One thing we found during the six weeks when the movie was in town it is that the current downtown area, faced with a flood of visitors, doesn’t have a lot of parking close to places where a lot of people want to go.

Anyone visiting the Post Office or planning to go shopping in town will find parking spaces are few and far between if you’re not keen on walking too far. They exist, but you’re probably going to be faced with a bit of a hike.

An astute observer would probably be prompted to ask how the current supply of parking spaces would cope if Bowen’s population doubles or trebles over the next twenty-five years.

To be quite straightforward, it won’t.

In a way, that won’t matter, because in twenty-five years people won’t be visiting the downtown area to do the things they do now. You’d guess that they’ll still be going to the Post Office, but there’ll be another Post Office wherever the big retail developments end up being located.

It won’t be too long before Bowen has the same kind of commercial developments that you find along the northern approaches to Mackay and Rockhampton or at the base of Mount Louisa in Townsville, those big retail outlets surrounded by spacious car parks that you visit once in a while.

In the vicinity you’ll also find supermarkets as well as the range of specialty shops you find in any shopping complex, but they’ll be surrounded by other specialty stores covering everything from furniture to fruit trees.

Right now there are probably developers who are laying the groundwork for precisely that kind of development.

The problem is that we don’t know where they’re looking, and we probably won’t find out about it until either they’re good and ready to unveil the plans or Council forces their hand by deciding well in advance of any applications where such developments are going to go.

Hopefully, it will be Council dictating to the developers rather than the other way around.

Would it be desirable, for example, to have substantial extra development in the area around Centrepoint?

There may be room to do it, but I would have thought that a substantial increase in traffic around the High School would be highly undesirable.

In addition, developments in that area are still well away from the extensive new residential developments to the south of the town.

Once the first of these new “drive to” developments goes ahead, businesses in the current central business district will be faced with a difficult decision.

Do they relocate, open a branch operation in one of these new developments or stay where they are?

I suspect many businesses choosing to stay in their current location would be faced with a slow decline in turnover which will eventually force them out of business.

Some businesses will have no choice in the matter if their competition looks like relocating or if a major new competitor arrives in town and heads straight for the new development.

Given that scenario, existing hardware and electrical retailers, furniture stores and car dealerships would almost certainly move to new locations with greater floor-space and better parking facilities.

And when they move, what happens to their current premises?

It’s hardly likely that you’ll find new businesses queueing up to access the newly-vacant space, since new businesses are going to be trying to gain access to the new retail precincts.

Some businesses will stay in town. The restaurants and pubs won’t have too much to worry about and there may be scope to increase the entertainment and eating options on offer but there are already significant issues with alcohol- and drug-fuelled vandalism and you would expect such behaviour to increase if the area becomes run-down with large numbers of vacant buildings.

Not that the vacant buildings will necessarily be unoccupied. As the area becomes increasingly run-down you’d expect to find an increase in the numbers of homeless people taking shelter there, with an associated rise in petty crime in the areas immediately around town.

That sort of scenario doesn’t sit very well with the redevelopment of the Front Beach area either. If part of the raison d’etre for the redevelopment is to encourage people to turn off the highway and visit the area where the movie was shot, an increasingly run-down business centre will more than likely encourage them to turn around and head back to the highway.

For those reasons it’s desirable that high-density residential development be channelled into the current central business district.

That will bring substantial numbers of people into the area and, while some businesses will have no choice but to relocate, it will encourage others to remain in town, and will attract services likely to appeal to people living in unit developments, which would also be the sort of businesses that would be most likely to encourage people to turn off the highway.