THE news that the "woollen mill" is to close shouldn't have come as a surprise as the end has been clearly signalled for some time. However, that's cold comfort for the almost 200 employees, their families and the businesses where the wages are spent. The impact on both the human beings directly involved and the wider community cannot be overstated.
To lose that many jobs as well as the business itself that employed those people is a tragedy of epic proportions. 200 jobs in a town with a population of around 16,000 is a nuclear bomb blast of job loss.
North Otago should have been planning for this day for the past decade, but I see no real sign of anything other than just living month-by-month.
So, where is the future? Where will the almost 200 people who lose their jobs when the mill finally closes find work? Sadly, many won't and some will leave town.
Project Aqua was kicked into touch, the cement works remain a controversial pie-in-the-sky, the new industrial park at the northern end of the town holds some promise and we will get some side effects when the Chinese arrive on the other side of the river to build their baby food factory.
I didn't move to Oamaru two years ago from Auckland for a quiet life - I came here to get a grandson into Waitaki Boys', but that was only part of the attraction. I was attracted to Oamaru by all of the things that so many Oamaruvians have little or no faith in - the Victorian Precinct, the glorious rolling countryside, the coastal drive, Elephant Rocks, Kuriheka, Kakanui, the Waitaki Valley, the Duntroon Fossil World - yes, even the penguins.
Each morning I arise in Chez Dick and walk to our three spectacular views - out to the Kakanuis in the west, up to Pukeuri in the north and out over the idyllic boat harbour to Cape Wannbrow in the east. I love it all.
So, the single industry than can fill the void of the mill closure and loss of Project Aqua and the non-appearance of the cement works is tourism.
I know that many Oamaruvians just don't see that, but believe me; it's a real opportunity.
We have huge potential, but we're best not to try and do it on our own.
I have travelled to every corner of this country and I've seen a lot. But if there was one drive that I would recommend to anyone coming to New Zealand for the first time and had seven days to spend, it would include Oamaru.
I'd start in Dunedin, head into Central Otago to Queenstown with a side trip to Milford Sound, then through the Lindis Pass and down the Waitaki Valley to Oamaru and finish back in Dunedin.
That is simply the best tourist route in New Zealand.
So, the first part in the equation of giving Oamaru a new start and a bright future is to join forces with Dunedin - the two cities have many things in common - and create a common strategy to make us part of the most important tourist route in New Zealand.
Back in the late thirties and early forties the free world suffered a major threat with the rise of both the German and Japanese war machines. To overcome these twin threats, nations who wanted freedom had to put their economies onto a war footing. They couldn't just let things roll along on a month-by-month basis. They had to have a vision and a plan to implement that vision - otherwise it was the end.
Now is the time for Oamaru and North Otago to create a vision, a plan and to put it into effect. It's long overdue, but it's never too late.
Now based in Oamaru, Allan Dick is a well-known broadcaster, publisher and magazine editor.