Only time will tell if the Warrnambool City Council’s CBD renewal project will meet its multiple aims.
Trying to balance the needs and wants of pedestrians, shoppers, retailers and traffic was never going to be easy. And it hasn’t been.
It’s fair to say the project has been controversial. It’s also fair to say that some criticism has been wildly off the mark. Equally fair is the acknowledgement that some parts of the project have not gone well.
A storm of debate and doomsaying began when Liebig Street was dug up last year and surfaces subsequently relaid, trees removed, footpaths widened and pedestrian crossings installed.
The main tone of the shrill voices raised were that traders would be throttled out of business, increasing the number of the already numerous empty shopfronts in the CBD but particularly Liebig Street.
Last week The Standard spoke to more than a dozen traders about activity over the Christmas/holiday period.
About two-thirds of them reported good or solid trading over the period.
When the story was published mid-week, familiarly shrill voices cried “fake news” or that the story was a result of some cash-for-comment conspiracy.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The trollish voices of doom were either disappointed by the facts or chose to ignore them. The Henny Pennys found that the sky had not, in fact, fallen in.
It is interesting to note the same trollish voices are generally of the opinion that the CBD redevelopment was so bad that they would change their habits and shop at other centres, such as Gateway for example.
This is misshapen logic.
Surely if these voices want to support CBD traders then they would continue to shop there? Or perhaps rein in their online shopping? Or (gasp) just read the story, digest the facts and make an informed decision?
Or are we just seeing the evils of social media at work where frankly some users display all the moral conscience and consideration of a kelpie caught short on a croquet lawn.
Putting the peanut gallery to one side, we have a choice.
Shall we commit an act of faith and get in behind our local traders and contribute to debate?
Or should we stand back and act like the kelpies?
Only time will tell.