A Crystal Ball on the Gateway to the Shire
The grand announcements of Gateways, bypasses, economic stimulation and edifices are quickly going pear shaped for the Mayor and her cohorts The Mackay Park swimming and theatre building will go belly up even before it starts with when the councillors wake up to the fact that they are building it on sand and fill with a rising water table. Just look across the road at Stocklands. Blind Freddy knows they will need more than $51m to get it out of the ground. It is the wrong location. It is on the wrong side of the highway. You don't put a theatre next to a five lane highway without paying double for sound insulation. You don't build pools on sand because they crack just like the Batemans Bay 50m has done in the past. You build pools and theatres where the people are like at Hanging Rock where it was first proposed. Why are they sticking with Mackay Park. Because it is Council owned community land that they can never sell. If they move to Hanging Rock they will have to relocate the tennis courts to the vacant land next to Corrigans Reserve beside the Batemans Bay Resort. But then that would stuff them up if they want to expand the Council owned resort or reclassify the vacant land and sell it to a hotel. Meanwhile the removal of the offramp from the new bridge will remove all those visitors to the foreshore businesses because we all know they are not going to be bothered turning into North Street and will drive on to their next destination of Mogo or somewhere along Beach Road. The five lane Batemans Bay Bypass is destined to have a major impact on the Batemans Bay CBD. The Mayor took it upon herself to remove paid parking in the CBD and then to lower the parking fines in a hope that that would stimulate more visitors to the CBD but that has failed as evidenced by more empty shops. The excercise to remove paid parking and to reuce fines has cost the community dearly with an estimate loss of $150,000 per year. While the figures have been asked for they have not yet been forthcoming. Paid Parking had been set in place to give the CBD area funds for development and beautification. The Batemans Bay Foreshore Committee members raised concerns about the impact of the new bridge on the CBD in terms of compromised traffic flow and decreased visitation only to be reminded that they were there to discuss toilets, boatramps, park furniture and litter bins and all other foreshore matters were off the table. Once the Bay is bypassed the CBD shops, especially along the foreshore, will be under further financial pressure as there is expected to be a dramatic downturn in tourist visitation to that strip by way of four years of construction work further compounded with drivers new to the area reluctant to turn into the unknowns of North Street. In regards to traffic flows Council have still not conducted a traffic model of the impact of removing the on and off ramps that will see buses, semitrailers, caravans, tourists, locals and recreational fishers towing boats all added to the mix along Clyde Street. It is little wonder that Council and retail providers such as Dan Murphy's and Woolworths are looking to the future development of the South Orient end of town with Council moves already forecast to sell the Community Centre and most likely the Museum as both are conveniently zoned B4 and classified as Operational to allow them to be sold. And what of the Bowling Club site? Presently leased to the RMS and classified as Operational Council has already invested over $3m in this block of land that is destined to become a development for who ever wishes to step up. It was once earmarked as Seniors housing with community facilities and a hydrotherapy pool, possibly serving as an information centre and a bus terminal but those ideas fell by the wayside when Council couldn't find a Private Public Partner who was prepared to pay for everything but be constrained in design and controlled by the Council who owned the land. Not much of a partnership. The prospect of a developer being interested in a constrained parcel of land that is subject to sea level rise, located by a five lane highway and limited to comply with the vision of a Council looking to make any building a Gateway masterpiece is pretty limited. Council might be smarter walking away from the Mackay Park precinct altogether and actually providing the community with something that do not have in Batemans Bay.... green space with a timber walkway through the pristine mangroves telling the story of early Batemans Bay from the rich aboriginal history through to early European settlers
The next big thing for Batemans Bay will be the Spine Road intersection south of town that will see traffic heading toward Surf Beach/Malua Bay able to bypass Batemans Bay. The big reveal on this will be to see if the RMS adopt this bypass as a Regional road and contribute funds to its upkeep. If they do will they strip Beach Road of its regional status and hand 100% of the maintenance back to Council. What is surprising is to learn that Council are proposing widening Beach Road with another lane in the area of the Soldiers Club. This was mooted some time ago with a commitment from the Federal Liberal Government however that went quiet only to see the light of day again more recently in backroom Council discussions. So where is Batemans Bay going? What will be its fate and what might come of the continued press ahead of Council with their own visions that reflect little if any consultation with the community? It is of little surprise that substantial property owners in the Batemans Bay CBD area are concerned as they question Council on its direction having established that Council does not, as yet, have a vision plan for the CBD area and that the one they are presently drafting only considers aesthetics and has little content that considers design around financial flows that best delivers the community to commercial doorsteps. Already there is an exodus away from the CBD to places like Batehaven where the smart money has moved to revitalise that precinct. Just out from an election year it is already evident that councillors are beginning to canvas. At this point however their collective records are that they have achieved very little with most accomplishment in the Shire coming from the initiatives of the Member for Bega with the State Government committing to $500m in the region to date. The Mayor and her team have removed paid parking, they have banned balloons on Council property and they have endorsed a generally agreeable Companion Animal Policy prepared by staff. The Rural Lands Strategy remains in the air and unless councillors get a few runs on the wicket in the next year or so they will have little to boast of in their own accomplishments and only promises to offer.