A GROUP of university students last month visited the Narooma district to explore ways the region can cash in on the television show River Cottage Australia.
The show airing on The Lifestyle Channel on Foxtel is being shot at the River Cottage property at Central Tilba and filming on a second series is set to begin early next year.
The show in its first season was the top-rating show on The Lifestyle Channel capturing the attention of thousands and thousands of viewers.
Now a group of four students studying a Masters of Commerce degree at The University of Sydney Business School are investigating how the region can leverage opportunities and exposure to grow the regional economic impact as a result of the TV series.
Masters student Litia Kirwin explained the idea to focus on River Cottage Australia came from lecturer Peter Herbert, who is a huge fan of the both the British and Australian versions of the show and who lectures the Enterprise and the Creative Industries class at the school.
The investigation is actually being undertaken as part of the Remote and Rural Enterprise (RARE) program, which creates two-way learning and development exchanges between graduate students and enterprises in remote and rural Australia.
Ms Kirwin said the four students met with host Paul West and his girlfriend Alicia Cordia at the River Cottage property when they visited for four days last month.
“One of the positive things we heard from people is how the host Paul has been very inclined to get involved in the community,” she said.
“Everyone was really positive and the area is so lovely with so much going on already, you just coordinate it all and bring it all together.”
Their main point of contact was Eurobodalla Shire Council commercial manager Sarah Cooper.
Meetings were arranged with a range of local entities with direct involvement in the show, including Laurelle Pacey from the Narooma Oyster Festival, Eric Dibden from the ABC Cheese Factory at Tilba, Maz Youlten at The Dromedary Hotel, Stuart Whitelaw from Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE), Matt Deveson from the Whale Motor Inn and Narooma Chamber president Orit Karny Winters.
The students also met with local indigenous leaders and other businesses.
Through action-research projects and community placements, students are required to adapt their business skills to specific community needs and new socio-cultural contexts.
RARE coordinator Noah Stewart said engagement with real business challenges and communities was intended to increase students' entrepreneurial capability as well as benefiting the enterprises in the region.
“There is potential to build on the River Cottage project with another intake of students and also to possibly to expand into other economic drivers of the region, including the newly launched Australia’s Oyster Coast,” Mr Stewart said.
Ms Kirwin said one main report would be produced looking at the potential impacts of the show and how entities such as the Eurobodalla Shire Council can start measuring those impacts and take advantage.
The students would also be writing individual essays on their observations and would also probably be back for a holiday, she said.