for some time now are health, education and community services, with a dash of manufacturing.
And he is frustrated at the fairly myopic focus of our education system on a progression to university.
“People discount the need for people to be makers, not just thinkers,” Mr Sekfy said.
“There are lots of positions in the army of change, and there is a dearth of qualified tradespeople in our area.
“If you do a trade here, you’re going to make a good living.
“And of course one of the biggest advantages is that you don’t start your career mired in student debt.”
He believes that by resuscitating our local training colleges, Nambucca could see itself well-positioned for the future.