New year, new you, Nambucca.
With our stretch of the highway more-or-less completed, there is a growing sentiment out there that our community’s story can now be written into two distinct volumes: BB (Before Bypass) and PB (Post Bypass).
Such has been the impact of the alleviation of holiday traffic on our roads that many have actually enjoyed the silly season for the first time in decades.
Bowra St is business as usual
But while shoppers are happy, do our local retailers feel the same way?
Macksville seems to have formed the consensus that business is booming, but Nambucca Heads is a different kettle of fish.
The town has already gone through the rigmarole of a partial bypass once before.
And for the retailers on Bowra St, most have not noticed a difference in trade.
“It’s been mostly positive for us,” realtor and owner of the men’s gift shop Craig Bellamy said.
“In terms of real estate, we’ve had people coming from Coffs because it’s better value for money here.
“And there are a lot of people who don’t want to live in Kempsey even though they work there.”
Trevor Edwards from Coastal Warehouse doesn’t believe it’s made any difference to his business.
“But you can’t tell with all the holiday makers still about the place. I guess we’ll find out next month when they’re all gone,” Trevor told the Guardian.
“I think what this place needs is a bigger variety of shops – there are too many employment centres and no employment.”
Sadly, we may see a reduction in variety before we see an increase, as Trevor and his wife are ready to bask in their golden days of retirement and have put their shop up for sale.
Pam Pearse of Roberts Real Estate loves the new highway, but feels that Macksville and Nambucca Heads have been disadvantaged by a shortage of off-ramps along the new highway section.
The Plaza persists
Further along the river, the effects of the bypass are being felt for the first time.
With the flow of holiday traffic now cauterised and the skeletal remains of two fast food franchises obscuring the view, how have the Nambucca Plaza’s small business owners been faring?
Nigel Wilbow of SportFirst says its just too early for him to tell how the bypass has affected him but he’s been noticing a downturn over the past six months.
“There are probably lots of different reasons for it. When the world changes, it takes about 18 months for it to reach here. And the world has been going through some big changes recently,” Nigel said.
“This time of year we used to sell heaps of snorkel sets, but if you go down to the river, everyone is now just sitting there in front of their phones.
“And pensioners have had their pensions cut and are buying cheaper shoes than they otherwise would have.
“It’s also possible that a lot of the highway construction workers have moved on to other sections now.
“And maybe people just aren’t going on holidays as much now.”
The Nambucca Plaza Newsagency is living out its final days of trade, but there’s no truth to the rumours of Millers’ demise, according to Kerrie Grant.
“No, we’re pretty well good here,” Kerrie said.
“Most people didn’t know we were here anyway because there’s such poor signage.
“Customers would stumble upon us when they stopped in for Maccas or to go to the toilet.
“I think what we need now is more advertising – promote the place and get everyone back on board.”
The public gives its two cents’ worth
Before the bypass opened to traffic, Guardian News asked its readers what ideas they had to contribute towards ‘future-proofing’ the Nambucca Valley.
The response was overwhelming and we have collected a variety of interesting proposals to shore up our towns’ future prosperity.
The majority of ideas for Macksville aimed to accentuate the river, and by extension, River St.
“Strengthen community events like the Macksville Gift but really promote the use of the river more – locals and tourists could benefit from that,” Nerida Blackford said.
“Work on making River St a great place to walk through with boutiques, cafes, outdoor eating etc. all in a relaxing atmosphere,” Glen Wilkie said.
Jackie Duncan was in agreement and said she would even like to see the retail end of River St completely pedestrianised.
While Teagan-Leigh Ballangarry would love to see a Valley-wide farmers’ market and stalls on the Macksville river bank.
Aaron Gittoes had this brainwave:
But Gary Grenenger thinks that tourist gimmicks won’t work and what is really needed is for the river to be dredged, being the main star of the show.
Nambucca Heads got a look-in as Adrian Simonfi shared his pearlers.
“Nambucca needs to advertise itself on massive highway billboards on what it has to offer – pristine untouched beaches,” Adrian said.
“And why doesn’t Nambucca knock the Plaza down? Rebuild it as waterfront living, a new estate for whoever wants it.”
Adrian also suggested that new barbecue facilities were needed around the Nambucca Heads waterfront, and that Valla could maybe do with some of those beachside bars that you come across in Thailand.
Meanwhile Barbara Ramos was bristling with great ideas for the whole Valley and suggested that we “promote the region as a mecca for photographers, birdwatchers, artists, writers, grey nomads or foodies.”
How about a combined food/heritage and art/sculpture trail for the region? Think buffalo, wine, pubs, chocolates, Bowras verandahs, our beautiful river, beaches, rainforest. Now imagine some great scuptural/art works at the same location.
“Also, we have the v-dubs and hot rods, maybe we can entice clinkers (boats), mustangs, vintage cars and bikes (would look stunning with Bowra as the backdrop).
And Elizabeth Bond was on the same bandwagon of thinking holistically, advocating for a Valley-wide strategy to tackle the issue.
“We need a strategy! To bring together all of these good ideas...look at what the Macleay has done,” Elizabeth said.
“They rebranded themselves and this is much more than a tourism site – it is part of a broader campaign that includes business, regular newsletters, social media etc. Let's take a leaf out of their book, get some funding and get serious.”
Where to from now?
A reminder that there is still a week remaining to get your Community Futures Grant applications in.
The Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Foundation (RASF) is offering an opportunity for community-minded people to be awarded up to $25,000 in funding for a community project in their local area.
Projects that involve collaboration between people in your town and deliver sustained and broad community benefits will be highly regarded, and could count for a fair few of those listed above.
Nambucca Shire Council general manager Michael Coulter has also said that he would be happy to receive ideas which would then be considered by council arms like the Business Advisory Committee.
Mr Coulter can be contacted at this number 0409 153-788, or via this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Teresa Boorer is the council’s grants officer and is incredibly knowledgeable about all upcoming government funding streams.
Contact the council at 6568-2555 to ask if there is any way they can help to make your community projects come to life.
And finally, join your local Chamber of Commerce.
It is only through active engagement and determination that anything gets done at all.
This place we call home will only ever be as good as we make it.