Businesses desperate for hope while redevelopment completed
AS a stalwart in the Ipswich CBD for over 30 years, Teresa Pearce has seen and heard it all.
The Ipswich City News owner has sadly watched as fellow business owners around her have closed their doors as foot traffic dropped off dramatically with the closure of the mall.
She has run the newsagency for 16 years following the closure of her craft store and Ms Pearce has owned the building she is in for almost a quarter of a century.
But as the owner of the building her business resides in and with no interest from buyers, she has to stick it out through the tough times.
While she said the downturn started five years ago, "reality hit" when the Woolworths in the CBD shut in January 2017.
The long list of businesses which have closed up only grows with the Urban Pantry cafe next door to her the latest casualty.
"Then the mall was shut and it was the beginning of the end. As that collapsed then we all collapsed around it," she said.
"There's a lot more that are going to close before it's going to get better. It's terrible and it will be at least two years before you're going to see an improvement.
"They don't have a reason to come in anymore. We've chased them out of the CBD. There are no banks in sight. The post office goes in six months."
Large parts of the fencing around the Nicholas St redevelopment are expected to be removed before Christmas but vehicular access on the new road between Brisbane and Bell streets will not be available until the second half of 2020.
She compared the situation to farmers dealing with drought, not knowing how they are going to make things work and what their future holds.
"I think the biggest single problem is depression... they can't see hope anymore," she said.
Ms Pearce understood council had to see the big picture and the CBD redevelopment was all about setting up the city centre for years to come but stressed how hope was quickly fading in the business community.
Even small increases in rates or charges - Ms Pearce said her waste collection bill had jumped by about 35 per cent this financial year - could be enough of a blow for business owners to call it a day.
She said relief needs to be given to tide businesses over until the redevelopment is completed.
"External costs are going up," she said.
"Council haven't put up the rates much in 20 years... they were always too high.
"(Council) is looking at the CBD in five, 10 and 20 year spans. People who are in business, especially renting in business, they don't have that luxury. They're looking in 12 month or two year spans at best. Ipswich will be very different in 30 years time but you can't talk to people about 30 years if they can't get past the next 12 months.
"As I've said to many, many councillors over the years they don't concentrate on dealing with the landlords of the town, they concentrate on dealing with the tenants of the town. Tenants are moveable furniture, they leave. The landlords are here for the hard yards, they're here for the long run. We get totally ignored. Landlords have much higher rate costs, it flows on."
An Ipswich City Council spokesperson said commercial/industry rates across Ipswich had zero increase in the 2019-20 budget but dependant valuation movements announced earlier this year by the State Government means some "may have gone up and some down".
The spokesperson said on average the increase in waste collection prices as a result of the waste levy was between 29-37 per cent.
"It already is (a ghost town)... it's just a matter of whose going to be the last man standing," Ms Pearce said.