As the world transitions to a digital economy, the Northern Rivers is well placed for growth in digital industries. Improving regional internet speeds are breaking down geographical barriers to regional work and lifestyle choices. Digital professionals now need only a fast internet connection to gain market share. This allows for lifestyle options that include beach, forest and rural living, which have long served as an attraction for film and media professionals.
It is a key priority for the Northern Rivers region to take advantage of opportunities that have arisen from the rapid growth in new technology across industries. Many traditional industries that have underpinned the local economy, including agri-business, manufacturing and the service sector, are undergoing significant technological transformation. The interpretation of these changes into a regional context and the distribution of knowledge, practices and technologies are critical to ensure the local industries remain competitive, nationally as well as globally. Increasing the value-adding to these industries is a high priority.
RDA Northern Rivers commissioned pre-feasibility study, Digital Content Production as a Driver of Economic Development in the Northern Rivers Region was released in November 2017. Digital content production includes software development, special effects, game production, film and television production, cyber security and creation of digital learning objects. As new technologies are adopted across industries, the demand for digital content grows.
Cumulus Visual Effects was established in 2010, from the humble beginnings of their founder, William Gammon’s garage. With a laptop and a vision to create remote visual effects as a service, Will tapped into the independent film market, offering cost effective solutions to low budget films. After a few years of proving the workflow, Cumulus VFX began to spread its wings and take on larger packages of work and move into the wider area of post production and beyond. The expansion is now providing employment for twenty digital content professionals, all working at Cumulus HQ in Habitat, Byron Bay. Some of their recent projects include National Geographic’s MARS, the Australian SciFi film SFv1, Air New Zealand’s ‘Fantastical Journey’ famous safety video, the Australian sci-fi feature Occupation and international block buster Peter Rabbit.
New ‘gig-economy’ industry development is now being considered as a real opportunity. The region has already developed a national and international reputation in a variety of digital economy driven sectors. This reputation is behind a drive to seek investment into this industry to establish a regional hub for film, television and digital content production. Potentially there could be a number of digital precincts in the region, providing fast broadband access and opportunities for collaboration.
RDA Northern Rivers and the Digital Economy
Since 2011 RDA Northern Rivers has been engaging with the Northern Rivers business and industry sector about adopting digital technology to support business growth. The planning commenced with a Critical Industries Survey of likely high speed adopters of fast broadband. This was published in 2012. Following the survey, RDA Northern Rivers partnered with the NSW Department of Industry, Southern Cross University, NOROC and North Coast TAFE to develop the Northern Rivers Digital Economy Strategy. Published in November 2013, the Strategy set out key principles and actions to move the Northern Rivers into the digital economy.
In 2016 RDA Northern Rivers engaged the Digital Economy Group to engage with key stakeholders in the region and develop the Northern Rivers Digital Activation Plan. This plan identified priority actions to support the uptake of digital technology by business and industry in the region. In response to this, RDA Northern Rivers has been engaging within industry sectors. The Digital Content Production as a Driver of Economic Development in the Northern Rivers Region pre-feasibility study was then published in 2017.