Walcha motorcycle tourism 'huge', could be damaged by speed limit changes

DREAM RIDE: The Oxley Highway attracts riders from across the nation, most of who stop at Walcha. Photo: Gareth Gardner 210916GGA04

DREAM RIDE: The Oxley Highway attracts riders from across the nation, most of who stop at Walcha. Photo: Gareth Gardner 210916GGA04

SPEED limit changes to the Oxley Highway and the flow on effect it will have on the town’s tourism will be the first thing on the agenda for the new Walcha Shire Council.

Walcha has a thriving motorcycle tourism sector, with hundreds of riders descending upon the town every weekend on their way to or from the mountainous road ride between Walcha and Port Macquarie.

But large sections of the route, which is a mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts, are set to be reduced by up to 30km/h, which businesses fear will drive away riders.

I dare say we will make representation through our local member [Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson] to get it reviewed. - Walcha Shire Council general manager, Jack O'Hara

Walcha Shire general manager, Jack O'Hara, said councillors would meet for the first time next Wednesday and the issue was sure to be brought up.

“We will definitely be taking the seriously potential effects into account,” Mr O'Hara said.

“I dare say we will make representation through our local member [Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson] to get it reviewed.”

The niche tourist market is “absolutely huge” for the town.

“It is honestly remarkable, you go through the town on the weekend and there are bikes everywhere,” Mr O'Hara said.

“All the accommodation is full, the coffee shops are busy, there are people walking up and down the street.

“Anything done to dampen the attractiveness of the ride would have flow on effects.”

Walcha wouldn't be the only town in the region to be impacted – riders often use Walcha as the starting point for a tour around the rest of the area.

“The often go up through Uralla to Glen Innes and head to the coast via Grafton, or they do a loop the other way, down to Tamworth and take Thunderbolts Way through Gloucester,” Mr O'Hara said. 

A number of local business that rely on motorcycle tourism, such as the Walcha Royal Cafe and the Ginger Springs Resort, will also be at the meeting to discuss the proposed changes.

On Tuesday, they will gather at the Mount Seaview Resort to talk to a Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) representative.

Owner of Walcha Royal Cafe, Toni Heaney says about 90 per cent of her venue's accommodation was taken up by riders, who then also dine in the cafe.

“So it is like a double hit to our direct trade,” she said.

Earlier this week Mr Anderson told The Leader he doubted the changes would drive away motorcycle tourism.

“The amount of time that they will lose by slowing down and is minimal, in some instances one to two minutes,” Mr Anderson said.

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