At least 10 commercial properties are unoccupied and available for lease in Katherine’s main street.
A number of other shops, more than four, are vacant in the Katherine Oasis Shopping Centre and more still in other CBD streets.
Residents have been upset this week with another major business closure in town, this time the Hourglass Jewellers.
“If it keeps going like this, Katherine will crumble. Eyes need to be opened to this situation, and soon,” one reader has told the Katherine Times.
“This will continue to happen if the town people don't support local business or that the landlords charge reasonable rent, surely it is better to have your shops occupied than empty,” another reader commented.
High rent and a slump in shoppers forced Katherine’s last jewellery store to close its doors on the weekend.
Katherine Hourglass Jewellers owner Leith Malcolm said he was unable to negotiate a rent reduction with the landlord
“Due to a decline in business conditions we have had to close down,” Mr Malcolm said.
Alderman Toni Tapp-Coutts said “owners are not doing enough to encourage business”.
“It is sad that there are so many empty shops, I would like to see the owners be a bit more creative and maybe encourage some pop up shops,” Alderman Tapp-Coutts said.
“Like a coffee shop or ice cream store where people aren’t committed to long leases or high rents, so they can make a bit of money during peak tourist season.
“We are all in this together, we need decent looking shops, even if they aren’t occupied, they need to be cleaned up for the atmosphere of the town,” she said.
Readers agreed with Alderman Tapp-Coutts that owners could be doing more.
“Perhaps these shop owners aren't local and therefore don't care about our town and they obviously don't need the rent if they are prepared to let their shop sit empty,” a reader said.
“Rent is the killer for businesses. The amount they charge is ridiculous especially for a small town like Katherine . Soon enough their will be not much here and everyone will have to travel to get things or get stuff in the post,” another reader said.
Katherine’s situation is not unique or original, many rural towns across the nation suffer from business decay.
Some towns have found innovative ways to bring business back to outback towns.
Renew Newcastle was established by local Marcus Westbury in 2008 to help solve the problem of Newcastle’s empty CBD.
The organisation finds short and medium term uses for buildings in the town’s CBD that are vacant, disused, or awaiting redevelopment.
Renew Newcastle finds artists, cultural projects and community groups to use and maintain these buildings until they become commercially viable or are redeveloped.
Since 2008 more than 70 new businesses and initiatives have been seeded and the town was hailed by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit in 2011.
Jason King, purchased an iconic milk bar in Patton Street, Broken Hill almost a decade ago after the business had fallen on tough times.
It was on the market and near to closing. Today Bell’s Milk Bar is a nationally recognised tourist attraction, famous for its authentic 1950s atmosphere and original-recipe, old-style drinks.
In 2011 Jason and other Patton Street retail traders, community members and local businesses clustered together to preserve the district’s community spirit and historical assets.
They formed the Patton Village Community and Business Association and branded the precinct “Patton Village”.
Although in its early days, the Association is already demonstrating how involving the community in events and streetscape projects is boosting the local economy, attracting tourists and breathing new life into this once vibrant and highly significant district of yesteryear.
Tamworth, a small town in country NSW has made a name for itself on the national music stage.
Its annual country music festival is the largest music festival in the southern hemisphere and one of the top 10 in the world.
It also attracts more than 50,000 visitors to the town and region in January each year, creating new business opportunities and stimulating the local economy.
The Tamworth Country Music Festival is managed by Council and has grown from a small festival into an international brand and major source of revenue for the region.