DIRTY drains. Rubbish bins all over the commercial area. Dangerous crossing points for pedestrians. Lack of parking for shoppers and employees.

And that hoary old chestnut of the bus stop being located in completely the wrong place.

There’s a lot that’s right about Wonthaggi’s CBD but there’s also a hell of a lot that could be improved.

And on a walk around the north and western parts of Graham Street, lanes and nearby problem areas with shire officials earlier this year, a lot of the issues were identified.

And some of them will be addressed as part of the Wonthaggi Activity Centre Plan.

But it all takes time and under the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot longer than it should.

This week, however, local business operators, Braden and Rhonda Bennett, are looking to move at least some of the problems higher up the council’s ‘to do’ list.

“It’s been six months since our meeting and we’re still asking for council to show support for the North of Graham Street CBD,” said the Bennetts.

“I realize that nearly all of council is working from the safety and comfort of home and most don’t live in Wonthaggi. However, the reality in Wonthaggi is that businesses are desperately trying to stay afloat. Already I know of five business that will not re-open.

“The state of the town is an absolute disgrace – there is rubbish spread from the lane right through to Big W, the footpaths are filthy including dog droppings in Graham Street last week, and the drain remains full of rubbish and the edges un-cut.

“The Woolworths carpark is filthy. Perception is everything and the town looks and is filthy. What a welcome to Wonthaggi for all the lock-down refugees!

“We would like an assurance that the plans for the re-development of both the Wonthaggi Club and the Plaza Arcade have allowances for all the bins used on their property to be stored on their property, including allowances made for the additional bins when we go to the 4-bin system.

“The bin correspondence has been ongoing for two years (although Deirdre Griepsma, Manager Sustainable Environment states she has had no negative feedback from business or community – really? I have a large file). Bins are strewn along the lane, overflowing with rubbish which has blown all over the town and it’s only Tuesday. Is this really not a health issue?

“Surely, it’s not too much to ask that the Wonthaggi footpaths can be washed, rubbish collected, drain cleaned and mowed.

“Why not add a few flowerpots to add some colour and cheer to what must be the most-neglected end of town in the whole state.

“We look forward to a sparkling, clean, vibrant and optimistic North of Graham Street CBD.

North of Graham Street tour, January 21, 2020

Here’s a summary of the issues raised on the tour around the north end of the Wonthaggi CBD in January or which have surfaced since:

“We are supportive of the Wonthaggi Centre Activity Plan but incredibly disappointed that all the problems north of Graham Street have not even been noted let alone addressed. Following are some suggestions for Council to consider as to how Council can best support the ratepaying businesses in the Wonthaggi CBD and the wider community.

We are also frustrated at the amount of money spent on consultants who didn’t or wouldn’t understand how vehicle and pedestrian traffic flows north of Graham Street.

  1. The drain completely divides Wonthaggi. There are no bridges or safe places for people to cross the drain to enter Guide Park from the Rail Trail
  2. A pedestrian crossing at the traffic island is required to link both sides of the Rail Trail across Bilson Street. The one Aged sign is inadequate and families riding with small children should be able to cross Bilson Street safely. People should be able to ride the trail and access both Guide Park and Apex Park with safety and ease.
  3. The bus transit stop needs to be moved to Watt Street. The corner of Bilson and Murray is busy with both car and pedestrian traffic. There are no toilets for bus travellers and no secure all-day parking for those arriving back late at night. The community has never supported the Murray Street depot.
  4. Traffic lights are urgently required on the corner of Murray and Bilson Streets before there is a fatality. Getting rid of the busses may help with congestion but there are many cars and they travel quickly down this road and the many frail people and little children attending doctor’s appointments can’t cross safely. The proposed diversion of heavy vehicles along Bilson will only add to the danger
  5. The only all-day parking easily available in Wonthaggi is part of the Big W or the Plaza car parks. Currently, up to approximately ¼ of Big W car park is used by Wonthaggi workers and V-line travellers. Council employees take anything available around Watt Street area, so this end of town is currently the only serious long-term parking prospect. Losing car parking to accommodate the Apex Park plan will exacerbate the problem. Visitors, workers, locals, those requiring appointments and V-line travellers need to have free, secure all day parking. People often come to Wonthaggi from a distance so organise to have multiple appointments, lunch and shopping on the same day. A multi-storey, all day, free car park needs to be considered urgently as the town is growing and all-day parking is becoming a major issue, especially during peak tourist times. The logical place is the old Coles carpark
  6. The main pedestrian entrance from the Big W carpark is through Woolworths. Logistics won’t change even with the Apex Park upgrade. The drain is absolutely filthy with rubbish. It is mowed fairly regularly but the dry grass that was a metre high on the side has only been cut recently. It is a shocking example of neglect to visitors and locals. Our suggestion: After discussion at the Activity Planning meeting it was stated that it is impossibly expensive and too difficult to engineer piping, so we believe the drain should be turned into a lovely feature, with rocks and wet-land plants to have either as a dry creek bed or filtering water before it reaches the wet-land. With pretty bridges and lighting, spotlessly clean, mowed and weeded, it could become an asset to the town rather than an eyesore – a smaller version of the Avon River in Christchurch. There is a good example of a dry creek bed in Beauty Park, Frankston.
  1. The path from Big W continues through Woolworths. This path needs to be widened to accommodate shopping trolleys pedestrians, wheelchairs, prams etc. Currently there is only room for single file.
  2. This path leads to the nature strip unless turning left where pedestrians are funnelled to the front door of Woolworths. There needs to be access for wheeled vehicles such as mobility scooters, prams etc across the nature strip to the Murray Street footpath.
  3. The Woolworths car park is mostly full of leaves and rubbish. The existing garden beds are full of weeds. It doesn’t matter who is responsible for what, but all the leaf litter from the beautiful Murray Street gum trees and rubbish needs to be swept – not just from Murray Street – but the carpark too. It’s pointless sweeping Murray Street when leaf litter blows straight back. The gardens in the Woolworths carpark need to be replanted and new gardens are needed on the nature strip corners and broken concrete needs replacing. The Murray Street footpath is, as are most in the town, absolutely filthy. Business owners are already working mostly 10-hour days trying to maintain businesses in what is an extremely difficult economy and it would be appreciated if Council could send crews around the streets regularly to clean. There is a local business called Ecoblast, which states that they are Council approved that may be considered for employment. Once the years of built up filth is removed, paths would be much easier to maintain
  4. The Murray Street crossing leads directly to the Plaza Walk Arcade and then through the Plaza Arcade to Murray Street. Jongebloed Lane is a complete disgrace. As previously stated, we could not be more supportive of Council’s progressive recycling program, but the execution is hopeless. No-one at Council takes responsibility or follows up on their assurances. The area is filthy, smelly and unsightly. The lane between the arcades is used by thousands of people a week and the laneways could and should be a feature of the town especially since they are the main link. The lanes are never cleaned or if they are it is an extremely shoddy job. Our suggestions are: This is a Council area so send a crew to clean up the litter and weeds regularly.  Put an attractive cover over the crossing – the highest truck is the Dyers, so it would need to be that high – and signs to make sure vehicles know that pedestrians cross regularly. Repaint the pedestrian crossing lines and upgrade lighting.  Relocate the bins to the corner of Jongebloed Lane and Taberner Lane in a secure area to stop the random dumping of rubbish.  We have been assured by Council since the introduction of the 3-bin system that any issues with the bins would be addressed but these guarantees, even though in writing, have been totally ignored. Therefore the situation is now untenable and they must be removed. Beautify the crossing area with pot plants.
  1. No action is taken by landlords re: graffiti. Connells wall has been defaced for over three years. The Wonthaggi Club, the back of G.J. Gardner, etc have been vandalized for years with no outcomes. Areas with unsightly graffiti have been proven to lead to feelings of insecurity and concerns for safety within the community. Most, not all, landlords in Wonthaggi have proven themselves time and time again by taking no pride in their own buildings let alone the Wonthaggi community. Our suggestions are: That Council gets in touch with other Councils, most of which have a successful graffiti policy, and formulate one that has a bit of clout. Maybe start by sending a letter encouraging them to show a bit of pride in their building and a bit of respect for the community.
  1. The Plaza Arcade should be the most beautiful building in Wonthaggi however, it is deserted except for a couple of businesses and pedestrians walking through. The arcade lacks lighting, including exit lights, and is a haven for the dozen or so kids that have been banned from the library to hang out. They smoke, litter, skate and bike ride, causing danger to everyone especially those walking around the corner up the ramp. The back wall has been vandalized for 3 weeks and although we are assured that it will be repaired shortly, it is now a hiding place for kids, and someone was even seen sleeping in there. The police are called most afternoons (3 were carted away in a divvy van yesterday) but this arcade is intimidating and unsafe for the mostly women on their own who are working or shopping. It is terrible for business and distressing for the business owners who worry about how their clients feel when confronted by this behaviour. The signage above the repaired wall above the entrance needs to be replaced to say “Through to Graham Street”
  2. At the time of writing, we are waiting to hear back from Michael Feehan the YMCA Youth Hub organiser. The kids hanging around have absolutely no-where to go in Wonthaggi. They can’t behave but desperately want to hang out near the library where there are cool things to do. They have no money and are often from challenging homes. We don’t know what the criteria is for the Hub but our suggestions are: Needs to be a place just to hang out for kids that aren’t welcome anywhere else, available 7 days a week from 12.00pm to 6.00pm with WiFi, T.V., computers with limited access to internet for games, pool table, air hockey, tea/coffee facilities and access to support if needed. It probably is in the wrong place and should have been sited near the skate park where there is room for all these kids who all ride skateboards, scooters or bikes to ride safely rather than rampage around the arcades and streets endangering pedestrians, especially our elderly who if hearing impaired cannot get out of the way. A half-court basketball court / soccer goal would give the kids a healthy way to use up their energy. They may even be able to eventually join local sport teams. We feel there needs to be a review into the amount of money spent on the Youth Hub by our ratepayers when it is not meeting the needs of our most vulnerable kids.
  1. A pedestrian crossing is desperately needed at the entrance of the Plaza arcade to cross Graham Street. Another crossing that must be considered urgently is the Watt Street intersection at Bilson Street. School children cross Bilson Street safely at the school crossing but there is no help for them to cross Watt Street.

Addressing these problems may go some way to changing the community perception that because Council considers Wonthaggi to be a low socio-economic area, money spent on function and beauty is wasted on our community.

Immediate priorities

* Relocating the bins and Jongebloed Land clean up.

* Cleaning of Leaf litter and rubbish from Woolworths and the drain.

A letter listing all of the points made here has been sent to the Bass Coast Shire Council and their response has been invited.