So it turns out being blue is a good thing. With saltwater in our veins, the residents of Byron and Northern Rivers shire know and understand the call of the sea. There is a healing, a connection, and a restorative vastness that our towns enjoy as they cradle the coast on the far eastern shores of Australia.
We have a knowing and a feeling about the connection to water and it is palpable by the hundreds of thousands of visitors who join us each year, and water has been a significant driver of capital gain in our local property markets as urban dwellers feel the call of the sirens to our coastal water.
Researchers at the University of Exeter found that proximity to water was strongly correlated to ‘happy’ environments. Although the structure of the research is quite unique, the researchers found that closeness to water increased happiness by ‘six-points’ and described the significance of that difference as the equivalent between doing housework and going to an exhibition.
The research also showed that people who visit the coast at least twice weekly are likely to have better mental and physical health.
As advocates and storytellers of the lifestyle in our town, water is a critical pillar.
Water has a significant cultural significance for the First People of our area, the Arakwal mob. The Brunswick River, for example, was a traditional ground for ceremony and trade. There are important Dreamtime stories associated with the waters and inlets around Julian Rocks and Brays Beach and White Beach are important hunting grounds for Aboriginal people.
The natural beauty of the area shows movement and geological form for millions of years. Sedimentation, coastal erosion, and the channels and gullies that give our natural environment its architecture are all the artefacts of water and movement.
Our modern economy and pastimes are deeply connected to the water with sport, tourism, even award-winning gin distillery and brewery – they are all inextricably linked to our water.
Yet, in a world where issues of stress, mental health and loneliness are the chief public health concern of our time, what the Blue Space Research indicates is that the psychological and restorative benefits of our proximity to water might be a life-sustaining force for us, far beyond simply drinking it.