Despite the ongoing bushfire threat that has engulfed East Gippsland over the past few weeks, the lakeside town of Metung is open for business.
A usually busy town during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Metung has been impacted with a loss of tourism seeing significant financial loss.
Ian Lockwood, of Lockwood Real Estate, is opening his new shop this Thursday at 4pm on the village green and says that Metung is steadily returning to normal. Mr Lockwood’s real estate agency burnt down 12 months ago after a blaze in the nearby bakery.
“Metung is just the most marvellous place in the world,” Mr Lockwood said.
“It’s a small little village and has beautiful scenery, but it’s the people here who make Metung. Everybody here smiles at you when you walk down the main street.
“So putting those two components together and the fact that we’ve got a wonderful place to live, Metung is open for business and we are ready to invite people back to the town.
“We are not affected dramatically here by the fires at the moment.”
Bryan Carroll, of Edgewater Terraces at Metung, says it’s time that Metung gets back into the swing of things.
“It’s been a difficult start with a lot of cancellations with people cautious to come to the area,” Mr Carroll said.
“All we can say from our end is that Metung is open for business and that we’ve been largely unaffected like others; we just hope that people will stick by us and return to the area.”
Peter Baldwin, of the Metung Village Store and Bella’s Providore, says that his stores are usually bustling with tourists over the holidays and has noticed a big difference in 2020.
“Things took off really well, as per usual, and the town filled up really quickly,” Mr Baldwin said.
“With the threat of fire the town vacated very rapidly, but we are still here and everything is operating as per usual.
“We are not under immediate threat and we are here to provide our facilities for people that are still looking for a holiday.
“I think it’s going to be a long recovery for the whole of East Gippsland, but I know most tourism operators are looking to get things back on track as soon as possible.
“We are ready to go.”
With Metung best known for its pristine water activities, Metung Yacht Club restaurant owners, Rob and Julie-Anne McPherson, say it’s been a tough start for their business since moving to the area in September.
“We are so excited to get back into it and we’ve only just opened the restaurant,” Mrs McPherson said.
“We left fires in the Grampians to come and move here where we thought there wouldn’t be fires,” Mr McPherson said.
“We are open so come and see us and have a good meal. Metung is a very safe place so please come back.”
First National King and Heath, Metung’s Richard O’Byrne says despite the tough times Metung is still operating and that tourists are more than welcome back.
“It’s been a harrowing time for many people and there have been evacuations but the feeling is that the main danger period has passed,” Mr O’Byrne said.
“In reality the fire didn’t get any closer than 20 kilometres from Metung, but there was always that worry that it could have moved down into the area.
“Fortunately we’ve come through unscathed and we are really looking forward to supporting local businesses and getting things rolling again because so many have been damaged from what has happened from the trade side of things.
“I think it’s a matter of supporting them as best we can and keep the money in Gippsland and support the locals.
“It’s so important for small communities like Metung to rally behind each other and I will say that the community has been fantastic and supportive.
“People really want to see Metung back to what it was as quickly as possible.”
Peter Cook, of LJ Hooker Metung, says it’s business as usual.
“We were open the day after New Year’s day and we were advised to get out of town like everybody else,” Mr Cook said.
“We’ve been back since Monday, January 6, and all our staff is back working.
“I think it’s one of those things, Metung is still here and everybody is happy. The town is a little bit low on numbers but everything else is okay down here.
“I’d like to commend the CFA and everybody else for their help.”
IMAGE: Businesses in Metung are urging locals and tourists to return to the area as the majority are back open for business. K17-27