The Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers committee members are local people developing local solutions to local issues. Our Committee have an active role in our community with a clear focus on growing strong and confident regional economies that harness their competitive advantages, seize on economic opportunity and attract investment.

 

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Don Page, Chair

A valued representative of the local community, Mr Page was a Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly and State member for Ballina from 1988 to 2015 and Deputy Leader of the NSW Nationals from 2003-2007.  Between 1988 and 1995 he held the positions of Assistant Minister for Public Works, Roads and Transport , Tourism, Planning, and Housing. Between 1995 and 2011 he held a number of Shadow Ministerial positions, including Forestry, Roads, Housing, Regional Development, Small Business and Regulatory Reform, Skills Development and Training and was the Shadow Minister for the North Coast from 2005. He became Minister for the North Coast and Minister for Local Government between 2011 and 2014. On his retirement in 2015 Mr Page was heralded by the local community as a true statesman and valued representative of the Northern Rivers community. Mr Page brings this wealth of knowledge and understanding of our region to the position of Chair of the Regional Development Australia – Northern Rivers Committee.

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Alex Smith, Deputy Chair

Alex has held a range of senior management positions here and abroad including working in Toronto, Washington, Chicago and Silicon Valley. Various roles both in Government and working for himself have honed his ability to initiate and maintain relationships with key stakeholders, government and industry. For the last 15 years he has been a resident here in the Northern Rivers where he has been a farmer, a small business owner and manager. Alex was CEO of RDA Northern Rivers from June 2016 to December 2017.  His involvement in local economic development projects prior to and within this role has given him a broad understanding of the issues and opportunities in the Northern Rivers. He is currently the Executive Director of Australian Blueberry Growers Association, CEO of Berries Australia Ltd and a member of the Destination North Coast Tourism Board. He lives in Ballina and believes that it doesn’t get any better anywhere than this part of the world.

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Graeme Hargreaves

Graeme Hargreaves was a macadamia grower from Dunoon until 2017, and has spent the past 23 years marketing Australian macadamias around the world. He has been CEO of a major macadamia processing company and chair or board member of several public and private companies. These included Horticulture Australia Ltd, a public company, investing more than A$100 million per annum. Previously, Graeme was an Australian Senior Trade Commissioner in Africa, the Middle East, New Zealand, South America, the Caribbean and Singapore for 22 years to 1987, assisting Australian companies to export to the countries he covered. Having spent his entire working life in export, he keeps his eye in by marketing Chilean prunes in several countries and consulting to Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd.

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Tom Senti

Tom has been a resident in Tweed Shire for the past 35 years, 15 years as an owner/operator of two small businesses in Murwillumbah and has developed, and manages, a commercial, retail, and residential property portfolio in the Tweed and SE Queensland. Tom has extensive experience in economic development, having spent 13 years as CEO and Executive Director of Tweed Economic Development Corporation contracted to Tweed Shire Council. Tom was a Foundation member of Economic Development Australia and has presented numerous papers on Sustainable Regional Economic Development at EDA Conferences across Australia, as well as providing key note addresses at Australian National Conferences and state conferences in NSW, WA, Victoria, Qld, Gold Coast and other regional areas. In 2003 in partnership with University of Queensland’s School of Economics and Policy Development, Tom developed a national award winning, economic modelling tool for Tweed and Northern Rivers. Tom also developed a number of significant projects and proposals for Tweed Shire Council, including; the Tweed NBN Telecommunications Infrastructure Action Plan; An Approach to Employment Generating Land, which promoted the development a 475 Ha Master Planned Estate Development at Murwillumbah; The Tweed Economic and Social Analysis, Health and Ageing Report; and developed the Tweed River Nature Link Project.

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Dr Susan Vinnicombe

Susan is a doctorally qualified specialist in the area of agritourism and entrepreneurship. With many years experience as an accountant, business advisor and university lecturer, Susan has advised and mentored many local businesses from the new venture phase through to growth and succession planning. Susan’s doctoral research, undertaken in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, focussed on entrepreneurs in agriculture and agritourism. In recent times she has been working on projects within the organic food industry assisting farmers to convert to organic farming practices and gain organic certification. Formerly a lecturer in the Southern Cross University MBA program she has taught both around Australia and extensively throughout South East Asia. In addition, Susan owns and manages several businesses in the region with a focus on small business development, property and agriculture. Working with the RDA board, Susan is keen to identify opportunities for regional development, agricultural diversification and economic activity in the Northern Rivers.

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Jenny Dowell OAM

Jenny Dowell OAM served more than 12 years on Lismore City Council including eight as the city’s Mayor. During that time Jenny was also President of Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) for four years and sat on various national committees including the Infrastructure taskforce and the High Speed Rail advisory group. Since retiring in 2016, Jenny has become a Mayoral Mentor with LGNSW assisting Mayors around the state with their challenging roles. Prior to her entry into local government, Jenny combined her 45 years as a teacher of deaf children with governance roles in the social sector. She continues to be an active member of the Lismore community, including in her role as Deputy Chair of Northern Rivers Performing Arts (NORPA) and on many other committees. She is Patron for 6 local and regional organisations and is sought after as an MC, panel participant and advisor. In 2017 Jenny was named an Honorary Doctor of Southern Cross University and awarded an OAM for her services to local government and the community. Jenny brings a deep understanding of governance and a broad knowledge of the Northern Rivers community to the Board.”

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Mike Pearce

Mike is a passionate regionalist and has been living and working in regional Australia for the past 18 years. He started his career in the meat industry and during his 30 years was involved in every aspect of the industry. This includes all areas of production, marketing and international trade, as well as industry representation at both committee and board level, executive management and as a company director. Mikes passion for regional communities started when he was a small business owner in a small South Australian regional town. He has been involved with and lead numerous local boards and committees, Chaired the Southern Flinders Regional Tourism Authority and assisted in the amalgamation of three South Australian regional development boards to form Regional Development Australia Yorke and Mid North, for which he was the inaugural Chair. He moved to the North Coast in 2012 and was Senior Regional Coordinator for the North Coast Regional Coordination Branch (Taree to Tweed) in the office of Premier and Cabinet. In this role he was able to actively involve himself in regional aspirations, collaborating with, and coordinating, the three tiers of government. Before retiring in 2017 he worked with the Richmond Valley Council on economic development projects. His passion for regional communities remains. As a team player and partnership builder Mike continues to use his collaboration and coordination skills to help bring about common purpose across diverse regions and groups.

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