Rockhampton Heritage Village.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Rockhampton Heritage Village.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin

ASPIRE CQ: Second chance for Heritage Village

THE CAPRICORN Coast is currently experiencing a bumper period, across accommodation, hospitality and real estate, that is possibly leaving its Gold Coast counterparts (and definitely Victorian ones) envious.

Comments like, ‘the last three weekends have been like Easter’, ‘restaurant is again booked to capacity’, ‘we’re busier than the boom times’, have been heard.

I imagine Rockhampton has also been receiving the spin-off from southern tourists not wanting to return home, locals just wanting to get out of the house and the extra government money being spread around.

As evident with the larger than expected crowd at the recent Home Show.

It’s a pity, that in this busy period, three of Rockhampton’s strongest tourist assets are closed, Great Western Hotel, the Rockhampton Art Gallery and Rockhampton Heritage Village, for various reasons.

Closing Rockhampton Heritage Village is giving the owners, Rockhampton Regional Council, ‘time to explore and implement a new business plan’.

A second (or is it a third) chance to succeed you could possibly say.

But what is the criteria for success, is it just to be a lesser cost to ratepayers?

Have you seen the outdoor signs and billboards with the hashtag, #OurSecondChance?

It is a global campaign, challenging whether the new positive habits and values that COVID-19 restrictions have brought on, will be sustained in 2021.

Along with the damaging effects of COVID-19 there have been positive ones as well. Including decreases in pollution with fewer planes and cars being used and fewer tourists.

As mentioned in a previous column, the water around Venice is now cleaner, there may not be dolphins and swans swimming in it, but it is healthier for the fish, would it not be good if it could stay that way when the tourists return in force.

For some, COVID-19 restrictions have encouraged one to reflect on their current lifestyle and the legacy they are leaving.

This includes using the extra personal time gained working from home or working fewer hours to spend it with their families, get fitter, be more socially involved, broaden their knowledge and skills. Essentially, be a better you.

COVID-19 has become a trigger for many to reassess, retrain and reinvent our way of life, businesses, communities, ourselves.

Just look what Cooberrie Park is now planning to do - introduce dinosaurs.

What are the underlying fundamentals for Rockhampton Heritage Village’s second chance?

Its early closure didn’t allow for new habits and values to be adopted, that #OurSecondChance challenges one to sustain in 2021.

No doubt the goal after its 12-month hiatus is to be better.

But what is better, is it just a financial outcome or are other outcomes more important?

Let’s face it, lots of old towns have Heritage Villages/displays.

There is old stuff that you no longer use or want but don’t want to throw away either, donate it to a heritage display so others can appreciate it.

Makes you feel good, and you’ve now got more room in the shed.

So, unless a heritage display offers a unique experience there will be this ‘seen one you’ve seen them all’, or ‘what is there different to see next time’ attitude to constantly address. Hosting markets is one way, but you need an everyday constant that has people, tourists and locals, regularly showing up for it be viable after covering maintenance, insurance, marketing and all the other costs that go with running 365 days a year.

Rockhampton does have a very good display and it is situated on a prime site, but I suspect that despite the dedicated efforts of its volunteers the village is a burden on the council’s books.

Council’s past attempts to sell it didn’t pan out well and I think it will be reluctant to go down that track again.

Should the second chance for the Heritage Village to be ‘better’ involve it becoming an eco-sustainable village?

The village from yesteryear that is helping shape the villages of the future.

The global challenge, #OurSecondChance, has been made to encourage us to continue to be better.

Not better as in richer in money and assets, but richer in how we value the environment, family, neighbours, old friends, being outdoors and key workers.

Can Rockhampton’s Heritage Village be a microcosm of trying to meet this challenge.

Plan for it to become 100 per cent carbon neutral, live off-the-grid, like the pioneering days part of the display once did.

Recycle all its waste.

Hold markets that only feature environmentally friendly products.

Conduct regular yoga classes there.

Allow businesses to have on-going displays of renewable energy in action and test new ideas. Encourage community meetings to be held in the Shearing Shed.

Relocate Rockhampton’s annual gardening and sustainability expo, Tropicana, to the village. Grow organic fruit and vegetables in the gardens.

Advertise for local WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) to volunteer to look after the gardens.

Renew and revise the past working relationship with the Dreamtime Centre across the highway (there are great sustainability synergies here).

Hold classes in eco-sustainability in the school building.

There are numerous ways to make the Heritage Village more than a display of what once was. It can still be a doorway to our past, but it can also be to our future.

Innovation, new technology, sustainability and history all wrapped into one package.

This obviously isn’t going to all just materialise within 12 months, thank goodness for that, it’s a continual work in progress, just like maintenance is now.

The more people continually involved the better.

Each group working on their agreed project under the big picture eco-sustainable umbrella. Involvement gives a sense of ownership and pride.

Seeing all the projects come together under the one vision will provide a great sense of collaboration and community.

This will lead to people from all over the world interested to see and become involved as part of their personal ‘second chance’ journey.

The ripples from which could spread throughout the Rockhampton region as it to evaluates what new habits and values it wishes to sustain in 2021.

I wonder, is this the principle criterion for success the council’s business plan for the Rockhampton Heritage Village is aiming for?

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