Elizabeth Hepburn

Nominated by the NSW Government for a business visa, Elizabeth (Libby) Hepburn and her partner Alan are turning the NSW Far South Coast into an eco-tourism hot spot.

A slice of paradise

Far south coast, NSW

‘There’s no other place I’d rather live’, says business migrant Elizabeth Hepburn, who first visited the spectacular far south coast of New South Wales (NSW) 20 years ago and fell in love with the region. ‘This is one of the most beautiful places in the world.’

Unique business opportunities in regional NSW

Ecotourism: The Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre

Over the years, Elizabeth (who’s known as Libby) made many trips from her home in Scotland to explore the far south coast, initially on temporary visas and later on visa NSW-nominated investor visa with her partner Alan. This longer-term visa allowed Libby to have greater involvement in several community works, one of which was the development of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre in Eden.

The centre attracted $2 million in combined funding from the NSW Government and is now a key tourist destination in the region. People from all over the world can come to the beautiful area of Eden to better explore and appreciate its natural assets through initiatives such as the Marine Discovery Centre.

Libby’s interest in the environment and helping people get closer to nature was a driving force in establishing initiatives such as the centre. She also had valuable skills as a former business owner and consultant in Scotland, where she’d helped deliver important infrastructure to fragile, rural communities. Libby’s interests and background put her in a good position to bring her ideas to life in Australia.

NSW nomination facilitating business success

Ecotourism: Tanja Lagoon Camp

When the Department of Home Affairs introduced the state-nominated Investor visa (subclass 188B), then 888B, which allows migrants to remain in NSW permanently, Libby jumped at the chance.

The visa simply required an investment into government bonds, but Libby was keen to further apply her many skills and interests in the region and went about setting up the Tanja Lagoon Camp in Tathra. For Libby, this was particularly rewarding as it enabled a local deep wilderness expert to be employed in the region, which might not otherwise have been possible.

She set up the camp in partnership with a couple who were deep wilderness guides and for years had wanted to return to their family property to bring up their children on the far south coast.

Tanja Lagoon Camp features sustainable, eco-sensitive building designs and business operations. It is based around luxury safari-type accommodation in a small pocket of privately owned land on the edge of a breath-taking coastal lagoon surrounded by national park.

Libby says the response from the local community has been amazing, and the camp is now considered to be a real jewel in the crown of the tourist industry for the area and a big asset to the region.

‘Being nominated by the NSW Government for the investor visa gave me the opportunity to do something in this little-known area that’s interesting and fits with our philosophy of getting more people to realise how delightful it is down here—the nature particularly—and the many opportunities for sustainable businesses that are possible here ’, she says.

Embracing change

Information Technology: IntoIT Sapphire Coast

Libby is a big believer in technology as a great enabler. ‘Many modern businesses can be anywhere in the world, so why not attract investment and new kinds of job opportunities to this unspoiled region?’ says Libby. She is one of the founding members of IntoIT Sapphire Coast, which was set up to attract technical and IT businesses to the area. As part of this program, Bega Valley Shire, in collaboration with Wollongong University, is the first regional centre to receive funding from the federal government’s Incubator Support Program to develop its Innovation Hub.

‘This is a fantastic opportunity, and one of the reasons we like being here’, says Libby. ‘There are very talented people—sea changers and tree changers—who have come to live and work here. We are working together to develop career opportunities for young people in this area.’

Life in regional NSW

Becoming a local

Libby is now ingrained in the far south coast community. She has made friends with people with common interests and has developed a great local network.

Not being one to rest, she keeps herself fully occupied by chairing the Global Sustainable Development Goals and Citizen Science Maximisation Group, as well as being a founder and advocate for the Australian Citizen Science Association.

Libby is very proud of her thriving and innovative businesses. ‘I feel very much at home’, she says. ‘I’m in a perfect location that’s blessed with good climate, many opportunities and unspoilt nature and the business investment visa is the perfect way to show our commitment to this place.’