A SHRINKING permanent population at Hawks Nest is posing a problem for business owners, as they try to stay afloat during the lean winter months.
Hawks Nest newsagent Hugo Elstermann has diversified in response to the tougher conditions which have seen many shops, including the local IGA supermarket and butcher, close. His newsagency now stocks papers and stationary, along with fruit and vegies, a fully stocked meat chest, and convenient store goods. It is also the local post office.
Mr Elstermann said he wants to see the business district redeveloped, including the now-vacant IGA store and a neighbouring petrol station, which still has tanks in the ground.
“Revitalising businesses is important for us and to the community as a whole,” he said.
Local Great Lakes Councillor and deputy mayor Len Roberts said the permanent population of Hawks Nest had fallen dramatically, according to census figures.
“The problem is businesses being able to sustain themselves over winter,” he said.
An upgrade of the business centre of Hawks Nest has been identified as a way to boost business. Council staff members are currently working with business owners to design an upgrade to the Hawks Nest mall, which has fallen into disrepair.
Manager of parks and gardens David Bortfeld said he would be meeting with business owners later this month to discuss their concerns, and canvass suggestions for an upgrade. He said part of the mall had been replaced, while the other still needed a facelift. An upgrade design would be created to try to make the most of the area, he said, and then a report with costings would be presented to councillors for further discussion. Among the problems in the mall was the paving, which had become uneven, Mr Bortfeld said.
The long-term solution to businesses closing in Hawks Nest was arresting the decline in the permanent population, Mr Roberts said. He said a more steady population was needed to support the town all year around.
“The reality is, without a population boost or new development, shops will close,” he said.
“It once had a very strong permanent population, but now it has become a holiday spot and the cost of housing has increased. People are paying millions of dollars for housing, and it’s a lot cheaper for families to find somewhere to live in Maitland or Raymond Terrace.”
Resident Greg Thompson wrote to the Advocate, criticising the NSW Government for spending millions of dollars on the Crown land holiday park at Jimmys Beach, while the communities around it shrank, the Bulahdelah hospital was downgraded, and services closed.
“106 semi-permanent van owners all but vanished (when the holiday park upgrade was carried out),” Mr Thompson said.
“The way I see it is the State Government is splashing money on Crown Reserves but has no desire to spend money on public utilises such as our local community hospital. Can someone please explain the logic behind this extremely ironic decision? If we are to move forward I would have thought our community needs should be maintained.”
PLANS TO REVAMP MALL IN HAWKS NEST
REVAMPING the Booner Street Mall in Hawks Nest is being investigated as a way to boost the shopping precinct.
Adjacent shop owners have approached Great Lakes Council with a request to have the area upgraded. Shop owners were concerned the area was outdated and unattractive in appearance, according to a report to the February 26 council meeting.
The shop owners have quoted a cost of $27,000 for the upgrade, but council parks and recreation manager David Bortfeld said, with drainage works, street furniture and shade taken into account, the total would be more like $80,000. Mr Bortfield said in his report that a potential upgrade would be “a means to improve the usability of the site and increase patronage”.
Mr Bortfeld recommended that council meet with the current shop owners and develop concept plans for the site, before a further report would be presented to council.