While many Beechworth residents criticised Australia Post’s decision to vacate its iconic home – one disability advocate has accused the town of prioritising buildings over people.
Resident Margaret Feeney first raised concerns over the post office’s lack of access in 2011 and feels vindicated by the company’s decision to move.
However, she said, people with limited mobility still face many issues getting around the historic town, with shops inaccessible and cobblestones breaking walkers.
“What’s more important – people or buildings?” she said.
“There should be a sign saying ‘this town doesn’t care about the old or disabled’ that’s what we should be known, for not the bakery.”
Mrs Feeney said she was frustrated by Indigo Shire and the town’s heritage group for resisting what she saw as necessary change for the post office.
“Protecting heritage is good but only as long as it’s not detrimental to people in the town, and this was,” she said.
“The new one I can just walk straight in.”
However, Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor said council, the building owner and Australia Post had worked hard to find a way to make the heritage-listed building accessible.
She said the post office was an essential service, which all residents need to access.
“It’s sad to see the business that has been at the post office since it was built, move,” she said.
“However it’s really, really important to have equitable access so everyone can get in and out of the post office.
Cr O’Connor said there were two main concepts explored, a lift out front, which was not supported by the community, and a second entrance from Ford Street, which was dismissed by Australia Post.
“I’m pleased that the post office will be remaining in town and will offer larger services than it does now,” she said.
“It creates the opportunity for another business to capture that great building – it’s got huge potential.”
She said new commercial enterprise would be subject to the same heritage restrictions, but a different type of business might be able to function with modifications.
Resident Edward Holman said the office had been in position for more than 100 years.
“Just leave it where it is – don’t change it,” he said.
Peter Novosad said it was 2018 not 1856 and although it was sad to see the location change, the service needed to be accessed by all.
“It’s iconic, but nowadays we need to cater for people with a disability,” he said.
“Unfortunately too many people in town complain, maybe if everyone had accepted putting in a ramp it could be there.”
Margaret Cartlon said although she’d love to see it stay, the post office has to move.