The North Coast has a diverse economy and is home to several major centres including Tweed Heads, Ballina, Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree and Grafton. Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay are popular tourist destinations that underpin the region's strong visitor economy. Proximity to Newcastle and Sydney in the south and to the Gold Coast and Brisbane in the north helps drive industry and exports from the region.
With its enviable lifestyle, the North Coast is a 'sea change' destination for many retirees. This has contributed to its steady population growth and rising median age (43 in 2011). Of the almost 670,000 people expected to call the region home by 2031, it is estimated around 30% will be over 65.
The impact of an ageing population is already noticeable. Demand for health care services is rising and a relatively low proportion of people aged 20-34 live in the region (12.8% compared with 16.0% for Regional NSW). While these demographic shifts pose challenges, they have helped drive strong employment growth in the service sector. This is particularly the case in health and aged care, with associated spillover benefits to other industries.
The region has a relatively skilled population – 55.6% of its residents have post-school qualifications, compared with 53.7% for Regional NSW.
The North Coast has the highest number of businesses in Regional NSW (21% in 2011), with the number of local jobs growing by 3.2% between 2006 and 2011.
However, in 2011 unemployment was still higher than the average for Regional NSW (8.2% compared with 6.2%). This was influenced by particularly high unemployment in Nambucca, Greater Taree and Kyogle. Unemployment rates for both youth and the Indigenous population were around 3% higher than the regional average in 2011.
In 2013, the North Coast region contributed $20.6 billion to Gross Regional Product (GRP), representing 15% of Regional NSW's total GRP ($137.7 billion).
Download the North Coast Economic Profile