There has been growing talk about the rise of the circular economy in the Bega Valley, which came to a head Tuesday with the launch of a new co-operative between businesses, banks and education facilities.
The plan to create this innovative new agenda for the Bega Valley was launched by executive chairman of Bega Cheese Barry Irvin and Bega Valley Shire Council general manager Leanne Barnes.
A circular economy is all about reusing and recycling resources, using intelligent design principles to make businesses work more efficiently and disposing of waste in a more resourceful way.
Sam Avitaia from the University of Wollongong opened the discussion with Djiringanj and Ngarigo elder Ellen Mundy who presented the story of the Bunaan Rings, which are significant ceremonial circles said to have been created about 700 years ago by First Peoples in the Bega Valley.
The local history presented by the First Australians was highlighted in order to introduce the idea that the local economy needs to move beyond a linear structure and innovate to become circular, with a nod to the traditional custodians of the land who managed it such.
Labelled as being a potential game changer for the Valley by Mr Irvin, he spoke to the fact this was largely a passion project for him in order to create an economic solution that is viable for the future of the planet and its people.
"It's pretty much recognised globally that the linear economy is creating a lot of problems for us and what we mean by linear economies is take, make and dispose."
He continued by suggesting that currently resources are simply turned into something and then disposed of.
"91% of the world is still a linear economy, it's only 9% of the world that can claim any level of circularity where you keep resources in the economic system as long as you can."
Mr Irwin said words such as "sustainability" and "global emissions targets" are now terms of the past. "Circularity is the language of the future so you move beyond sustainability."
The aim of the project, which incorporates local council, businesses and universities will be to create Australia's first net-zero footprint region over the next 10 years with the intent being for public benefit.
Bega Cheese suggested the main beneficiaries will be local enterprises and farmers across small, medium and large enterprises committed to delivering circular economy projects.
The main sectors to benefit include agriculture, forestry, environmental services and food manufacturing as well as tourism, health and wellbeing.
The Bega Valley Circular Economy Co-operative will lead and enable projects within the Valley. One such area that the co-operative could help businesses with would be grant writing.
Monies for the various projects will come directly from various government funds, grant programs, the BVSC and businesses like Bega Cheese, which has already pledged $5million towards a community facility and innovation hub in North Bega where its factory and information centre is located.
The idea then being that the business project or endeavour could be facilitated to have talks with investors such as Bega Cheese, KPMG or Rabobank, or alternatively private investors.
Potential partners for these projects could also be the BVSC, NSW Circular, or Regional NSW.
"We have had great input from state agencies and a whole range of other groups in terms of pulling the project to where it's at now," said BVSC general manager Leanne Barnes
"This is a region that's been devastated by natural disasters... but one of the things I think this project brings to us and to the university is that we don't want to be defined into the future as disaster prone. We are going through recovery and looking at resilience.
"This is our opportunity to take on a modern renaissance through the Bega Valley and lead the world through that- so a renaissance, a rebirth and revival through learning and wisdom.
"What an opportunity with an innovation hub supported by a university in our place to work with a large multinational company and the community," said Ms Barnes.