Main street traders missing thanks for perseverance during strip upgrade

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Recent council candidate and main street restaurateur Richard Moroney.
Camera IconRecent council candidate and main street restaurateur Richard Moroney. Credit: Nic Ellis/THE WEST AUSTRALIAN

Recent council candidate and main street restaurateur Richard Moroney has taken a dig at the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River for its latest communications which failed to mention the impost on traders during the 2020-21 main street redevelopment project.

The Shire’s email on Friday talked up plans finally to install “wayfinding signs” 18 months since the project wrapped, and cited new businesses now making their home on the upgraded main strip.

Mr Moroney said main street traders deserved recognition.

“To all the main street traders that made it through — and those that didn’t — a testament to your resilience as you are the ones that took the economic brunt, still paid your business rates, still employed people and did your best.

“A big thank you for keeping our town’s main street alive.

“I’m sure the Shire wanted to thank you in its mail release and simply forgot.”

Responding to questions from the Times, Shire president Paula Cristoffanini said the local government continued working to activate the “evolving space”.

“Council is grateful to the support and co-operation of the whole community during the main street works, and in the 18 months since we celebrated with the Margs Street Party, we’ve seen the street performing well,” she said.

“The recent heavy rainfalls are being accommodated by the upgraded stormwater infrastructure, there are far less heavy vehicles on the road, and long weekends have seen crowds of pedestrians moving up and down the street.”

In further comments, Mr Moroney said residents had to engage with the local government to address a structural imbalance where ratepayers were subsidising a popular tourist destination.

“As a popular tourist destination, we need more State Government support,” he said.

“In the meantime, those that live, work and play in Margaret River, those contributors to Margaret River that work on the land or stand behind a shop counter or raise their families are the ones footing the bill, and not one of the structural problems in our shire is meaningfully addressed, let alone fixed.”

Mr Moroney’s comments followed notes from ratepayers about this year’s 4 per cent rates rise and concerns residents had already forgotten a $3.6 million cost overshoot in the main street project, partly due to Shire errors in the stormwater planning in the first stage of construction.

Part of that expense included the Shire paying $190,000 in “stand down costs” — including for the closure of the main street during the Easter 2020 long weekend — and $488,000 in costs blamed on weather delays and fast-tracking construction during winter while much of the region was in lockdown.

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