Revamp to be phased in

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Shire’s main street redevelopment will now be staged to accommodate the busy summer tourism season.
Camera IconThe Shire’s main street redevelopment will now be staged to accommodate the busy summer tourism season.

Redevelopment of Margaret River’s main drag could become a more drawn-out affair after councillors formally approved a “phased approach” to the project.

Amid concerns about uncertainty in the redevelopment, slated to start in several weeks, the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council buckled to business concerns this week from traders worried about losing business this summer. With the economy already in a slump, traders will get a stay of execution until February, after which the redevelopment will occur in several seasonal phases.

Between peak business times and wet weather, the reconstruction is likely to push out beyond the planned 12-month timeframe, and could see periodic upheaval beyond that.

The Shire will also have to go back to the tender process due to legal requirements, and ask Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan for permission to vary existing funding arrangements.

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It was unclear whether the change would allow the Shire to seek the remaining money for the unfunded final stage of the rebuild covering the southern section of the main street.

Deputy Shire president Julia Meldrum said it was “unfortunate” but necessary.

“Local government regs require us to tender again,” she said.

“It shows also that we’re listening to the traders and not commencing the project anyway.” Cr Ian Earl said it was likely appointed builders Georgiou Group would re-submit a tender.

“It’s been fairly obvious for a little while that the project’s going to be delayed,” he said.

The report pointed to an August 13 public forum at which “the Margaret River business community revealed a strong preference for deferral of the project commencement date”.

The South West Development Commission backed the delay.

“Deferral will have an impact on construction phasing, resulting in the project being delivered over at least two and up to three construction periods, depending on funding availability,” the report said.

The new approached recognised “the benefits to tourism and commercial activities in the main street, as well as likely adverse cost implications”.

Main Street Traders Redevelopment Group chairman and Settlers Tavern owner Rob Gough told the Times the move would be welcomed by operators.

“From my business’ point of view, this would be a good thing,” he said.

“I know there are others that would agree.”

On the other hand, several businesses greeted the decision with frustration at more delays and uncertainty.

At least one main street business has announced closure in recent weeks, while Riversmith owner Karen MacDonald said she would use the work period to extend her business.

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