Coonalpyn BP faces closure, but Dukes Highway town gets a lifeline | PHOTOS

An era will end for a Dukes Highway town next Tuesday when Coonalpyn BP closes its doors.

Emotions are high in the community; one resident's Facebook post on the topic, titled "Coonalpyn, may you rest in peace" and decorated with tombstones, has been shared more than 1300 times.

Service station manager Debbie Thompson said everyone had been dropping in to say their goodbyes.

"A lot of people are saying Coonalpyn is stronger than that: we lost the post office, we lost the bank ... but when you lose the supermarket you lose people, and when you lose a hub of the community it's a little bit hard," she said.

"Angry's not the word; I don't know what I feel any more.

"Every time someone rings up I feel like bursting into tears."

The service station has been there as long as anyone can remember; the original tin shed still stands behind the 49-year-old brick buildings.

A book behind the counter lists the names of the dozens of people who have worked there and the celebrities who have visited: John Farnham, Red Symonds, Malcolm Fraser, Brian Wenzel and Kamahl - "all the old ladies got hot and bothered".

Regular customer Holly Walter said the staff at the BP had always been willing to sell what they had on hand: a tomato, an onion, a tin of coconut cream.

Chloe Sinclair described the same experience: "If you run out of fuel and in the middle of the night you need to get to hospital, they'll come down and open up," she said.

"BP fed all the CFS every bushfire season, every bushfire for as long as you remember."

Waffle seller Claudia Ait-Touati said it would have been difficult for locals to go to Tintinara, Coomandook or Tailem Bend for fuel, and that the loss of even a handful of jobs would be felt.

Three BP employees have already left and another five will be out of work next week.

"Sean Thompson has the caravan park and works at the school; I don't know what Karen and Leanne are planning to do," Ms Thompson said.

"Me, I haven't even thought about it yet.

"If anyone's looking for an ex-employee, give me a call."

Council, governments criticised

Ms Thompson lamented the fact that $100,000 had been spent on the town's silo artwork but the Coorong council had done nothing to help her business.

"They knew this day was coming and they could have done something," she said.

"Now we're in this competition to be the best street in SA.

"How can it be the best street in SA when you're going to have an eyesore here and an eyesore down the street?"

The widely-shared Facebook post also suggested that the council or local MPs needed to do more to keep Coonalpyn alive.

But Coorong Mayor Neville Jaensch, state MP Adrian Pederick and federal MP Tony Pasin all came up with a similar response.

“Whether (owners Peregrine Corporation) keep the business running is purely their decision, irrespective of our personal feelings,” Cr Jaensch said.

“Not one of my councillors or staff would like to see it close.

“Coonalpyn is important to us, and thriving businesses are important to council because they provide employment to our people.

“We regret (this), but there’s nothing we can do about it … not because council is frightened of Peregrine; it’s a reality of life that we have no power over the way that business operates.”

Mr Pederick said the best he could do was try to negotiate

"We can't instruct a business how to run their private affairs; we can't say 'you can't close'," state MP Adrian Pederick said.

"That's like something you might have in Russia.”

He said he had tried to convince Peregrine to transform the BP into a 24-hour On the Run, and spoke with other local business owners about alternatives, including the possibility of building a new service station on a vacant lot.

Likewise, federal MP Tony Pasin said the government could not force private companies to keep trading.

But he hoped BP's closure would pave the way for a new service station "given the clear demand to source fuel in the town".

Still good: Gilbarco's Dave Jackson checks the bowsers at Cox Rural, making them useable in time for BP's closure. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Still good: Gilbarco's Dave Jackson checks the bowsers at Cox Rural, making them useable in time for BP's closure. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Rural agent plans to meet demand

The loss of Coonalpyn's BP will be offset by the reopening of a couple of old petrol pumps down the road at Cox Rural.

Branch manager Damian Finn said he would not compete with the big retailers on price, but he would offer fuel to any locals or travellers who needed it.

"That's why we left the bowsers in and didn't pull them out," he said.

"We knew this was probably going to happen eventually.

"It's not our core business, obviously, but it's what the town needs."

He will not begin selling fuel to the public until after the BP shuts its doors, and does not plan on advertising that aspect of the business.

Cox Rural has also pledged to make fuel available to the Country Fire Service and other essential services in case of emergency.

Gilbarco's Dave Jackson spent last Friday checking the seals and belts on the old pumps, making sure there were no leaks in the tanks or nozzles.

They had not been used in four years, but remained in a reasonable condition.

Icon: Coonalpyn's silos tower over the town, literally and figuratively. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Icon: Coonalpyn's silos tower over the town, literally and figuratively. Photo: Peri Strathearn.