Cowell foreshore project draws attention

An information session on the multi-million dollar Cowell foreshore upgrade attracted about 150 locals to the Institute to hear more about the project and put questions to the Franklin Harbour District Council.

The multi-stage project is fully funded after the council was successful in recent grant applications.

A marina, a visitor centre, an extension of Second Street, a market shed, swimming pool and water park will be built in the next three to five years.

The announcement has sparked both enthusiasm and concern from the community.

A petition with expressing concern around the addition of commercial buildings and accommodation to the town was accepted by the council ahead of the meeting.

Local social entrepreneur Sarah Powell started off the meeting with an overview of her work researching rural social contraction and how entrepreneurship and social cohesion can help small communities survive.

Council chief executive officer Chris Smith then went through the project and outlined the council's efforts to consult with the community on the project over the past eight to nine years.

The meeting lasted for three hours, with many locals taking the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.

Many community members were concerned about the impact additional commercial businesses could have on main street traders already struggling with decreased spending in the area due to drought.

Publican Kym Martens said he was concerned about new businesses competing with the main street, but the project as a whole had merit.

"We do need development... how long have we been trying to get a doctor here?" he said.

There are no concrete plans as to what type of businesses would occupy the buildings, with pop-up stores, a store hiring out bicycles, fishing equipment and other tourist necessities and the relocation of existing businesses raised as ideas.

The funding allows for a 300 square-metre building which could accommodate up to three businesses.

Some were also concerned the planned marina could contaminate of the harbour with increased boat traffic.

Oyster growers Terry Rehn and Mark Jarvis said they believed there was minimal risk to their industry from visiting recreational boats.

Recreational fishers also expressed concern over increased tourism depleting the fish stocks in the district.

The cost of the project was frequently raised, with some sceptical of the council's reassurance that the project would not impact rates.

Mr Smith said two independent studies had been done on the cost of the project, and the stage-by-stage nature of construction would minimise risk.

"If we overspend on a stage we're going to have to cut the cloth on the next one," he said.

Mr Smith said the council believed the income the project would generate, mainly through marina fees and rent of the commercial buildings, would be able to cover maintenance costs in the future.

"Our estimates see the revenue it ill generate will more than cover that," he said.

Many at the meeting expressed confusion about the differing plans, diagrams and artists impressions released over the years.

A diagram available at the meeting and in the most recent council newsletter shows two options for the location of the water park, swimming pool and market shed, with the council still in consultation with affected business and home owners as to which option is preferred.