By Gav Ross
WONTHAGGI’s “tired and somewhat dilapidated” town centre could receive a much needed spruce up after Bass Coast Shire Council recently endorsed the preparation of a new master plan.
While there’s no specific schedule for improvements (or guaranteed funding for that matter), councillors agreed at the July council meeting that small business owners, particularly those in McBride Avenue and Graham Street, could benefit from a “revitalisation” of the CBD.
Such a revamp could include rejuvenated footpaths, new street furniture, lighting, better signs, drinking fountains and street plantings.
Eighteen months ago, the council received a government grant to take part in Rural Councils Victoria’s ‘Revitalising Rural Retail’ initiative, with the localised version dubbed the ‘Heart of Wonthaggi’ project.
Seeking to inject some civic pride back into the centre of town, where vacant shops have become an all-too-common sight in recent years, the project will focus on McBride Avenue as the “spine” of the CBD.
According to survey results detailed in an initial project plan, prepared by Melbourne-based consultancy SOCOM, community members and traders believe that:
• The centre of town feels tired, dirty and dilapidated
• Footpaths and public spaces need refreshing
• Town centre landscaping is poor
• McBride Avenue should be better celebrated, enhanced and leveraged as the heart of the town
• Street names in footpaths look tired and worn out
• Street furniture (lights, fountains, guard rails, seats) look tired and dated
At this month’s council meeting, Cr Clare Le Serve welcomed the preparation of a master plan, pointing out that Wonthaggi had been identified as a regional centre in the State Government’s Plan Melbourne document earlier this year.
Cr Bradley Drew agreed, saying that the word “spine” used in the report presented to councillors grabbed his attention.
“Any good football team you need a good spine, and the same applies to retail,” he said.
“Obviously the business community has seen a change in the streetscape of Wonthaggi with the addition of the new plaza.
“Small business really is the spine of Australia and we need to do anything we can to assist.”
Cr Drew added that the project also highlighted the council’s need to continually monitor the retail sector throughout Bass Coast.
“We can no longer allow our business districts, whatever town they’re in, to become ghost town areas,” he said.
“We need to be visionary in thinking ahead and starting to plan now, so if we see there’s a change coming in the environment, we act sooner rather than later.”