How will we save Gympie's CBD?
BUSINESS and political leaders are calling for governments to shift jobs back into Gympie in the wake of a report into the staggering number of shop vacancies in the city's CBD.
A report in this weekend's Sunday Mail revealed there were 62 empty shops in the city's business heart.
This count includes Mary St and its satellite roads including Reef, Duke, Mellor, Nash, Monkland, Barter, Young and Channon streets.
Chamber of Commerce president Tony Goodman said the article was "gut-wrenching”, and brought home a reality which has been growing since the arrival of Gympie Central Shopping Centre.
"It's (Mary St) found it very difficult to recover.”
Fixing it would not have a single answer, he said, but trying to decentralise some of the government departments would help.
"That's not a bad solution,” he said.
Better interconnectivity across Central, Southside, Goldfields and Mary St would also be a good start, Mr Goodman said.
"It has been talked about, somehow trying to get a community bus linked up.”
Bringing more government departments back into the city centre would help, too.
But this was still only part of a complex problem not unique to Gympie.
In Toowoomba's, the main streets' high vacancy rate (18 per cent on Ruthven and Margaret streets) this week prompted fears the city could become a "ghost town” unless action was raken.
Mr Goodman said a common theme emerged in many conversations with people who stepped into his shop.
"Discretionary income is being knocked out of the ball park because of the cost-of-living pressures,” he said.
"Cost of living is way too high and wages haven't kept up with it.”
Gympie MP Tony Perrett echoed the call for government jobs to return to the region.
"It's about the strength of the local economy,” Mr Perrett said.
"CBD traders have to overcome multiple challenges from changes in shopping habits as well as the addiction of state governments to increasingly impose burdensome regulatory and bureaucratic demands.
"While Gympie manages floods very well, our CBD traders in the lower end of Mary St also have to contend with the issue of successive flood events which impacts their bottom line from the loss of trade and cost to re-establish.”
Mary St traders had taken up the challenge of bringing people back to the CBD, but they were facing several hurdles including online shopping.
"Unless there is a specific reason to travel to the CBD for a dedicated destination, it is difficult to compete,” Mr Perrett said.
"Decentralisation would help underpin our local economy and employment base. "It shouldn't be too hard considering a staggering extra 27,745 public servants have been put on the payroll since 2014.
"Most of the 249,525 full-time equivalent public servants are in Brisbane making up more people than the residents of Toowoomba, Townsville, Cairns or Ipswich.
"If putting on public servants is their only solution, then we deserve a piece of the action.”
Gympie-centric solutions were also needed.
"Government should get out of the way by cutting its stifling red and green tape, which is choking businesses,” Mr Perrett said.
What you said
POLITICAL and business leaders were not the only ones eager to discuss the high number of empty shops in Gympie's CBD.
Wayne Wilson: It's a long-term problem. And national, not local. Council could do a couple of things to help it, and certainly the NIMBY position on the levee bank has played a role. First step is to vote the conservatives out of government. This will result in money being spent on job provision, services, wages will rise and penalty rates will be restored. More people will have more money to spend themselves. Then we keep them out. Next, the council needs to invest in Mary St as a shopping and social hub. Make it a mall from at least Smithfield St forward to the post office. Build that levee... it's about protecting our economic hub, not ensuring every Tom Dick and Harry not smart enough to check a flood map. Bring entertainment and markets to Mary St.
Mel Clift: It was madness even trying to enter Mary St on Saturday. Imagine if there was zero vacancy rate - shops would have had a great retail day!
Catherine Marney: Have a regular free shuttle bus around the township, linking Goldfields, Mary St, Gympie Central, Courthouse, Hospital and businesses wouldn't close down... but no! Council aren't interested. Not everyone has their own transport.