Impact: Co-operatives in Northern Rivers

Co-operatives in Northern Rivers NSW

Co-operatives Alliance

The Northern Rivers Co-operative Alliance (CA) is made up of Ballina Fishermens Co-operative, Clarence River Fishermen’s Co-operative, Marquis Macadamias Ltd, Norco Co-operative, Oz Group Co-op, Summerland Credit Union and The Casino Food Co-op, and is an example of the benefit of working cooperatives. The CA represents the interests of co-operatives in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. The Co-operative Alliance was formed in 2014.

The BCCM provides the secretariat for the Co-operative Alliance and counts Co-operative Alliance members amongst its membership.

Agribusiness contributions to the Northern Rivers economy

The Agribusiness subsector generates significant contributions to the Australian economy each year. However, to illustrate the regional significance of some co-operative and mutual enterprise (CME) activities, SGS Economics & Planning has broadly estimated the contributions that the Agribusiness subsector makes to the Northern Rivers (NSW) economy on an annual basis.

Read the full 2021 National Mutual Economy Report.

The co-operative and mutual enterprise community of the Northern Rivers

CMEs have been part of the economic and social life of the Northern Rivers since the 1870s. The number of CMEs peaked in the early 1980s, with subsequent decline explained by amalgamations of building societies, dairy co-operatives and credit unions. One notable example is Norco, a dairy co-operative with a long history whose origins began in 1893 and subsequently absorbed a number of smaller co-operatives.

Today, the Northern Rivers remains a stronghold for CMEs, with over 30 co-ops and mutuals actively engaged in agriculture, finance, retail, housing, healthcare and medical services.

Leading Northern Rivers Agricultural co-operative and mutual enterprises

Leading Northern Rivers Agricultural CMEs

Agribusiness subsector contribution to Northern Rivers economic activity (2020)

The economic contributions are measured in terms of the ‘direct’ contributions generated by each of the Agribusiness co-ops and their producers members, as well as their collective ‘indirect’ contributions made in the Northern Rivers through their:

Purchasing of locally sourced assets, goods and services (e.g. producers buying equipment, supplies, etc)

  • Capital works expenditures in the local area
  • Distribution of profits to local residents (i.e. co-ops distributing profits to local members), and
  • Distribution of co-op sponsorships and grants to local community groups.

The table below summarises the total economic contribution estimates. They are expressed in terms of income, value added and full time equivalent (FTE) employment.

The impact of the cluster on the Rest of Australia is also included to provide a total impact.

Agribusiness Subsector Contribution To Northern Rivers Economic Activity (2020)

The results show that the Agribusiness subsector contributes approximately:

  • $2.4 billion towards income levels across the Northern Rivers (and $3.9 billion in total across Australia)
  • $308 million towards Gross Regional Product (GRP) (and $838 million towards GDP), and
  • 11,568 full time equivalent jobs across the Northern Rivers (and 19,022 FTE jobs across Australia in total).

In FY2019-20, the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry in the Northern Rivers (as defined by the LGAs of Ballina, Ballina Shire, Byron Shire, Clarence Valley, Kyogle, Lismore City, Richmond Valley and Tweed Shire) was directly worth $293 million in value added (GRP) according to SGS’s Australia’s Economic Wellbeing dataset. Given that SGS found that the direct impact of the cluster’s producers is worth $160 million per annum in value-added, this means that the agribusiness CME cluster broadly constitutes 55% of the agriculture, forestry and fishing value-added in the Northern Rivers.

The network effect: the employment impact of co-operative agriculture in the Northern Rivers

The network effect: the employment impact of co-operative agriculture in the Northern Rivers

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