The MDPA is constantly looking to understand (and improve) what Merriwa has to offer without changing the underlying fabric of what makes us unique. We surveyed 103 people through a combination of on-the-spot interviews and online survey.
The results shows that Merriwa is both a “quick stopover” (where food and drinks are the focus) and also a “destination” (where Battery Rock, a campdraft, the Merriwa Show, the Pony Club, and the railway station were cited as some of the reasons for visiting).
On a positive note, those surveyed like the “town appeal” and the “friendliness” of Merriwa. Some 78% of the respondents had positive things to say about the parking and amenities (with responses ranging from excellent through to fine). The parks and playgrounds were thought to be good for those stopping for a break (particularly those travelling with children) and the water refill station was well received. Other positive aspects of Merriwa included the fuel prices and “Merriwa being handy to the coast”. This last comment suggests Merriwa could be promoted as the last stop before (or the first stop after) the coast. Respondents thought we had a “great main street” but there was a danger presented by the trucks rolling through.
While some of those surveyed said the “caravan access” was good, a number of other respondents thought the caravan park was too small and not easily accessible. The same mixed messages were given about amenities with some wanting more amenities in the main street while others thought the amenities were sufficient.
Areas for improvement included the need for “more seats, more interesting eateries, improved access to the Silo murals, more things to see and do, more accommodation for large groups, a longer river walk, more history about the area and for the shops to be open longer.
Some thought that Merriwa was “busy”, that it needed “more signage to welcome visitors”.
Download a pdf of the survey results.
A Little Background
In early 2021 the Merriwa District Progress Association (MDPA) surveyed a selection of Merriwarians (locals) as well as visitors to Merriwa. The survey was the brain child of MDPA member, Chris Mitchell, and exposed some surprising results as to how our township is viewed.
Sixty six pedestrians were interviewed outside the Merriwa Bakery and a further 37 participants completed the survey on-line (via Survey Monkey using a QR code) (n=103). Of those surveyed, 13% were from Merriwa and the remainder were travelling through, touring, visiting family or in Merriwa for some “other” reason.
With some 45% of those indicating they were “passing through” it is worth nothing that this indicates a significant opportunity to encourage people to stay a little longer (rather than simply pass through).
Of those surveyed, 14 respondents were towing caravans and two had campervans. The remainder were travelling by car or motorbike.
What people had seen/done
When asked “what they had seen or done in Merriwa”, the results were categorised and grouped into similar or related themes. When viewed in this way it becomes evident that Merriwa is, first and foremost, a major refreshment stopover. This is closely followed by visitors availing themselves of a number of tourist attractions. The third most popular category shows that people are also taking advantage of a range of facilities in the town.
Those taking advantage to hospitality/retail/accommodation
- Coffee shops 21
- Bakery 17
- Food 10
- Shops 7
- Accommodation 3
- Pub/Clubs 3
- Trinity Markets 2
Those looking for tourist-related activities
- Silos 14
- Welcoming Centre (The Hut) 11
- Town walk 8
- Visitors Information Centre 4
- Festival of Fleeces 4
- Museum 2
- Parkland 8
- Toilets 12
- Pool 3
- Fuel 2
- Everything 3
- Farmland 2
- Other 30 (including visiting Battery Rock, butchers, campdraft, Cassilis, Dubbo, family, fun run, Lake Glenbawn, Merriwa Show, Pony Club, railway station, IGA, Scone, and The Drip).
What people liked/disliked
When asked what they liked or disliked about Merriwa, the two most frequent answers regarding what respondents liked were “town appeal” and “friendliness”. These are two elements fundamental to promoting a town and it appears Merriwa is seen to have them without any real attempt to develop these assets.
Results regarding what people liked about Merriwa are shown below in order of highest to lowest (except for “Other” which is listed last).
Town appeal 26
Silo art 5
Coffee shops 3
Welcoming Centre (The Hut) 2
People also liked the caravan access, fuel prices, and Merriwa being handy to the coast. This suggests we could pitch Merriwa as the last stop before (or the first stop after) the coast. Developing tag lines that reflect this connection may help with tourism development “Merriwa … close enough and just far enough away” or “Connecting surf and turf”.
Just as telling were those things the respondents disliked. This included the caravan park being “not easily accessible”, shops being closed due to covid, the need for “more seats” and “no seat in garden bed on street”.
Respondents also thought there were not enough “interesting eateries”, that Merriwa was “busy”, that it needed “more signage to welcome visitors”.
Some said they disliked ‘nothing’ about Merriwa.
Respondents who answered online said they disliked that the “river walking trail was too short”, that “shops close too early on the weekends” and that there were “inadequate public facilities”.
Respondents also disliked:
- reverse parking
- the potholes around the service station
- that there was not much to see or do
- the limited accommodation for larger groups
- and the lack of maintenance on Flaggs Road was mentioned as an issue.
Respondents said they wanted:
- more information about the history
- the pool open more often
- a bigger caravan park off the highway
- improved access to silos and town mural.
The main street was thought to be dangerous with kids and fast trucks.
Of the respondents surveyed, only 12 were visiting Merriwa for the first time. With 13 respondents being locals, this means 81 respondents were repeat visitors. The frequency of visits is shown below.
- Monthly 19
- 2 monthly 19
- 6 monthly 21
- Yearly 8
- 2 years + 14
- First time 12
- Live here 13
Respondents were asked about parking and amenities. Of all the respondents, 78 said the parking and amenities were either excellent, great, very good, good, easy, okay or fine.
Some other comments included lack of amenities in the main street, that the toilets needed a good clean, that toilets needed updating and were undersized for the holiday traffic.
Some found parking hard to find saying it “could be better”, was “crap” or that there was “not enough” of it.
camping and dump point facility
- too open
- too small
- too close to the highway.
They said the facilities were mostly clean, good and spotless.
Respondents were asked about travelling with children, what aspects they found to be child-friendly, and what could be improved.
travelling with children
Only 26 respondents were travelling with children. Their comments included, parks are nice; no problems; all good; no improvements needed; lots of parks; parks and playground; the new park; playgrounds are great for stopping; and food choices; great main street but danger with trucks; footpaths very uneven, could do with new concreting, lots of trip hazards; new park and amenities; parks are friendly but improve the playground; A1; the high street and the van park; all aspects are great; local parks are good; should be larger facilities like Scone. Others said: parks, new amenities and water refill station are great; amenities need to be improved with a dedicated parents room that fits a pram; lack of shade; and trucks racing through the main street is a concern.
Are people welcome in merriwa?
- Viewing platform at silos – maybe 50 metres away
- More signage for caravan parking
- Cycling or MTB trail, walkways along river, bush camping areas
- Clear tourist office and hours
- Movie theatre
- Signs and viewing platform for silo art, street art to describe the history of the town
- More street seating
- More shops to buy antiques
- Memorial to General Ivan Docherty 7 Div AIF WW2
- Cafes could be better
- Seats in street, street market
- More to do, cafes, bring in more tourists, internet access
- River amenities not noticeable
- Street art
- Caravan parking, public toilet signage
- Easier Council DA application, more support for business
- More pathways to connect river to rest of town
- A large park for kids
- Street seats, art
- Water play (area), better access to river, signage for old buildings
- Parking signage
- Main street makeover / beautification
- More street lights, gardens. trees, street seating, bike path, music playing in business hours
- Swimming pool amenities need upgrading badly
- Contact Slim Dusty Museum
- Maybe another takeaway shop
- Tip vouchers for locals
- Pool hours need to be open longer
- More motor bike parking (4 respondents)
- Bands, live music events
- Viewing platform to enhance photo opportunity (silo art)
- More shops
- More facilities for everyone
- Heavy haulage bypass
- More service stations / 98 fuel somewhere (BP ran out of fuel)
- Country festival
- More electric barbecue area to encourage people to stay
- Visitor billboard maps in local parks
- More promotion of what’s for offer
- More funds from Upper Hunter Shire Council towards community improvement
- Disappointed both Clubs closed (Monday / Tuesday)
- More / improved local activities (eg: karaoke, pool competitions, community barbeque, outdoor movie nights)
- More / better sporting opportunities (eg: morning yoga, pilates, runs, group classes in a bigger gym)
- More adult swimming pool time without any kids about
- Events to encourage people to stay (eg: folk music, outdoor art, stationary engine rally, sculpture walk)
- More outdoor seating on footpaths
- Outdoor fans
- More areas to sit back and relax in the shade
- Local arts and craft shop run by volunteers
- Better petrol station / fuel services
- Upgraded amenities on Golden Highway
- Better mobile reception along the Golden Highway
- Front-in parking would make it easier to park and reduce stopping
- Fix Willow Tree Road so it is again passable to more vehicles
- More / interesting shops
- Better campground
- Better access to the silos for photo opportunities
- Festival of the Fleeces – more events after the running of the sheep to keep people in town longer. More advertising of events at Showground after the running
- More festivals (eg: Merry Merriwa Festival)
- Tourist drives
- Safer main street – either a detour for trucks or slowing traffic further
- Promotion of the surrounding environment