Warialda residents are eager to learn what is to come with the newly proposed ‘greenspace’ near the town’s centre.
Well, Mayor for Gwydir Shire, John Coulton, wants to set the record straight.
“It’s a good block. It fronts Hope Street and goes right through to the Highway, in a north-south direction,” he said.
“There has been some concern in the community about buildings being demolished, but we are going to leave the historic bakery there and pull down the timber structure.”
The prosed plans for the property were originally put out to the community for consultation. Ideas included more greenery areas for caravans and parking, shade options and opening up more access to other businesses in town. However, the community felt the conversation ended there.
“When there was no follow up people started to panic and think they were going to knock everything down and there is going to be a big mess in the middle of town,” said Laura Cush, Secretary for Warialda Chamber of Commerce.
“They were worried Council would do this and they would not even have a say.”
Council admits community consultation has dropped off, an issue they plan to rectify with a community meeting on May 4.
“Unfortunate circumstances have interfered with community consultation, but there is a public meeting coming up next week.”
“Anyone from Warialda will be able to ask questions and hopefully get the story straight. There has been some misconstruing going on,” Mr Coulton said.
Warialda Chamber of Commerce has become the voice of the people on this matter, helping to relay information back to residents and business owners. The community’s interest was heightened, almost quadrupling the number of attendees to local chamber meetings seeking answers. The chamber wrote to the council seeking further clarification on what to expect.
“It will be an urban space and an access from the highway straight into the centre of town which will feed off into the businesses,” Ms Cush said.
“So rather than having to park down at the bottom end of the street and walk up or park on the highway, it will create a parking space in the centre of town.”
“But also, a greenspace where we can have markets and our Christmas tree.”
“It would mean we could lose some buildings, and that seems to be the big issue with a few people, saying they didn’t want these knocked down as they are old buildings,” she said.
As old as they may be, Council says some buildings need to go.
“The timber building is old and beyond use,” Mr Coulton said.
“It would cost a fortune to bring it back. Plus, we want to open it up and let people walk through.”
“We are hoping to get access across to Stephens Street so that there is access to the bakery and supermarket, that will be just foot access.”
Most commercial premises in Warialda are occupied and the local chamber has been active in working with landlords to make affordable rent offers and entice new business to town.
“There has been new business come to town, the Koala foundation, a few beauty and hair dressers. So, we would only have a hand full of spaces available,” Ms Cush said.
St Vincent de Paul closed its doors last month, opening up a new opportunity for town, but locations are slim and getting less if buildings continue to be knocked down.
The local chamber wants to work with Council to make sure this important location is used right.
“Our goal is to work with the council for the best outcome for the community, so, it is in our best interest to work with each other,” Ms Cush said.
“We have asked for a public meeting; people want answers, and we need better communication.”
“It is the centre of town and it is really important that council do a good job and make it a place people want to stop. Adding to our community not taking away”
“You can’t please everyone, but we need to make sure everyone is informed and giving them their say. It’s their money, it’s their rates, so they are entitled to their opinion and their say.”
Gwydir Shire Council will be putting in a DA to demolition the shed and timber structures and for further development.
“I think it will be a massive improvement and something that Warialda needs.” Mr Coulton.
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