Revitalising the CBD

MP Janelle Saffin gave an entertaining presentation as guest speaker at business chamber meeting.
MP Janelle Saffin gave an entertaining presentation as guest speaker at business chamber meeting.

State member of Lismore Janelle Saffin had an engaged audience when speaking of CBD revitalisation, a cause close to her heart, at last week's meeting of the Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business.

She told members and guests that Tenterfield's central business district is far from being the only incidence of towns facing the challenge of online shopping affecting their retailers, with efforts to revitalise these districts now happening across Australia.

In some respects, however, today's mail order merchandise is a return to the days of old when country residents regularly ordered from catalogues or relied on door-to-door salesmen for the necessities (and desires) of life.

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She believes the answer lies in bringing more people into the CBD, "not just to shop, but to live," she said.

"It changes the culture somewhat."

She said the old concept of a town square is catching on again, where people come to socialise or maybe sit around playing chess.

To her it's a matter of "getting bums on seats" and requires a degree of town planning to create a space that's inviting to a wide cross-section of the community, that's child- and frail-friendly and has ready access to well-equipped toilets.

"Toilets are really important," she said.

She shared demographer Bernard Salt's report on profiling the country' best country towns, and the outcome may be surprising. The best country town in each state was identified, and in NSW it was Griffith, in Queensland it was Goondiwindi.

She said towns were assessed on a variety of factors including ideal rate of growth, hospital, local media, aged care facility, sports opportunities, air travel capability, private (as well as public) schools and some sort of national event, with the chamber's Peter Allen Festival fitting the bill.

She called Tenterfield "a galvanised community", and considers it the role of local government and the mayor, along with business chamber input, to bring groups together towards a common goal, backed in by state and federal members.

"I want all our cities and towns to survive and thrive, and will help where I can," she said.

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