AS holiday motorists face the last gasp of the notorious highway bottleneck at Bulahdelah, the town itself is confronting an uncertain future.
Being bypassed is an experience that has killed some towns and been the making of others. How things pan out for any particular town is a function of the attributes of the locality.
Some settlements only ever existed because of transport routes, and once those routes were altered, the town’s lifeblood stopped flowing.
Other towns have qualities that make them attractive in their own right, so being bypassed isn’t actually an existential threat, but merely presents challenges of readjustment.
Bulahdelah clearly falls into the second category. The town’s location on the Myall River, beneath picturesque Alum Mountain, is by some measures quite idyllic.
The loss of the reliable commerce provided by a constant stream of traffic will certainly hurt some businesses and that shouldn’t be downplayed. But the town’s advantages are considerable and thoughtful marketing ought to be able to replace the losses. Removal of the highway might, in fact, prove to be a plus.
Boating between Bulahdelah and the Myall Lakes – already popular – has much scope for growth, particularly if some effort is expended improving and restoring degraded stretches of river bank.
The district has an interesting history, and the forest park surrounding Alum Mountain is appealing and attractive.
As always, the town’s success in achieving the necessary adjustment to remain prosperous will depend heavily on its residents and business owners and their ability to work towards a shared vision of what might be.
Given the positive comments from many, there is every reason to be optimistic about Bulahdelah’s future.
Meanwhile, those business owners whose livelihoods have depended on the restless stream of vehicles will be hoping for one last bumper season before the bypass makes bumper-to-bumper traffic a thing of the past for Bulahdelah.
One way cash-flow
IF the NSW government was to spend $2.38 million on some project in the Hunter, the news would be breathlessly announced by ministerial staffers.
But when that sum of money flows from the Hunter to state coffers in Sydney – as it did every single day of the 2010-2011 financial year – nobody in Macquarie Street bats an eyelid.
The NSW Minerals Council has helpfully revealed that the Hunter’s share of the record mining royalty crop harvested by the government last year amounted to $868 million.
That was an increase of 25 per cent over the previous year and represented the lion’s share of the total statewide take which added up to $1.25 billion.
It’s a mystery why a region that supplies the government with such wealth finds itself so often the victim of niggardly penny-pinching by the decision-makers in Sydney.
It’s an even bigger mystery why the region puts up with it.