Emotions high about main street

EMOTIONS were running high last Thursday night when residents feared the prospect of main street upgrades in Airlie Beach were being delayed again.

State Planning and Infrastructure Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe offered for the upgrade plans prepared by architect Gary Hunt to be looked at by the Department's Board for Urban Places - something that usually costs thousands of dollars.

“I want to make an offer to this community to ensure we can get the absolute best out of this project,” he said.

But this did not sit well with locals who said they were frustrated with the idea being put off and on the agenda for at least a decade.

The plans to redirect traffic through Waterson Way, fix the storm water issues and beautify the main street by making it more pedestrian and environmentally friendly, come with an estimated price tag of about $50 million.

With designs all but complete and talks underway with government departments, the vision remains stagnate while Council awaits confirmation of State funding.

Concerned residents stressed the urgency to the Minister.

Tourism Whitsundays chief executive Peter O'Reilly said the upgrade was essential for the tourism industry of the Whitsundays.

“Tourism is in absolute crisis,” he said.

“We know how to market to the overseas markets but they are not coming here because there is no developments.

“We have to get back to some common sense plans before it kills us once and for all.”

While Minister Hinchcliffe said he recognised the importance of the upgrade, he would not make any funding commitment.

“I am confident we will see a great project supported in this region,” he said.

Premier Anna Bligh told the Whitsundays Times last week that the State Government would look at the main street development in next year's budget.

What they said

  • Peter O'Reilly, Tourism Whitsundays CEO- Tourism is in absolute crisis. It's not because we have forgotten how to market. It is because we have stopped producing tourism products. We are putting regular hurdles in front of people that make it impossible. It is a massive issue for us. It is jobs in tourism and it is a new product in tourism.
  • Jim Wort, Mandalay Road resident- The problems of the main street had been identified with the past council. He said there had been little actual advances on the beautification of the main street because of a lack of funding. The State Government, on several occasions, had stated Airlie Beach was one of the three major tourism attractions in the State. The Government had made no contributions whatsoever on the funding of important infrastructure.
  • Rory McCourt, Shute Haven resident- There is a danger of that [the board offer by the minister] becoming another exercise of procrastination. The community desperately needs it. There has been something in excess of 50 studies done as far as I know. This is a really good one and the town really needs it. Our fear is that they'll completely shelve it or we'll end up with a second rate job.
  • Gary Hunt, Architect- The thing I'm absolutely delighted with is the positive response and a desire to see it happen in its entirety from the community. Airlie Beach is in dire straights and they are seeing this [development] as the catalyst. We are quite familiar with the people on [the board] and I think the wider exposure it can get from people the better.
  • Mike Brunker, Mayor- The State Government is not going to give us $5-$10 million straight up now. No organisation can do this. The minister walked up the main street and looked at the issues [on Friday]. Having these extra experts that we would have had to pay for, it would have cost us thousands. Before we get ahead of ourselves we need to make sure before June next year we have funding.

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