‘Bypassed in every sense’: How a traffic development is costing this small town

Phil Maney started working with pastry when he was just 15 years old and has been baking pies for 45 years.

Nestled along the main street in the rural town of Perth, in Tasmania’s north, is one of his 16 bakeries — a shop front that has been impacted by the opening of a bypass.

Traffic from the state’s south used to travel up the Midland Highway, through Perth and onto Launceston or across to the Bass Highway, but now the traffic cuts across Perth’s outskirts.

Mr Maney said his bakery in Perth was once a popular stop for truck drivers, but now they’re no longer travelling into the town, he misses out on business from up to 50 drivers per day.

“They used to call in for pies for breakfast of course, good coffee, but obviously it’s quicker for them to go round, so unfortunately we’ve lost a lot of those,” he said.

Residents like Vicki Maloney, who live in a row of houses near the bypass are concerned about the noise coming from traffic.

Vicki Maloney standing on a street, smiling.
Vicki Maloney is concerned about the noise coming from traffic.(ABC News: April McLennan)

“When we had all the community consultation about the bypass we asked for sound mitigation and we feel like we’ve been ignored,” she said.

Although Patricia Underlin is in favour of the bypass, she has to turn the television up to drown out the sounds.

An empty main street in a small regional town lined with houses and an antiques store in the distance.
The main street of Perth in Tasmania’s north.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

“Sitting in my lounge room of a night time, the noise, it was like thunder coming through, especially the very large trucks,” she said.

A Department of State Growth spokesperson said they undertook noise modelling before construction began to determine the impacts of the new highway.

“The pre-construction modelling indicated that an increase in noise would generally occur; however, the increase did not exceed the allowed thresholds under the guidelines for the majority of houses and mitigation measures are implemented where required,” the spokesperson said.

The department will in the next couple of months undertake post-construction noise monitoring to confirm the accuracy of its preconstruction modelling.

A change felt by local businesses

A man stands inside a shop looking at a tin of honey with shelves of product behind him.
Julian Wolfhagen, who runs a small honey shop, says the town has been isolated.(ABC News: April McLennan)

The double whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the opening of the bypass has seen local honey shop owner Julian Wolfhagen lose 90 per cent of his retail business.

“We’ve been marooned, isolated and bypassed in every sense, not just the physical one,” he said.

He wants to see more signage installed along the highway to attract people into the town.

“There was always a lot of traffic, people stopping for refreshments or comfort stops — so that’s no longer happening,” he said.

Anxiety about being bypassed is a familiar feeling for some residents in Deloraine, 40 minutes down the highway in the Meander Valley.

The rural town faced similar problems to Perth, with heavy traffic travelling up and down the main street.

The town’s local deli owner Barbara Harvey said she remembered what the town was like about 30 years ago.

When the township was bypassed, it became a tourist destination with local visitors weaving in and out of the colourful shop fronts.

Local florist Carolyn Atkins said it did not take long for things to go back to normal after the town was bypassed.

Carolyn Atkins smiling.
Even though florist Carolyn Atkins’s town was bypassed, it didn’t take long for things to return to normal.(ABC News: April McLennan)

“I don’t remember any businesses closing because we still had the same amount of takeaway shops,” she said.

“People just come in from Launceston or Devonport or Hobart to visit the shops, they just love to go shopping in the eclectic little shops that we have.”

Now the town can close its main street to host the annual ANZAC day parade and the Deloraine car show, detouring traffic onto the Bass Highway.

The residents’ advice to Perth is to plan their signage to encourage people off the highway.

“Advertise your lovely little antique stores, your little cafes — the things that people like to spend time with,” Ms Harvey said.

The Northern Midlands Council said it worked with the Department of State Growth to develop landscaped entrance signage for the Perth township, and that it would help local businesses promote their services.

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