Talking up the Tweed
By LUIS FELIU
MEET Bobbie Hodge - one of the faces set to entice tourists to the Tweed and North Coast in a $4 million television advertising campaign.
The 72-year-old great grandmother from Uki features in a 45-second television ad by Tourism NSW promoting the fascinating natural beauty and attraction of the North Coast region to metropolitan audiences.
NSW Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation Sandra Nori launched the campaign promoting NSW's regional areas at the weekend.
Ms Hodge's brief but effective appearance in the ad has been praised by Tweed MP Neville Newell who said she had done a great job at promoting the area to Sydneysiders.
But the quietly-spoken Ms Hodge was a little surprised when she found out late last year she would "star" in the North Coast ad.
"Friends of mine in Murwillumbah who run a casting agency rang me to see if I was interested in trying out for an audition and I thought, well why not," she said.
"Twenty people auditioned for the small part and videos of each were sent to an ad agency in Sydney which picked my one.
"I don't know why they did really, I figured they picked me because they're trying to appeal to an older age group ... the whole idea behind the series was to choose ordinary people who actually live there," she said.
A mother of five, grandmother of 14 and great grandmother of seven - many of them living in the Tweed - Ms Hodge has lived on the North Coast for a quarter of a century "because it's the best place on earth".
"I love the area, its people, the climate - there's nowhere else I'd want to live and besides, all my kids are nearby and within half an hour's drive from my place," she said.
"I grew up on my father's dairy and wheat farm on the Darling Downs then moved to the Gold Coast in the early 1950s - when it was a very sleepy, lovely little place - but progress actually pushed me further south all the time because I like to have trees and space.
"I've lived around the North Coast since.
"I have travelled all up and down the East Coast. I haven't made it west yet, but I want to."
Ms Hodge's children and grandchildren have contributed to the area in many ways - as artists, musicians, business owners, swimming teachers and sporting representatives.
Mr Newell said the State-based campaign was unique in that it used local identities to sell the region.
"Bobbie Hodge explains why there is no better place to visit than the North Coast", he said.
Ms Nori said Sydney was the biggest, most lucrative domestic tourist market in Australia and the campaign "reminds Sydneysiders of the magnificent attractions right here on the North Coast of NSW when they are planning their holidays," she said.
The North Coast features prominently in the campaign, alongside four other commercials promoting the NSW High Country, Heart of Country NSW (west of the range from Tenterfield to the Murray) and the Outback.