Batemans Bay - where to now ? by Susan Mackenzie The Council and Batemans Bay Chamber of commerce, through a series of workshops and meetings, are now looking at improving our future as a town.
Will you get involved in that discussion?
Batemans Bay is a small rural seaside town, flooded (excuse the pun and reference to its centre also being in a flood plain) with tourists in holiday times. It has grown higgedly piggedly and, at the moment, is tending to be a split town between industrial (along the highway and in the industrial area) and ‘soft’/domestic retail – food, clothing, lifestyle, recreation and accessories - in the central CBD.
We have seen high-profile shops shut (and we lose Hooked on Books in January – meaning no book shop in the Bay), though Council stats say there are more businesses in the Bay than last year. Woolworths holds prime land on Orient Street, long neglected and untidy. The old Bowling Club has been silent and untenanted for years.
People lament the lack of focus and ‘heart’ of the Bay. There is little colour or reflection visible of the talents of the community. Connections to key services are fractured (take the taxi stand and the buses from Sydney and Canberra – some 500 yards apart and no signage to help; or the Tourist Centre – the same).
Tourists, who add the icing to the cake are, at the moment, not very well catered for. They have had to ‘make do’ with our/locals environment and find their own way. It seems to be time to create an environment that is conducive to both the locals and the visitors.
It would be tempting in this consideration of development to favour those with money and the big-spenders.
However, to ensure social cohesion and sustainability there is the need to maintain social democracy. What does this mean? In practical terms it means good accessibility to our ‘commons’, what we share and is the core of our structure: our environmental assets; our pleasant, casual lifestyle; work opportunities; education and services; our creativity. It means NOT putting high rise near the foreshores; it means keeping our beaches and parks clean and amenable; it means keeping our retail accessible and relevant to locals and visitors alike; it means not over-commercialising or over-building the environment; it means, as they say in the brochure, ‘Taking it Easy’.
The wheris site says this about us: “Families flock to Batemans Bay for its clean uncrowded beaches with views of small tree-covered islands and for the rivers, lakes, fishing and fossicking.”
Some key points here:
Fishing and fossicking
It does not focus on retail and commercial amusements as how tourists are encouraged to spend their time. Yet we need to take these into account as these things are integral to supporting these activities. Getting a balance is a key part of the discussion we need to have. We need to make the most of what we have, and we do not do that.
And what can visitors, especially those with children, do when it rains in the Bay?
Is there a central ‘square’ where locals and visitors gravitate to linger and mingle before browsing the shops and our scenery? (Long thin areas are NOT conducive to these activities – we have a lot to learn from European villages!)
How do we inform our visitors and ‘orientate’ them (sorry, another pun!)? Where is our ‘You are here!” map?
Indi Carmichael does an excellent job with her arts Newsletter but even that has never mentioned the proposal to have ‘bannercondas’ along the Clyde and Orient, or a mural by local indigenous youth in a walkway. We need better communication with the community, and better avenues for input. We also need to see outcomes to community input; we need to see local talent – from business, to arts, to facilitation, to event organisation, to youth engagement – used in creating those outcomes. Talk must be seen to be followed by results or the community loses heart in its Council and its organisations.
If we want more commerce in the Bay to sustain us, we need to make the CBD and the environs meet practical, recreational and sustainable needs. We and the visitors need more support to ‘take it easy’- facilities that encourage us to slow down and get involved here.
We need to keep the focus on what makes us special- the unspoilt nature of our coast and the laid-back lifestyle –avoiding too much concrete and hard surfaces and too many buildings; avoiding confinement, whether narrow streets or shadowed streets and narrow walkways; avoiding confusion as to how the centre CBD layout ‘works’. We need to keep good clear wide, open and pleasant access to the foreshore from several points along Orient and Clyde Streets. We need to have an attractive streetscape and one easy to navigate on foot (encourages spending) and in traffic (passing through, navigating or travelling to destinations).
Let’s capitalise on the distinction between the industrial areas and the foreshore CBD!
Let’s make a central ‘plaza space’ at the meeting of Clyde and North; a place to linger and enjoy.
Visitors and locals do NOT want a ‘shopping mall by the sea’ but an ambient experience. At the same time business people need to know there will be an interest and customer base for their wares and services. A balance is needed.
Without these we do not have a vibrant future or a good interaction with visitors.
In envisaging a future for the CBD, we need to have our values and our vision for our town quite clear. We need to interpret that in clear and practical terms, to include everyone. We do not need to have more businesses, higher buildings, more residential places or more parking in the CBD; the main need is to get people to stay and spend and ‘take it easy’. We need to be clear on which is the tail and which the dog.
Boost first impressions:
For people to come in and linger they need to be welcomed and accommodated. We do not do that. A fancy ‘snow-dome’ sign at the approaches does not ‘do it’. The northern one – at our major entry point - only gives attention to the display home there.
There is, at present, nothing at the bridge exit (coming south) to entice you into Clyde Street, and if you do turn into Clyde street, and miss the entry to the foreshore carpark, and all the parking along Clyde street is full (short stay’ parking is so discouraging for lingering!) you come to the main bus stop. From there you have to move away from the foreshore into North St and congested Perry Street (or give up and go out onto the highway and go to Mogo or Moruya), or into a congested Orient Street. There are no signs there to inform you which way to go – either to shopping, community spaces, services (such as the PO, Tourism Centre, Taxi stand or police station), or to other parking areas, beaches or to wider destinations in the Shire.
The highway presents the ‘backside’ of the Bay – a ‘wall’ of disincentive; an encouragement to keep going, call in at Maccas or stop at Mogo or go on to Moruya, and we don’t get visitors back from there easily as there is even less incentive to enter the CBD from that end of town! There is not even a sign at North St to show it is another entry to the CBD or the main venues, such as the PO or foreshore.
So here are some suggestions, mine and others. Many of these have been mooted before. Why did they not happen? Where is the leadership and community support to make the preferred ones happen? Let’s see if some can happen this time around.
Survey the visitors/tourists (not just the locals): what do they need/like about the town? Surveys on-line, in shops, on council website, in Tourist spots, in the Tourist Centre, on posters about town, even have roving surveyors or a ‘stall’ in Stocklands and Bridge Plaza, on websites such as Whereis and AirBnB.
Welcome signs: ’Welcome to Batemans Bay’ – let them know we are happy for them to come as our visitors. At the south and north entrances to the Bay.
Info signs: ‘You are here’ – These signs need to be highly visible and accessible. Key buildings and services, such as the PO, Museum, Community Centre, Services clubs, Library, Tourist Centre, Shopping Centres, Taxi stand, laundromats, sporting venues, beaches, tourism parks and Motels, the Marina, bus routes, ……
in the carpark just off the Bridge along the foreshore – blocking any views
on the toilet wall facing Clyde street near where the buses stop (or alternately a mural there – run a community competition for a design, and have young ones paint it, so it is not vandalised)
At the entrance to North Street a sign showing access to the CBD and PO, etc.
Taxi Phone at bus stop in Clyde St. At present there is no indication where the taxi stand is – a long walk with luggage up Orient St!!!
More shade/trees in the CBD, especially along the foreshore – deciduous to make the most of the winter sun
Feature Trees – Jacarandas seem the most obvious since they come out in splendid colour as the visitors start to arrive, and historically they have significance as, in earlier times, a family was given one on the birth of a baby. They also are deciduous and give dappled shade. The blossoms drop but if planted on grass people it should be fine. Other suggestions? Maybe the firewheel tree whose colour comes out at the same time as that of the Jacaranda – a magnificent display together!
A visual continuity image – this could be the feature tree, similar architecture styles, flags or colours…. Create a seaside town image!
A concertina or zig-zag, four-sided tourist board, similar to that found in the park at Braidwood, on the corner of North and Orient Street and
A mini-tourism centre -leased in the ‘Hogs Breath’ facility? (Roy Syne, owner, has been broached on this idea and is open to it, possibly as a lease of part of the premises) – a kiosk? There could be pamphlets and maps and a phone or computer to link to accommodation and activities – maybe an interactive screen responsive to questions….
Better signage to the Tourist Centre and how to get to it
At the present time, it is easy to miss the Tourist centre, especially if you are in the centre lane on the highway and want to turn left (coming south, or the far lane, going north). Even then the entry is not clear.
Wet weather activities: Create activities for families and young people for wet weather – indoor rock climbing, video games, music cafes, bowling alley… Thank goodness we have our cinema back!
More cafes on the foreshore in peak times (amazing to see them closed on long weekends and at Christmas – double pay could be compensated by a later opening time (say ten am), or staggered venues opening- every alternate café opening one day, the other ones opening the other day.
More Mall or lingering areas, especially to catch the winter sun. With shade for the summer, seating and maybe a fountain, or trickling water. The area between the cinema and the shops along Perry lane would be ideal as a link between Orient and Stocklands as it has a north-facing wall and protection from the southerlies. A paving pattern could be related to our indigenous links.
More events on the foreshore – e.g. outdoor cinema (projected onto to the toilet wall near Starfish deli or a big screen – sponsored by the cinema and Council/Chamber of Commerce? A series such as Aussie made classic films (Red Dog, the Castle, Ballroom Dancing, Mad Max series, etc) for instance.
More community events: Oyster festival, Blessing of the fleet, Fishing competitions, We have Bridge to Bridge kayak event; Writers Festival, River of Art, Camping and Caravanning, Fringe Festival, Art Exhibitions, etc….. Make the most of these. Woolworths has developed a covered parking area near the foreshore – a marvellous venue for CBD markets, bringing life into the centre.
bring more people into the Bay to live – more apartments in the Bay - like the Italian convention – shops downstairs, apartments upstairs, but NOT high rise. Limited to five stories, with roof gardens, back from the foreshore. Buildings near the foreshore to be limited to two or three stories with designs made to combat shade and wind corridors.
Access to foreshore to general public to be maximised. Could some of the buildings along Orient Street be reclaimed, or walkways widened and beautified; green spaces still there to be resumed and maintained by Council?
Ensure central parks have good facilities – do NOT de-commission Albert Ryan toilet – this is a central facility area for Tourists, travellers, taxis, tradies – and with access and views of the water. Direct traffic access past and to the water is something we have that even Byron Bay does not!!! Let’s make the most of that. Covered BBQs in clusters along foreshore from Bridge to Marina. Call it a name: for instance: The Clyde Walk.
Old helicopter pad area: Make into a recreation stop (with signage). Add a toilet, more shade trees and clustered seating (as per the Botanic Gardens setup), but keeping clear open spaces between there and the foreshore apartments - the ground is unstable and the value of such an open area, especially for community gatherings, is vital.
Sculptures with attitude: such as the Canberran ‘talking wall’ (involve the community for ideas); or a mural, especially along the highway facades – again, as a community competition. Maybe a fountain in the river or in a park, with lights under water.
Revitalise Orient Street, especially the Woolworths block – can it be razed and left as parkland rather than the derelict image it gives now?
Mia Mia Walk – increase usability and access:
Create a on the Mia Walk so that café seating is back from the walkway – to keep the width
Improve access to the foreshore between Beach Road and North St
Make local bus services more visible and accessible
Develop the Bowling Club precinct as a viable, accessible, active, arts and culture environment for visitors and community
Flood mitigation: protection/drainage infrastructure plus building adaptions, e.g. buildings on stilts with covered recreation spaces underneath; fold-up walls (saw this in Mecca café in Lismore)
Summer nights: create usable night spaces, busking areas, (solar) lit BBQ areas etc, ambient music venues and events
: More trees in parking areas. More parking? See next point
Discourage parking in CBD. Make walking a pleasure and access to parking easier. The booze buses from the clubs are always busy – could we have a free community bus in the holidays that ferries people where they want to go. You cannot wander and also buy from a car.
Encourage small, clean industry – such as film, internet, virtual business and distance consultancy, 0n-line industries and services, creative and niche industries. All these need good NBN and reliable Internet (especially in holiday season).
Encourage walking, cycling and gathering!
More seating throughout the CBD to encourage people to visit and linger a while (particularly for those who are not so mobile).
Encourage building owners to revitalise their buildings with modern/colourful colours – perhaps even a mural or two – or at least freshen them up.
along the northern side (the river side) of Orient Street which is dominated at the moment by commercial building/laneway/commercial building/laneway etc.
Increase and improve access to the foreshore from the Bridge to the Services club
At the traffic lights at the Beach Road/Orient St intersection add a people crossing in an “all directions cycle”.
No right turn into Clyde Street travelling north on the highway. The Perry/Nth St lights bank up traffic along Perry St. would a roundabout have been better? Appalling workmanship and shoddy aesthetics southern side of North Street (patched kerbs, and paving, non-straight kerb, mixed concrete types and surfaces, spaces in paving – This could have been a showcase)
More dog and child-friendly spaces
Areas of cheaper rent for more diverse businesses
Keep out large conglomerates
Encourage unique, creative, multi-cultural businesses
Have Buskers and street entertainment in holiday times
Better places to sit
Get rid of the carpark on the north side of the cinema and make all car parking free, at least in holiday times
Do not have arcades and inward looking malls
Everything should refer back to the waterfront and the natural beauty of the place
Prevent high rise - especially on the waterfront
Have a more attractive, accessible area for municipal museum, community centre etc.
Include a pedestrian bridge over the Highway to the proposed Cultural hub to so people are not risking life and limb to cross to it
And from the Moreton Bay Community Plan, some excellent ideas:
Local jobs for residents
Digital literacy and commerce
Healthy and supportive communities
Strong local governance
Healthy natural environment
Diverse transport options; and
Quality recreation and cultural opportunities
and from this site 5 things to do in Batemans Bay:
Take a Clyde River Boat on board the Merinda, enjoy fish and chips for lunch and a stop at historic Nelligen.
Sample the at The Pearly Oyster Bar in North St, Batemans Bay
Tee off at the championship 27-hole course at Catalina Country Club and stay for lunch or dinner.
Paddle with RegionX Kayaking up the Clyde River or out to explore the caves and islands off Batemans Bay.
Visit to see more than 2000 species of native south coast flora; and many species of kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots, possums, echidnas, snakes, lizards, frogs and birds.
And some other thoughts:
Batemans Bay could lead other small South Coast towns by:
Banning plastic bags and plastic drink bottles
Providing filtered water outlets and selling refillable bottles
Include a Farmers’ Market, Food swaps etc.
Broulee and Mossy point have little on the street where people place books they have read and others can take or exchange them from there. Multiply this idea across the Bay.
Create community garden spaces (near the water gardens?). In Sydney places like Stockland (e.g. in Leichardt) have raised gardens full of herbs and vegies people can pick.
People could be encouraged to grow fruit trees and vegetables on the coupled with better and wider fruit-fly controls
As you can see, there is no shortage of ideas that could be implemented to re-vitalise and sustain our CBD and town, many cheaply and ‘quick’ to introduce.
So, like those people getting off the buses, or driving down Clyde Street, it’s time to ask: “Where do we go from here?”
How will you be involved? Email; letters to the editor; coming to town meetings; addressing the Council; contacting your local Chamber of Commerce and Arts lobbying groups such as PerfEx; talking to the local Tourism Council; linking up with those who also think we can do better as a community, and who have thought long and hard about community building, such as Bishop George Browning and others; join community groups such as U3A and the Historical Society, to keep our history alive while moving forward.
If one thing is clear from the history of the Bay, is that it is ‘young’, it has already had many changes of focus, many changes in industry, many changes in population type. We are clearly an entry point for those entering the Shire, but can we be a pivot point as well, a centre that visitors and locals branch out from and return to – to re-stock, regenerate and re-connect?
Now its up to you, and to me, and to all of us… Let’s see what we can achieve.
Dr Susan Mackenzie PhD, M.App.Sci (Soc Ec), Dip. A.Ed (V.A.), CELTA
About Dr Susan Mackenzie Dr Mackenzie’s career includes a wide range of experience in conducting community workshops, facilitations and adult ed courses, including convening and organising an international management conference. She was an Art teacher for many years and NSW Education Dept Art Consultant and trainer, taught and wrote units for TAFe and University, was freelance in change management for some years, then spent time in the Public Service, also in change management and training. Her research and studies revolve around organisational and individual change and the influence of mythologies on individuals and cultures. She also writes poetry, and coaches.
Editors Note: Eurobodalla Council recently conducted a workshop with tourism and business representatives presenting a 20 page booklet intended to set the scene for the Batemans Bay Vision and Growth project. In the booklet (copy seen by The Beagle) it said "To undertake good planning, it is important to know where we would like to be in the future. What do we want Batemans Bay look to like in 2036? It is also important that these questions be considered and answered by the community as a whole. A shared vision for the future of Batemans Bay will set the scene for our collective actions, aimed to deliver that vision." Questions asked: • How does Batemans Bay work? • What is its identity and values? • What opportunities does it have? • What future do we want for Batemans Bay? • How can the community realise this future? Broader community engagement on the ideas and concepts developed will then be undertaken.