Bad turn for the Port’s future

By Vivienne Duck

IS THIS the beginning of the end for the Port of Echuca?

‘‘If we go, the port is going to die’’.

That is the worry of Donna Katzer who, with her husband Michael, have decided to close up shop after 17 years in the port .

And the reason?

‘‘The business is simply not viable any more,’’ Donna said.

‘‘It is a really tough decision and one we didn’t make lightly.

‘‘The customer numbers have been dropping for probably five years now and we just can’t do it any more.

‘‘It was time.’’

Donna said all options were explored before the decision was made.

‘‘The shire has really tried to come on board and help us but we just can’t make the business viable where it is,’’ she said.

‘‘We even looked at if they hired us as a tourist attraction but it just wasn’t going to work.

‘‘We are just so passionate about the history of the port and what it stands for in Echuca so to make this decision has been a really hard one for us.’’

The tourism numbers have been declining for some time and Donna said the saga with the former Oscar W’s building hasn’t helped.

‘‘This decision has been coming for about five years,’’ she said.

‘‘There has been so much construction and disruption around us in the port during that time and going forward with what is happening with the retaining wall and the building it would just continue to be hard.

‘‘That space, once demolished, would still be at least two years away from anything being there.’’

The woodturners are open seven days a week, but for the last few years Donna said it wasn’t even worth being open on the weekends.

‘‘We used to get a lot of business over the weekend and then during the week we would stock up again,’’ she said.

‘‘Now it isn’t even worth opening our doors over the weekend.

‘‘It has gotten that bad.’’

And the hardest part for Donna is the feeling of guilt.

‘‘We feel like we are letting the port down and the community down by closing our doors,’’ she said.

But the Katzer’s aren’t putting down the tools just yet.

‘‘Our business will hopefully go completely online,’’ Donna said.

‘‘That is the way the world is going and our clients will be able to order and contact us online for pieces which has been happening for a while now.

‘‘We just won’t have a shop front any more.’’

Donna said they haven’t got a definite close date yet but it is likely to be late June.

Campaspe economic and community development general manager Keith Oberin said council has been working with the lessees of the woodturning shop to renew their lease.

‘‘And a new lease has been provided for review,’’ he said.

‘‘While council is aware the lessee is considering future options and has been made aware that council is keen to maintain the woodturning business, a final decision has not been formally conveyed to council.’’