There was movement at the station, for the word had got around, that the new Nambucca Heads service centre had opened from today.
The centre was meant to open at midday but the launch was delayed until pedestrian safety signs had been delivered and installed.
Cars, trucks and caravans were lining up at the gates from early in the morning.
Workers on the project say that people have been mistakenly driving in and trying to fill up for months prior to its opening.
The first customer at the pump was local Nambucca Heads man Aaron Penfold who was on his way home from his butcher shop in Urunga.
Aaron’s fuel purchase was fully compensated as the first official customer.
“This is great, I didn’t even know it was opening today, I was just on my way home from work and needed diesel,” Aaron said.
“It’ll be handy for me ‘cos I head up to Coffs all the time for fishing.”
The mood on the ground is one of excitement and relief after two years of planning, construction and testing.
The centre is built on Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)-owned land and was put out to tender in February 2014.
The service centre is a joint project between RMS, BP and Rampage National which operate 38 other service stations across Australia.
Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey welcomed the opening of the new centre.
“As well as providing a safe area for rest breaks, the service centre helps promote local services and facilities to travellers to encourage motorists to visit local towns,” Mrs Pavey said.
“Today’s opening was planned so the service centre and rest area would be available for use by the time Macksville and Bellwood are bypassed.”
There is still no official update from RMS as to the end date of the Macksville bypass.
The BP Roadhaven cafe staff were in full swing from this morning, warming up the coffee machine and stocking the carvery and cakes cabinet in preparation for their first customers.
Patrons with a 3am hankering for T-bone won’t leave unsated with the centre, including the Roadhaven cafe, operating 24/7.
But it is rumoured that lovers of fried chicken will have to wait until October for the new KFC and MacDonalds restaurants to be fully fitted out.
The BP houses 20 regular fuel pumping stations and a separate high-flow diesel station for trucks.
There are 16 fast-flow diesel pumps available which will cater for trucks making their way along the Pacific Highway from Brisbane or Sydney.
Reports from ground crew are that the old service centre at Clybucca has been retired from today after suffering a lag in revenue after the Pacific Highway upgrade bypassed it.
The closure of the service centre means that once the Macksville bypass is in operation, the new Nambucca Heads facilities will be the only highway stop for trucks between Kempsey and Coffs Harbour.
The Macksville Caltex is still being used as one of the main pitstops for trucks in the meantime.
Macksville local Scott Kennedy was a member of the civil crew working on the project and said he was one of six locals employed for the construction phase.
Scott said one of those six has been offered ongoing employment with the centre’s operation team, but also said that most staff at the new centre have been transferred from the now defunct Clybucca service station.
Mothers with small children are catered for with the inclusion of a small playground and nappy-change room facilities.
Other amenities include shower cubicles, a 240-seat dining space, ATM, gas bottle exchange and laptop and mobile phone charging station.
Outside, the carpark caters for 109 cars, 32 trucks and six caravan/trailers.
The design of the centre incorporates local identifiers including panoramas of the valley’s iconic waterways and beaches.
The photographs used belong to local photographers who were approached by council for the project.
One of the photographers is retired social worker Chris Hewgill.
Chris has eight large-scale images displayed in and around the toilet and shower block.
Chris took up photography more seriously after a heart-attack forced him to give social work a rest.
He says that photography has had a remarkable healing influence on his life, and is excited to have his photographs in such a visible location.
“I’m just stoked,” Chris said.
“They’ve come up really well.
“I think it’s important to capture the beauty of Nambucca Heads and remind people of what’s here.”