The general manager of a large Wollongong club says the multimillion-dollar refurbishment of Crown Street Mall will be a waste unless its so-called "antisocial inhabitants" are moved on.
City Diggers RSL Club general manager Phil Ryan wrote to the Mercury in response to comments made by independent councillor Vicki Curran, in which she criticised Wollongong City Council's plans to encourage people congregating in Crown Street Mall to meet at nearby Wesley Church.
The plan, designed by a working group of the council, police, security, methadone and health clinics, Wesley Church and GPT, began a six-month trial on August 4.
"Most retailers in the mall not only dislike these people, they despise them.''
Disagreeing with Cr Curran's views that this represented an attempt at "gentrification" and the "marginalisation of our poor", Mr Ryan was scathing in his assessment of those engaging in antisocial behaviour in the mall.
"Most retailers in the mall not only dislike these people, they despise them," he wrote.
"What is to like about a group of people who act in the antisocial manner of these 'marginalised' people? Their public urination, foul language, and abuse directed at innocent passers-by, intoxication, assault, theft, drug abuse and a heap of other general nuisances which have long been a major detraction of the Wollongong CBD ... ?"
The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by GPT and the council to revamp the city centre would not help if "longstanding problems" were not fixed.
"Every cent of expenditure on the new mall will be wasted in the long term if one of the mall's biggest turn-offs ... is not addressed," he wrote.
"In my opinion, the most marginalised people in this whole situation are the small business owners of the CBD and their staff, who will unfortunately not see the CBD improvement promised by Wollongong Council following the opening of the new mall if the current situation continues."
Mr Ryan said the sentiments in his letter did not "necessarily reflect the opinions of the directors or staff" of City Diggers, but he had pushed for his company to offer funding when asked to support the Wesley Church program.
The Mercury tried to find out more details about the trial but the council refused to answer specific questions and issued a statement saying: "[The] council is collaborating with the Wesley Community Centre on the program. We look forward to hearing of its progress."