CBD parking is a disgrace. Why is no one listening to what the people want? We all know we can make statistics say anything we want but let's not kid ourselves, we are way out of order on some issues. Let's start at the advantageous end of the scale. Gateway Plaza, Woolworths, lets ask ourselves, are their numbers up since parking meters in the CBD became an issue? With all the new estates that have opened up in and around Warrnambool the numbers in the CBD should be full to bursting but I am tipping those figures are not calculated. Just because statistics say things are alright it doesn't mean that they are. We all see what's going on. I have never seen Gateway Plaza more full. Something isn't right and I am hoping it's not people's inability to admit they made a mistake that's the cause of it. It's never too late to make a u-turn and fix things that have become broken, that's what makes a person. The worst scenario for the people of Warrnambool and in particular the CBD is for certain people to bury their heads in the sand and pretend everything is rosy. The only saving grace about what's happening in the CBD with the parking is that cars can manage to get through those infernal pedestrian crossings a bit easier with fewer pedestrians around.
David MacPhail, Warrnambool
It does not matter if the T&G sign has been covered for 50, 30 or 20 years, it's a part of old Warrnambool. I had forgotten it was there like a lot of people. I hope some people enjoyed seeing it again, the building holds a bit of history 3YB operated from there for many years, also in 1965 local lads had army medicals in the building for a few years until it moved to the hospital. Quite a few of those boys served in the Vietnam war
Graham Kelly, Warrnambool
Bank of Melbourne will put T&G sign in storage, but they will put some photos in their money house instead. We'll never see it again, how about Bank of Melbourne customers close their accounts in protest, lots of other financial mobs in town. What an iconic Warrnambool building, what a history of contemporary Warrnambool, 3YB used to be on the top floor, there is also an arcade from Liebig to Lava streets, the clock, I've been in it. Get lost Bank of Melbourne, you will never be as iconic as T&G.
Dallas Bridgman, Warrnambool
Camp sites gone
Over more than 20 years we and many others have camped at Port Campbell Caravan Park. The park is undergoing some works where our camp sites are situated. It is normal to book for the upcoming Christmas period and pay the deposit. The booking request was sent from NRMA via email on February 14, 2019. Deposits paid securing our sites for 2019/2020 holiday season. On seeing the works on July 6 we inquired with the park manager about our sites, who advised us the works had started for the Port Campbell Pedestrian Bridge, therefore the camp sites are no longer available. The campers that have booked and paid deposits were completely unaware of this development. No consultation or communication from NRMA or Parks Victoria. Many of us have applied for annual leave from our employment under the impression we would return to the sites. Over the years we have always supported local business. Deposits have been paid but after 20 years of wonderful camping and supporting our local community, sadly our sites have gone.
Fiona Hanel, Timboon
Where is the vision?
I returned to Warrnambool as my mother was ill and I suppose like those who come back to our birth place, was excited to see the change and to remember. Driving down the main street at 10.30am on July 4 I was shocked by the stillness. Yes I could see the physical changes, but there seemed to be no life in the city heart. No people. And for once there seemed to be no wind and the sky was a clear blue, so un-Warrnambool-like as I remembered. And yet this seemed to only add to the eerie nature of the place. Where were the people?
I actually had not thought of the timing of my visit, my mind elsewhere, but as I went into a coffee shop, newsagent and chemist for various supplies, I was confronted by conversations that advised me the town used to be a busy, vibrant place at this time of year with the Fun4Kids festival I didn't volunteer my knowledge of the festival, and allowed them to lament the passing of the event. It was a strange experience to say the least.
"It used to be a busy time for us, and I know the accommodation houses were busy then", and another advised the council was trying other things to ignite the town such as the CBD upgrades, but that then became another story of lost business from my brief shopping venture.
Through the course of the day, as a visitor, I was reminded on eight separate occasions by people I did not know that Fun4Kids was once on at this time and had stopped after many years. It was interesting the facts about the event varied greatly but even those that obviously had little involvement still spoke of the loss and waste. They seemed to have come to a late realisation of the importance of the event.
While it was not my intention to be drawn into the nostalgia of Fun4Kids, as the director of the event for the first six years, it had started again for me. The memories, the joy, the frustration, the challenges the vast family of community that had built the event over those early years and kept it going well beyond my time.
I recalled the massive ice skating rink in the car park that stayed for three months after the festival, the bus loads of refugee children from war zones with lollies in hand as they loaded back onto buses having spent days in our community, and standing next to our super of police as we both shed tears, the stirring night with 500 guests seated on the civic square riveted as Bryce Courtenay talked for hours of the Power of One, the opening night where we relayed from South Africa the opening speech by our Patron Archbishop Desmond Tutu who was then overseeing the South African truth trials, the launch of our first festival story book written by children across Australia with every author present with their proud parents, the annual visits by Moira Kelly with her entourage of children brought from the world's mine fields to Australia to receive new starts and new limbs, the decorations of hundreds of banners sent from schools across Australia covering themes on what it meant to be a community and then being invited to exhibit the banners in the Seattle centre, the site for the USA World Expo, the flow of the world's best children's authors annually with the children's literature festival built inside the event, led by our own Paul Jennings, the Australian Ballet performance when they stopped the event and brought on stage children from the audience to include them in the dance.
I realised the highlights were endless, and that was only the first six years. I know from speaking to organisers over the years that followed, that the highlights continued and the impact on children continued. Lifetime memories created and lives changed.
But the magic of Fun4Kids and the heart of Fun4Kids was the community that volunteered time to make the event an Australian icon, and an event experience like no other. It was truly unique and world class, and here it was in a small regional centre in Victoria in the heart of winter. At its peak the event was the envy of cities many times larger, and the calls and visits from councils across Australia continued to flow through the event with my old diaries showing 27 separate council visits in those first six years. We really did have something others wanted.
So what happened? In its final days the explanations were limited to economic ones by those who had no experience with the event's journey. Yes over the years the event had slipped into a growing financial loss, but offers had been made to assist the event in turning this trend, and increasing the attendances. Government funds were available and management changes were offered to correct the errors that had occurred through lack of skills lifted into the leadership of the event. And it was with frustration that these offers were refused over the years, with the end result a quiet death of an icon.
As a visitor now, who will leave the town, I can't help but wonder what the community feel about the decisions made on their behalf. The incredible efforts of hundreds of people in this community seem to have been discarded and I can't help but be amazed a decision of such importance was made without the consultation of these people and exhaustion of every possible solution. It seems it was left to an officer's report, a council vote and within a heart beat 19 years of community effort was thrown away.
And now we are left with empty streets in the heart of winter. Yes there is a cleaner CBD after millions was spent on concrete, paving, curbing etc and no doubt geared to create more business, but it's people who bring economics and all the physical changes in the world will not bring shoppers to the city. There has to be a reason, an experience and a sprinkle of magic that competes against other places for those visitor dollars.
Fun4Kids had that magic to bring visitors in winter for long stays from a wide net across the state and beyond. It seems strange to run an argument that the council budget can't afford to continue an iconic event that brings economic gains and brand change to the city, but it can afford millions to flash up the paving. As if that's going to bring people to stay in the city and spend their savings.
Where is the vision?
Allan Murnane, previous director Fun4Kids, now of Queensland
- Please note: The Standard prefers letters to be less than 250 words. Preference is given to shorter contributions. Letters must include the author's name, address and contact phone number for verification purposes. Letters are published online and in print.