Whitsunday Councillor John Collins outside of his Proserpine butcher shop.
Whitsunday Councillor John Collins outside of his Proserpine butcher shop. Tamera Francis

Prossie pride: Business, community united front in recovery

PROSERPINE residents have resolved to propel their much-loved town forward after the post-cyclone downturn left many businesses battling and locals looking for ways to recover and support each other.

While an emotional mix of despair, courage, and determination has dominated the region during the past 10 months, the council, locals and the chamber of commerce are committed to rebuilding morale and pushing ahead with new projects to revitalise Proserpine.

A raft of "community-inspired" upgrades was finalised via The Proserpine Sustainability and Future Growth Master Plan at the end of last year, and parts of the strategy are now set to be implemented.

Deputy mayor John Collins - who also runs Downtown Butchery - said as part of the master plan a Main Street upgrade would include new footpaths, more gardens and the beautification of the area.

"The water park is going to be done this financial year and it's going to be a beauty," Cr Collins said.

Lake Proserpine is in line for a revamp, with a view to including camping facilities, and moves are under way for a new information centre and RV stop.

 

 

"Proserpine is a great town and we'll get through this," Cr Collins said.

"The message is to shop local and support the locals.

"There's not a shop that doesn't give to the schools and donate to charities and people need to remember that.

"We need our businesses to create jobs and keep people employed."

'Tumbleweed and black cats'

TRACEY Cameron, owner of Everything Office and More, said it had been "a really hard road back" for the town.

Ms Cameron, whose home and business were ruined in Cyclone Debbie, said, "By 1pm in the afternoon, all that's in the street is tumbleweed and black cats. It's that quiet."

 

Proserpine business advocates Tracey Cameron and Lorella Cassells
Proserpine business advocates Tracey Cameron and Lorella Cassells. Jessica Lamb

Ms Cameron, who has lived in Proserpine for nearly 18 years, said, "It's almost like people are going through a grieving process. It's incredibly sad. We've got lots of empty shops.

"We need the main street done up and we need the dam project so we can turn things around and attract visitors. We need feet on the sidewalks to instil confidence."

Marion Yuskan of Sew and Save, Proserpine, - who is still waiting on repairs to be completed after cyclone damage to her shop - said she hoped Main Street upgrades would provide an attraction for the annual 'grey nomad' season.

"We also need better signage on the highway and we need somewhere for people to park their caravans and to stay.

"The grey nomads like to support the little towns and they might not spend a lot, but they figure $5 is better in our pocket than in the big city's pocket."

It's about locals supporting locals

Lorella Cassells, owner of The Whitsunday Bakery, said Proserpine had become "a bit of ghost town".

"The businesses are hurting and I don't know what the answers are. Initially, after the cyclone, it was positive as a lot of people came to town for rebuilding, but now we're starting to go backwards again."

Ms Cassells, who has lived in Proserpine for 31 years, stressed that "locals supporting locals" and swapping online shopping for supporting local businesses was vital.

"Otherwise we're all going to be in trouble. I think it has to be a community-based effort starting with the person in the street right up to the people in council.

"I don't want to be negative and throw my hands in the air, but I honestly think if something doesn't happen in the next 12-18 months, there'll be a lot more business closures, and I'd hate to see a community die."

 

Cyclone clean up in Proserpine eight months after TC Debbie touched down.
Cyclone clean up in Proserpine eight months after TC Debbie touched down. Peter Carruthers

Janine Muller, owner of Climate Classics Clothing and former president of Proserpine Chamber of Commerce, said the people of Proserpine were resilient, but the town had suffered from a lack of funds and maintenance.

"I've lived here since the 1980s and right through that period, Proserpine has always been the bridesmaid but never the bride.

"Council needs to be putting some money into the main street of town by cleaning the streets and footpaths on a regular basis - it's just basic stuff."

Sophie's Jewellery owner Sophie Kuttner, who has lived in Strathdickie for 17 years and is now closing her shop after four years to travel, said she believed inspiration for a revamp could be taken from other small towns.

"I think Proserpine was declining and the cyclone has been its demise. It needs to be a quirky little town that people are going to come into.

"Proserpine has always had beautiful shops but they're slowly closing. It's devastating. People are losing their livelihoods."

President of the Proserpine Chamber of Commerce Bob Bogie said he wants Proserpine to be restored to its former glory "and beyond".

"I would like to help inject enthusiasm back into Proserpine and to help move the town forward," Mr Bogie said.

"I have been in the Whitsundays for almost 25 years and when I first arrived, Proserpine was a thriving country town. I believe there are now many opportunities for the town."

Mr Bogie - who is also deputy chair of GW3 (the regional economic development board for Whitsundays, Mackay and Isaac) - said he would focus on improvements for local businesses.

 

PROSSIE PRIDE: The Whitsunday Coast Guardian has begun a 'Prossie Pride' campaign, focusing on the good news coming out of the Proserpine region, celebrating local businesses -- new and existing -- and community leaders doing great things.

If you have a story that fits the bill, email the editor -- editor@whitsundaytimes.com.au -- or send a message to the Whitsunday Guardian Facebook page.

 

UPGRADE: Work will soon start on an upgrade to the Proserpine Main Street. 
Photo Sharon Smallwood / Whitsunday Times
An upgrade to the main street of Proserpine is on the agenda. Sharon Smallwood

Road to recovery

In the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, numerous Whitsunday Regional Council facilities and assets were in need of repairs or improvements. Funding received from a range of sources, including council, insurance providers and jointly funded Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements under the federal and state governments, will generate a wide range of infrastructure projects to rebuild the Whitsunday region.

Under way

  • Bowen PCYC: Works have started to repair cyclone damage to the buildings. The repair works are expected to take approximately six months, weather permitting.
  • Proserpine Entertainment Centre: Works have begun to repair cyclone damage. The repairs are expected to take approximately three months, weather permitting.
  • Whitsunday Coast Airport: Works have begun to repair cyclone damage to the terminal building, and are expected to be completed within three months, weather permitting.

Completed

  • Proserpine Swimming Pool: The pool was restored and reopened to the public during the September school holidays. The new grandstand is being reassembled on-site (under Works for Queensland funding), and is expected to be completed by the end of October, weather permitting.
  • Collinsville Swimming Pool: The pool was repaired and reopened to the public during the September school holidays.

What do you think? Email your letters to the editor to editor@whitsundaytimes.com.au