Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has been recognised for helping the community emerge from adversity with two economic development projects named a finalist in the National Economic Development Awards for Excellence.
Council's Bicentenary event program is one of three finalists competing for the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion award. The successful program showcased the region, its people, and our stories through 50 events across nine days in April this year.
The event was delivered in collaboration with the volunteer Bicentenary Working Group during a particularly challenging time for the region.
In the wake of the March flood events and on-going COVID gathering restrictions, the Bicentenary event brought people together safely to reflect on the region's past, celebrate the present and look forward to an inclusive and positive future.
Liesa Davies, group manager of economic and cultural development, said that the successful event program was a nod to the hard work of her team and the volunteer working group, and proved the region's strength as a lively cultural destination.
"Despite all the challenges faced, we presented this spectacular event which not only shone a light on our beautiful home, but also on our incredibly rich and diverse and at times challenging history," Ms Davies said.
"And with the assistance of a dedicated volunteer base in the lead up to and during the event period, we were able to present new experiences for locals and visitors incorporating our Aboriginal and European heritage, while bringing some much-needed economic activity to our region."
A key feature of the event program Wakulda, was an immersive sound and lighting projection on the historic courthouse in the Port Macquarie CBD, funded by council and the Australian government.
This installation, which continues to show nightly at 6.30pm and 8.30pm, tells important stories that make up the rich history of Port Macquarie from the Birpai people, as the traditional owners of the land, right through to the present day.
In addition to this nomination, council 's nomination for its Motorcycle Friendly Wauchope community has also been recognised as a finalist for the Community Champion Award.
Council worked to launch Wauchope as NSW's first Motorcycle Friendly Town in 2016.
Community volunteers, Jenny Pursehouse and Todd Taylor stepped forward at the launch event to ultimately lead and drive the campaign, and over the last five years they have created economic opportunities for tourism operators and local businesses.
At least three Wauchope cafes now trade on Sundays to service the increased number of motorcycle tourists visiting throughout the year.
From the initiative spawned Motofest - an annual event attracting a dedicated audience of around 1,000 bike riders and spectators each year.
In 2020, Motofest was one of only a few events that went ahead after adjusting to a COVID-safe format. The online event went on to attract over 60,000 local, national and even international viewers.
"Motorcycle Friendly Town Wauchope and Motofest are unique examples of community led, council supported initiatives with their success directly attributable to our community champions," Ms Davies said.
"Economic Development Australia is the national peak body for economic development professionals, so it's a huge win for both Council and our community to be recognised on such a prestigious level.
"It says to us that what we're doing is innovative and worthy of recognition amongst other leading regions. We're proud to be recognised as finalists, and look forward to the announcement of the winners."
The Economic Development Awards for Excellence winners will be announced during the virtual National Economic Development Conference between October 13-15, 2021.
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