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Store's closure is a bad sign for Somerset Dam, say owners

DOORS CLOSED: Former Somerset Dam General Store owners Taff and Deb Courtney.
DOORS CLOSED: Former Somerset Dam General Store owners Taff and Deb Courtney. Kate Czerny

SOMERSET Dam - a place long-regarded as a tourist destination for fishing, water sports and beautiful scenery - is in danger of becoming a "ghost town".

That is the concern of former Somerset Dam General Store owners Taff and Deb Courtney who have had to close the doors on their 58-year-old business.

Mrs Courtney said the store had long been an integral part of the community, and provided locals and tourists with groceries, fuel and a postal service.

"If residents want to collect their mail now, they will have to travel more than 30km to Esk or Toogoolawah," she said.

The grandmother said declining tourist numbers and increased rent and bills were some of the factors which forced the store's closure.

She said a food van permit had been granted by the Somerset Council and Seqwater, which had negatively impacted the business.

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"We were a seasonal business and relied on the holiday trading to see us through the year. But those were the times when the food van operated," she said.

Mrs Courtney said the campsite near the store had also seen a seasonal low last Christmas with about a dozen campers visiting the site.

She said the campground had recently been granted a 30-year private lease which would see it turned into "another expensive commercial enterprise".

She said the land had previously been granted to the public for free access and used to attract a large number of tourists.

Mrs Courtney said the community was in dire need of more support from local government as well as Seqwater if it was to survive.

"We need these bureaucrats to take more of an interest in small country towns like this, otherwise they may not be here one day," she said.

"At the moment, Somerset Dam village now has no sewerage, no postal service, no mobile coverage and no community shop."

Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said he was disappointed to learn the store had closed but wanted to assure Somerset Dam residents the town had certainly not been forgotten.

Cr Lehmann said the council had been working hard to promote tourism in the area and Somerset Dam was one of the region's key tourist destinations.

He said Somerset Dam had always been a nice place to live and visit and the council was keen to keep it that way.

Mr and Mrs Courtney, who ran the store for the past three years, said they planned to return to the Sunshine Coast where they once lived. They said they were unsure what would become of the former store.

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