Wintersun worries -- Street closures under scrutiny

WINTERSUN organisers will meet with disgruntled Coolangatta traders tonight to come up with ideas to improve next year's festival after changes to street closures this year were blamed for a downturn in business.

Festival co-ordinator Barry McNamara said the community meeting to be held at the Coolangatta Hotel tonight from 5.30pm, would be an opportunity for people to have their say on the future look and feel of the festival, as well as debrief from this year's event.

"This festival is desperately needed to provide a cash-injection for the local economy in the middle of the year, which is normally the busy season," Mr McNamara said, indicating last year's event was a $20 million benefit to the economy.

"I am hoping that the meeting will be positive. We certainly want people to air their concerns, but we want an approach that will benefit everybody, the community, visitors and business owners.

"But there isn't going to be a solution that suits everybody, it will be about coming to a consensus."

For the first time this year Griffith Street was open to through traffic, with barricades restricting pedestrian access in the area, and as a result some traders had less patronage and experienced a down-turn in trade compared to previous years.

Judy Finnemore is the new owner of Resort and Sport Boutique in Griffith Street, and said according to long-standing employees this year was the quietest Wintersun ever, with the barricaded street leading to few people passing by the shopfronts on June 7, the biggest day of the 10-day event.

"Griffith Street is the main street of Coolangatta, and the way they barricaded off the street on the Saturday, it was like we were not included in the festival," Mrs Finnemore said.

"The way the barricades were set up the thousands of people in the area were ferried from Marine Parade through to Goodwin Park where some of the old cars were parked, but they bypassed Griffith Street.

"But while I had a slow Saturday, my staff has said that the Sunday was very busy, so I am pleased with that.

"The festival needs to continue here, so we need to work out a way to benefit everybody, the community and businesses."

Mr McNamara confirmed the opening of Griffith Street to traffic was a decision of Gold Coast police event management, who wanted better access for emergency vehicles, locals, public transport and taxis in the area.

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