Save our town
LEONGATHA’S ailing central business district could be boosted by festivals and the promotion of the town beyond South Gippsland.
There are now 19 empty shops within the CBD, with a florist the most recent business to close and some shops remaining empty since being built.
The town lost long time home appliance retailer Bi-Rite Electrical last September and while new cafes have opened, the town is calling out for more everyday products and services.
South Gippsland Shire Council mayor Cr Ray Argento said council would consider the prospect of promoting
Leongatha further afield to attract more businesses.
“We have to ensure the businesses we attract are the right businesses that suit the types of services that we want in South Gippsland,” he said.
“We want to see families come to Leongatha and have good employment opportunities and send their kids to school and enjoy what South Gippsland has to offer.”
South Gippsland Shire Councillor Aaron Brown believed attracting large scale heavy industry was the key to growing Leongatha and Korumburra.
He said towns such as Meeniyan, Fish Creek and Loch had been leading the way in the shire in recent years as businesses and community groups had made the towns destinations with experiences to offer visitors.
He said similar approaches would help bigger towns in the shire but were not long term solutions to bolstering the towns’ economies.
Cr Brown praised a recent proposal for a brewery at the former Korumburra railway station and said council needed to encourage such initiatives.
“Towns like Korumburra and Leongatha need a mix of businesses, not just cafes and restaurants. They have always relied on heavy industry so it would great to see some of those manufacturing businesses in those towns,” he said.
“Businesses like Burra Foods and Murray Goulburn are critical to these large towns.”
Council is planning to overhaul the streetscape of Bair Street, but onground works are unlikely to start for some time.
Council’s manager economic development, tourism and customer services Danny McDonald said council recently engaged a consultant to work with business and community groups in Leongatha, Korumburra, Foster and Toora to develop a Main Street Reinvigoration Strategy.
“This initiative—which will be considered by council in coming months—will look at ways our local business communities can work together to maximise the opportunities that will arise from the Bair Street redevelopment and associated projects,” he said.
Mr McDonald said each year council undertakes marketing and promotional activities to attract new investment to the shire, while continuing to support the growth and sustainability of existing local business.
“The now-defunct Regional Living Expo has been a component of the overall program in previous years and has been beneficial in helping to promote South Gippsland as a place to live, work and do business,” he said.
Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry members met last night (Monday) to discuss activities for the new year, including the possibility of three festivals a year in the town to attract more shoppers.
President Brenton Williams said the chamber was keen to grow the existing daffodil and Christmas festivals, and saw an opportunity for a third event.
He said Leongatha could replicate the High Street Festival held in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote where empty shops became temporary bars with bands to create an appealing atmosphere.
“We want to come up with something to get a bit of community spirit in town,” Mr Williams said.
► What do you think is needed to boost Leongatha? Email The Star on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 5662 2294.
Shops remain empty
THE Star toured Leongatha’s central business district last Wednesday and found the following 19 shops were empty, with some advertised as vacant to rent:
- Bair Street, eastern side: six shops.
- Bair Street, western side: two shops.
- Lyon Street: one shop.
- McCartin Street, south side: three shops.
- McCartin Street, two shops.
- Peart Street: two shops.
- McIndoe Arcade: one shop.
- Compass Arcade: two shops.
The Star acknowledges private arrangements maybe underway to fill some of these premises.
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