An air of optimism in Branxton

IT’S too early to say whether ornot Branxton will become a“destination centre” but 12 months after the completion of the $1.7billion Hunter Expressway there is still plenty of optimism in the air.

As predicted some businesses, like the local newsagency and Branxton Fish and Chips, have taken a “hit”.

department manager Peter Bradford and store manager Liam Collier have benefited from the opening of the Hunter Expressway – 12 months on.

They can no longer takeadvantage of the steady stream of traffic that once flowed through the small town – up to 40,000 vehicles a day.

Although they acknowledge the downturn in the mining industry has also played a role in thesequieter times.

However, less traffic andcongestion is enticing locals back to the main street now they can “get a park”.

The owner of Branxton House Motel, Lucy Fung, says this also makes staying in Branxton more attractive.

“I was worried at first but it has turned out to be more of a positive than a negative,” she says.

“It is much quieter, safer andeasier to get around.

“Overall, it is a much moreenjoyable experience for visitors and they stay longer.”

Having only purchased the motel three years ago, she is more worried about the decline of the mining industry.

“We are busy on weekends but the weekdays are much quieter,” she explains.

“There was a big drop offbefore the expressway was even completed.”

Manager of Branxton Hardware Liam Collier has called it “ablessing in disguise”.

The store he manages is reaping some unexpected, but welcome, benefits now the region is directly linked to Newcastle.

Mr Collier says without having to do any promotion a new market has opened up for them.

“Now we have a qualityconnection to a metropolitan area, more tradespeople from Newcastle are working in the area and we are picking up business from them,” he says.

“As once they are here doing a job, they don’t want to travel back to Newcastle for supplies.”

The driven store managerdecided to take advantage of the trend and revamped this side of the business accordingly.

“Tilers, painters, plasterers, plumbers, and the like, are doing all types of work in the area so supplying the trade market is making up for the minimal retail leakage we have experienced in retail due to the expressway.”

“If we continue tomarket the business properly we shouldalso see some turnover from the Huntleedevelopment.

“I didn’t expect it to be a positive but it has been,” he says.

“I have lived here allmy life and I haveseen so many new faces lately.

“Apparently they have been here for a while; they just never shopped here because it was too busy.”

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