A little less conversation, a little more action

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How to improve the CBD: offer financial incentives for property owners to paint the glorious shop tops along Timor St.

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #A02F2F;”] W [/dropcap]hat is this inertia that appears to be holding Warrnambool in an iron-like grip and preventing this beautiful city from reaching its full potential?

It was with a heavy heart that I read respected lawyer Roy Reekie’s recent letter to the local paper, lamenting that he had returned to Warrnambool after five years to find the Warrnambool City Council locked in a petty, schoolyard stand-off and he pondered if he had made a mistake in coming home.

A mistake! What an indictment: intelligent, energetic people like Roy should feel delighted to be back, not disappointed.

How to improve the CBD: paint a mural on the hideous Koroit St toilet block and, later, close it down. Relocate the bus transit to the old Post Office area.

I don’t regret coming home after more than 20 years, but I, too, have been astounded by how the city appears to have lost its way. There is endless talk – usually accompanied by endless reports – about what could and should be done to revive the CBD, but there is no over-arching vision or leadership to actually make it happen.

Instead, our new-old Mayor wants us to be excited by new housing developments – projects that extend out into the country and make it even more critical to retain a vibrant city centre, or we will end up like the ‘doughnut’ regional cities of the US, where everybody lives in the ‘burbs and shops in malls and the city heart is left for dead.

It is my fear that Warrnambool is at a critical juncture where, unless it gets its act together, we are at risk of that happening. We will have a city centre full of “services”, but no heart.


How to improve the CBD: offer up high-profile but ugly walls, like this eyesore, to public art.


[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #A02F2F;”] I [/dropcap] recently lived near a city like that: Morwell, in Gippsland. It was once a vibrant ‘SEC town’, but once the power companies were privatised, the jobs went and so did the families who shopped, ate and socialised in the town. It now relies on being a “service” centre, full of bland state and federal government offices providing health, welfare and social support services.

Morwell’s main street is full of empty, dusty shops that were once restaurants, clothing stores, jewellers, butchers, bakers and newsagencies, some of which have moved out to the MidValley Shopping Centre – halfway between Morwell and Traralgon – because that’s where people now linger. Does this sound familiar?

Warrnambool, however, has a huge advantage over a place like Morwell and that is tourism. People flock to see the whales, and the beaches, and even good old Flagstaff Hill, but the CBD is letting us down, badly.

We have some of the most gorgeous and historic buildings in Victoria, but you wouldn’t know it. We have an incredible, vibrant arts scene, but – judging by the lack of public art – you wouldn’t know it. We have a deep and important indigenous history right around this area, but you wouldn’t know it.

I walked around the entire CBD last week and did not see one bit of indigenous public art and only a handful of public art. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places.


How to improve the CBD: stop patching and start paving. Especially on high-profile corners like this one.


[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #A02F2F;”] W [/dropcap]hat I did see were many empty, dusty shops; dirty and stained bitumen pavements that had been patched and repatched to the point of being unsafe; a dark toilet block and a noisy bus transit zone dominating the hub of Liebig and Koroit streets; and, as always, pedestrians trying to skip between cars at intersections and being grateful when somebody stopped to let them pass.

And it appears that when some people DO try and make a difference, they are blocked at every turn. Take, for example, the artist who tried to open a pop-up market in an empty shop but was unable to find anyone (among the 20 or so people who apparently, between them, own the CBD) who would take it on. They would rather leave their shop empty. (What a contrast to Revive Newcastle, where property owners actively encourage such ideas.)

And so the inertia continues…and more reports are written (another Liebig St revival plan is next) and older reports gather dust (remember the 2010 report on revitalising the Warrnambool Railway Station precinct?) and everybody sighs and says, “that’s just how it is here”, while cities and towns like Bendigo, Castlemaine, Daylesford, Ballarat, Kyneton and even Birregurra, power ahead.

We deserve better leadership and this is Mayor Neoh’s greatest challenge: to unite the council and business community around a common purpose and to actually get things done.

How to improve the CBD: free (timed) parking, bike lanes and a 40 kph speed limit between Lava and Timor Streets.
What CAN be done: for more examples of creative street art click here.

[learn_more caption=”Ten ideas to improve the CBD, in some cases, almost instantly – click the arrow”]

1. All outdoor eating in Liebig St must use quality furniture – not cheap, plastic tables and chairs.

2. Paint a mural on the ugliest toilet block known to feature on a major intersection anywhere in Victoria…until you can close it down.

3. Relocate the bus transit area from Koroit St to outside the former Post Office Building in Timor St.

4. Provide financial support for all of the historic shop tops along Timor St to be repainted.

5. Repave all of the footpaths along Liebig St.

6. Free parking in the entire CBD, but with time restrictions enforced by local laws.

7. At least half a dozen bare and ugly walls around the CBD to be offered up for public art.

8. Ban all exposed skip bins.

9. Add bike lanes along Liebig St and reduce traffic speeds to 40 kph between Lava and Timor streets.

10. Cars entering roundabouts must give way to pedestrians.

Do you have anything to add?



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14 thoughts on “A little less conversation, a little more action”

  1. Great article. My understanding is that the power lines along Timor St are a significant barrier to the property owners painting the second story dwellings. Note the whalers hotel has a new paint job on the first story but the second story remains in the old colors. Perhaps the council could work with local owners to cover the power lines (they are the yellow and black cable covers) for a period of time to allow the painting to take place? I could be wrong on this.

    Love the idea of street art – particularly in the locations you suggest and the bus stop relocation idea is great.

    The other thing I would like to see are better marked bike lanes that do not end at intersections where the cyclist feels pushed to the side of the road. In Ballarat the bike lanes continue right through the intersection and are brightly colors which means drivers can see them and avoid entering the areas. Integrating the bike lanes, rail trail and promenade (which are wonderful assets to the community) would allow families to navigate the roads and encourage more people to ride.

    Any chance you could run for council!!!!

    1. Great ideas, Luke – love the idea of an integrated bike path that could come up from the Promenade, through Lake Pertobe (as was planned under the Railway Precinct revival plan released in 2010) and into the city. There is so much potential to do things that would not cost a fortune. Run for council? Hmmmmm….

  2. Think you have covered everything…have you ever thought of standing for council…we need someone just like you Carol. Please consider…

  3. Yes, all great ideas.
    Was it you that was talking of a wind festival in Warrnambool?
    Consider council, you have my vote.
    Re: 2nd story painting; many plane trees are getting trimmed back from power lines, surely painting can happen too. I agree with Luke, get out the safety tape.
    We have such a large amount of beautiful buildings and local history. There should be life and love put back into them.
    We could have lane way tours in the cbd with local historians. Stopping for coffee and cakes!
    Free timed parking…yes please. That should be first on the list. A gift to the community from council.

  4. I concur with my learned colleague Claire Drylie..please do consider standing for council Carol!! You have exposed some ideal mural sites..Food for thought!!

    1. Hi Jenny, Lana, Luke and Claire,
      It’s true, Carol would be a perfect candidate for council — but Bluestone Magazine needs her, so my vote is for her to stay as co-editor of our mag!!

  5. I grew up in Warrnambool but have lived the past 35 years in Albury, a much larger and busier city. Yet the main street (Dean St) is only 2 lanes, although it is capable of being 4. In some blocks it has central trees, other blocks the trees are at the side. Despite being a very busy CBD with traffic lights (diagonal pedestrian crossings) and multiple zebra crossings, the traffic runs smoothly. On my numerous trips to Warrnambool I feel positively unsafe crossing anywhere in Liebig St. The four lane system on the numerous streets is dangerous. I hope by the time of our planned retirement back to Warrnambool the council has fixed what is potentially a fantastic main street.

    1. Albury is a top example of a once unattractive, now lovely regional city. It’s botanical gardens are wonderful, it has a kid’s playground with dinosaurs and families picnic there. We often stay in Albury overnight when en route to other destinations and have seen it flourish with it’s once traffic ridden main street now tamed and full of beautiful buildings, green space and trees.

      I like a regional city to be kid friendly, Warrnambool has the children’s festival, it should be reflected in it’s infrastructure that Warrnambool is where kids can grow and flourish.

  6. What a great article, Carol. I moved from the “Bool” a couple of years ago, and it appears nothing has changed there since Like Luke, I understood that the power lines were the major barrier in getting the Timor St shops cleaned up – why can’t they be put underground, leaving clear access. And yes, More Art Please! so I have something great to see when I go back to visit. I can’t vote for you to be part of Council, but your voice would certainly provide fresh ideas, insight and commons sense and it’s something you should consider 🙂

  7. What a wonderful, thought provoking and innovative article. The photos really tell the story don’t they. Street art, murals, bike lanes, and the relocation of the bus transit are wonderful and simple solutions. We really need new blood on our council to help re-invigorate our beautiful city and not leave us in the dark ages. Warrnambool people are up for it, why aren’t our councilors?You would have my vote Carol!!

  8. Change needs to happen and soon!! For too long Warrnambool residents have been at the mercy of a wasteful, tyrannical and ineffective local government. It’s a shame to see such an amazing place begin to lose some of it’s shine due to the inabilities of those in power. Instead of trying to get your head on the front page, secretly taping meetings and simply wasting our resources, how about our councilors earn their wage and give back to the community you represent! And not in the from of Australia’s worst 3-headed statue!

  9. I opened my shop Enique Eco Store in 2007 when the city council was in the middle of ‘Make your mark on our city heart’. Six years later and it would be hard to find a pulse on this so called project. Rising rates, rent and parking meters are slowly killing of small local businesses, and with city council having their heads firmly planted in the sand this will only continue. Brian Kelson recently forwarded a proposal for free parking over the holiday period, this was voted down as the city council couldnt lose more money, spare a thought for the retailer facing this very problem everyday. And rediculous comments from Micheal Neoh that most of the empty shops were due to businesses relocating..now 1: why would major retailers move from the CBD to the far edges of town? and 2: only 2 of the shops have relocated the rest have closed down, given up, gone down the gurgler!!
    I dont see a lot of hope for the CBD or small business in Warrnambool.

  10. Ok. I have read all these comments. All good. Except…. People of Warrnambool… Have you all forgotten we had a great councillor that you voted out!! She was always asking questions and challenging both council staff and her fellow councillors. Turn up to council meetings and ask your questions. Back the councillors who are advocating for this city. You will know who they are when you sit through the meetings.

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