Photography: by Port Macquarie Hastings Council

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Photography: by Port Macquarie Hastings Council

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Port Macquarie is located on the mid-north coast of New South Wales.  Once known as a place to retire, the region has transformed to inspire a new and emerging sense of place.  The area hosts a Farmer’s Markets, 40+ restaurants and cafes, regular live music, and vibrant public places, Port Macquarie Hastings’s pull factors are dramatically changing the region’s demographic make-up.   The population over the past 10 years has increased by 10,000, approximately 14% increase across all age groups.  Part of this transformation has been attributed to the change in the way the Port Macquarie Hastings Council (Council) has engaged with the local community. Two years ago, the organisation decided to adopt a philosophy of place-making. This journey has enabled Council to reach out to different members of the community to develop a new vision, rebuild trust, and foster community pride.  

The Council’s place-making approach is to work in partnership with the community so that people connect with each other and feel a greater sense of ownership to the place. Council has empowered local community groups, business, and individuals to share their ideas and turn them into reality.  An accolated strategy adopted by Council was the introduction of a $500 grant program, My Place is Ace, to promote community ideas to help regenerate a community space and place.   Council encourages community groups and individuals to share their bright ideas and apply for grants to fund events, activities, or programs that promote and activate the public space. As well as get involved in co-creation projects partnering with Council to make a difference in their communities.  

As a result, the community is engaged, and working in collaboration with Council, to improve the area and make Port Macquarie more inclusive. In the past 12 months, over 31,500 people have collaborated, engaged, and participated in projects and events that have invigorated PMHC sense of place, such as:

  • Fire Water Harvest Festival;

  • Tastings on Hastings: Celebrating local produce;

  • Art Walk: Collaborating with business and creative industries to recognise the local creative industry and support new ideas;

  • Portraits of Memory:  commemorating the region’s past through photography and outdoor projected exhibitions:

  • Street- Food Festivals: Showcasing local restaurants in new manners;

  • Pop-up Art Sessions: Where local artists take over a public space in our town centres and involve the community in creating a piece of art;

  • Educational Seminars on Start-up Businesses: Bringing experts to town to educate and inform local businesses, property owners and individual with big ideas how to develop those into a viable business opportunity and then finding then a place to develop that - incubating ideas and giving them a place to grow

  • Art for Conversation: using the creative sector to start conversations about how to make the place different through street art, sculpture and outdoor exhibitions

  • Street Art Development: partnering with businesses and property owners and using the local buildings to develop mural, street art as well as mentoring young people and community groups to be part of changing the face of our place through art. This has had a flow on effect with community groups developing their own programs such as “House with No Steps” and “if we all had wings” who have started developing their own street art to raise funds and develop personal skill sets.  and;

  • Community Development Initiatives such as the Mrs Yorks Garden, a group of volunteers that have transformed a part of the Port Macquarie headland into a garden with seating and interpretative signage and the Beach to Beach Riverwalk, a community and Council partnership where over 100 volunteers’ have commenced the development and installation of an 11.5km footpath along the beautiful Camden Haven foreshore.


The business community has also recognised the economic and social benefits of investing in our public spaces and support the process of Place-making for Port Macquarie.   As a result, Council is confident that adopting a Place-making philosophy will only lead to positive change in the area, and is committed to working with the community on new initiatives and programs that develop a greater sense of place and pride.