Dorset mayor on future of Pioneer, former mining towns

Pioneer sign

Two Pioneer residents believe their town needs a strategy for its long-term future, separate to the ongoing issue of lead contamination in its drinking water.

Dean and Eva Mitchell said they were surprised at what they perceive as a lack of commitment to the town.

“I really struggle with that,” Mrs Mitchell said. “Because how can then TasWater provide to a town if it doesn’t have a strategic plan and an agricultural plan and a tourism plan?”

The North-East is littered with tiny settlements that have all the lifestyle benefits and service problems of small communities: Ringarooma has a population of 338, Winneleah 225, Gladstone 100, Pioneer 89, Herrick 56, Weldborough 28, Moorina 11, and so on.

Derby, population 173, is an obvious success story, with predicted flow-on revitalisation from its mountain bike trails for neighbouring Branxholm, population 267.

But Dorset mayor Greg Howard said that success story could not easily be duplicated for every town.

“[Pioneer is] going to continue to be primarily a residential town. I don’t think it’s going to decline, but it’s not going to jump ahead unless someone comes up with a brilliant idea,” he said.

“It’s got a nice lake and a campground – the problem is that other than [a bed and breakfast], there are no businesses in the town. There’s no cafe, there’s no garage, you can’t buy fuel … [for tourists] if you want a Panadol or a bit of milk to put in your coffee, you need a shop in town where you can buy that sort of thing, and that’s just not happening at the moment for Pioneer.”

Cr Howard said Pioneer was one of many towns in the North-East that were historically reliant on either tin mining or sawmills and became clusters of houses when the industry stopped.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily our responsibility to try and revitalise every town, but if someone comes up with an idea we’re certainly more than happy to help,” he said.

He added there was “absolutely no doubt” treated water was the right solution for Pioneer’s ongoing lead contamination issues.

“The tank solution was never the right one – Pioneer’s got a traditionally dry summer period, so a 10,000-litre rainwater tank is going to run out in three or four weeks if it doesn’t rain,” he said.

“And when you look at those small houses, old houses, some of them painted with lead paint, it was just never the ideal solution. TasWater should just bite the bullet, give them treated water and get the problem off their books, I can’t understand why they don’t do it.”

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