Nerve-racking decision on post office

Ilfracombe District Progress Association president Kate Wright by a monument to the first-ever motor vehicle delivery service for mail in Australia.

Michael R Williams

With the Longreach Regional Council’s recent decision to test the Ilfracombe Post Office on the market many locals have described feeling uneasy—fearing it may leave the vital infrastructure vulnerable to neglect.

President of the Ilfracombe Progress Association Kate Wright said while she hopes she’s wrong, she feels the recommendations put forward by Council were only to “take the heat away from the councillors of the situation.”

This is the second time historically the selling of the post office has been a hotly discussed agenda item for the council.

“It’s not just a post office for us,” Ms Wright said.

“It’s our local library, it’s our internet hub, it’s a banking facility.

“A lot of banks close at lunchtime in Longreach; this is a bank that is open 9 to 5; we’ve got that guaranteed.”

The Ilfracombe Post Office had been previously privately owned when the now-defunct Ilfracombe Shire Council purchased it saving it from possible dilapidation.

“We’re concerned about its potential privatisation,” Ms Wright said.

“Because we’ve seen it happen with the Wellshot Hotel and the store—if times get difficult they close.

“If we lost this post office it could be devastating.”

The post office also has historical significance as it was home to the first-ever motorised mail service from Ilfracombe to Isisford.

“We’ve gone through Covid the last two years and drought the years before that,” Ms Wright said.

“But we’ll fight this.

“It’s probably a losing battle, however.”

The Ilfracombe Progress Association will soon be hosting a town meeting, where Ms Wright hopes council members will come along and provide more information.

“It will be interesting to see what applications have been received and what potential developers have in store for this particular site,” she said.

“I feel if we lost our post office we could become a ghost town, our school is losing numbers, and the council chambers have limited staff.

“We could just become a town with a pub.”

Ms Wright said she hopes she is wrong that a developer does come in and build something on the site that improves the quality of life for Ilfracombe residents.

“But we do have concerns,” she said.

“I would prefer council to have more communication with us in Ilfracombe.

“We [Ilfracombe Progress Association] were called into a meeting unannounced, we didn’t know what the agenda was.

“I was in shock for three days after they told me; I think we could come together with the council and make this [the current post office] a profitable business if it’s just to do with the loss it’s making each year.”

Due to legal constraints, Council can only sell certain items from the post office meaning suggestions to make changes to the operations of the post office challenging from a legal standpoint.

However, Council has promised the Ilfracombe community will retain a postal service in some form whether the building is sold or not.

Council has responded to the allegation it had not given the Ilfracombe District Association proper notice about a meeting by stating it did arrange, with the help of the IDPA, an informal meeting with the Mayor, Acting CEO, and relevant Council officers, to discuss the matter, but it’s not usual practice to prepare an agenda for a casual discussion, although Council did explain that the meeting was to discuss a report Council would be considering.

“At the meeting Council clearly explained what it was considering, why it was considering it, and why it wanted to give IDPA the opportunity to discuss the matter,” the spokesperson said.

“It was a constructive discussion, and the meeting finished with the IDPA expressing its gratitude for the way in which Council had engaged with them.

“Council values its relationship with the IDPA and the opportunity to discuss such matters informally.”