Oxley Highway speed limit changes impact tourism

WEEKEND WARRIORS: The winding road attracts riders from across the state, who help keep the small business along the route viable. Photo: Gareth Gardner 210916GGA03

WEEKEND WARRIORS: The winding road attracts riders from across the state, who help keep the small business along the route viable. Photo: Gareth Gardner 210916GGA03

WALCHA businesses are concerned reduced speed limits along Oxley Highway will drive away the town’s growing number of motorcycle tourist.

The large sections of the motorbiking mecca between Walcha and Port Macquarie is set to be reduced by up to 30km/h.

Royal Cafe owner Toni Heaney was "very concerned" Walcha would see a "massive reduction" in the tourism industry it had worked so hard to build up.

“Most country towns are dying, but ours is thriving and it’s in part due to the car and motorcycle tourists,” Ms Heaney told The Leader.

“About 90 per cent of our accommodation is taken up by riders, with most dining at the cafe, so it's like a double hit to our direct trade.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson “disagreed” the change would impact tourism.

“The amount of time that they will lose by slowing down and is minimal, in some instances one to two minutes,” Mr Anderson said.

But Ms Heaney has watched the niche tourism market grow during the last 10 years, and with it “the town has prospered”.

For 12 years Garry Hartas has relied on the motorbike tourist stopping off at his Gingers Creek Bush Resort.

“We basically survive on them, they come from all over the country to do this road,” Mr Hartas said.

“There are easily a couple of hundred on weekends. It's nothing for us to have a hundred people here for breakfast on a Sunday morning.”

While the majority come over the weekend, there are “bikes cruising by all the time” during the week.

“We get people staying here over night from Newcastle, Sydney and Brisbane who travel just to do the mountain,” Mr Hartas said.

“I have about 20 or so every Saturday night book accommodation. If the speed limit is reduced, their not going to go out of there way to come here.”

Long Flat Hotel publican Terry Bridge can bank on 50 to 80 riders every Saturday and Sunday.

“On the way back they sit out the front talking for a couple of hours, comparing their bikes – some have drink,” Mr Bridge said.

“To lose that trade would be devastating.”

His accommodation revenue could also take a hit.

“We get riders from all over that will stay here for two or three days,” Mr Bridge said.

“They go up the mountain in the morning and explore the other roads around here as well.”

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