Widgee faces an uncertain future

Widgee Engineering: Widgee Engineering to move or close down.
Widgee Engineering: Widgee Engineering to move or close down.

"I'VE got to go somewhere else out of Gympie for work."

This was a common answer from Widgee Engineering staff yesterday, who have been left wondering what their future will be after Gympie Regional Council gave the company two years to move or shut.

While the decision was made at the council's ordinary meeting on Wednesday, staff were only notified when they arrived at work yesterday morning.

With the company for four years, Brodyn Davey said workers were not the only ones hurt by the decision.

Staff were also frequent customers of the town's general store, and many also had children attending Widgee State School.

"It's impacting everything," Mr Davey said.

Chris Austin, who did his apprenticeship at the company before being hired, said it was a decision which was going to be hard on many people, especially owners Di and Pete Saal.

Widgee Engineering Chris Austin, Brodyn Davey and Billy Bennett.
Widgee Engineering Chris Austin, Brodyn Davey and Billy Bennett. Renee Albrecht

"I've been here for two years, and Peter and Di have really looked after us," Mr Austin said.

Given the Saals's efforts to keep the business at its present location, he was also disappointed with council's decision and said it should have been made much sooner.

"I think it's not really fair to Pete and Di - all the money they've put into this place for the past years," he said.

Office staff member Lyn Wuoti was disappointed with the council.

"They're just being very inflexible considering they've been here so long," Lyn Wuoti said

"The strain that it's put on the owners and workers is overwhelming."

However Bill Pukallus and Anna Hobbs-Pukallus, who live across the road, said Widgee Engineering's operations had "destroyed" their property.


WIDGEE NEWS. Widgee's Bill and Anna Pukallus enjoyed their Melbourne Cup lunch at the Bushman's Bar on Tuesday.
Bill Pukallus and Anna Hobbs-Pukallus. Contributed

Mr Pukallus said the company had repeatedly ignored regulations and zoning, and as a result he "copped a lot of pollution" from their work.

"It has a massive effect on our lifestyle," he said.

"They were starting at 5am and finishing at midnight."

Mr Pukallus said council officers investigating the noise concerns could hear the business from the table of their house, which was 350m from the site.

He also questioned the company's benefit to the community, with many staff not from Widgee but driving there from Gympie.

"The benefits to Widgee are hardly any," he said.

"It's a massive business in a rural area and it does not belong here."

He also asked why Gympie Regional Council would have rules, regulations and zones if they were not going to be enforced.

Concern Widgee could become 'ghost town'

WILL Widgee become a ghost town?

This was the concern of one business owner who said the decision to force Widgee Engineering to leave the region would hurt a town which was already struggling to keep business.

"Widgee can become more of a ghost town than it already is," Warren Francis said.

The owner of Widgee Rural Supplies since December last year, Mr Francis was concerned the business's departure would have an adverse effect on the town.

He was also worried about the loss of future job opportunities which were being lost in Widgee, which would have other effects on the town's ability to grow.

"The flow-on effect to everybody else is noticeable," he said.

"I'd be disappointed for the opportunity for a Widgee business to start up again.

"I don't know what was happening in the past, but I don't see what the impact (the business is having) now is."

Widgee resident John Millsom was also unimpressed with the decision.


Widgee Engineering street survey John Millsom from Widgee.
John Millsom. Renee Albrecht

"They've had a solid impact on the region and they've been employing people for ages," he said.

While the town would continue without Widgee Engineering, Mr Millsom said, it was another decision which did not help regional areas.

"It's not the end of the world, but it's another nail in the coffin of the council," he said.