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Batemans Bay Bridge Forum: poorly attended by those who will be affected the most

The Batemans Bay Bridge forum held at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club on Saturday July 12th was poorly attended. With only twenty-four interested residents scattered throughout the auditorium it was more than apparent that the community either did not wish to be engaged with the issues being raised or took the guidence of the "drop-in" sessions that they could TRUST Council and the RMS "to get it right". Many in the community may well have thought the Public Forum was in regards to the actual bridge design with this being reflected in social-media with comments such as "the bridge design is done and dusted. They are building it now." "It's too late to do any redesign of the bridge". While those comments are true, and the bridge construction is well and truely underway, Saturday's meeting wasn't about the bridge. The meeting was about the consequences of the bridge and how the bridge would impact on local residents and businesses. Missing from the meeting were the Surfside community members who use the bridge to access the town. Missing from the meeting were the recreational fishers who will be compromised in the short and long term with a loss of facility and amenity. Missing from the meeting were the CBD business owners who appear to be blissfully ignorant of the impact the loss of the Clyde Street off ramp will have that will see the CBD effectively by-passed by the new bridge and four lane by-pass leading to the new Link Road just south of the town providing quick, less congested access to our coastal destinations. Missing also were the State member, councillors (except for Clr Pat McGinlay), RMS representatives and council staff. While most offered their apology their absence was noted with one attendee saying "they may have offered their apology not to be here but they have offered no apology at all in their contempt of the ideas and concerns raised at this forum this afternoon". During the meeting the following issues were discussed: - the impact of the Northern proposed local road design of Wharf Street on locals and boat owners revealing the increased traffic predicted for Penninsula Drive and the circuitous route that will be created via Wray Street back to the Kings Highway - the impact to Surfside pedestrians that revealed the paths that they will have to traverse if unable to ascend and descend the stairs. - the impact on the boating community with the loss of amenity in the short term and the concerns around the proposed boatramps and their traffic management design. - the financial impact to the CBD with the loss of trade adding to the already depressed situation that sees a substantial amount of empty shops and an exodus of retailers to the more affordable industrial areas south of town. Those attending the meeting, hosted by the group Our Town Our Say, heard from a panel of four speakers, being Milton Leslight, Michael Prouza, Harry Watson Smith and Max Castle.

Above: R to L - Milton Leslight and Michael Prouza

Above: R to L - Harry Watson Smith and Max Castle In the week ahead the Beagle will look at the issues raised individually in separate articles that will allow specific comments to be made to each. In general those attending the meeting agreed with many of the comments made around the apparent lack of any real planning of the Batemans Bay CBD precinct saying that it had been "designed" by engineering options rather than by any planning consideration around proactive design that factored in economic growth as well as offering the town a civic functionality. "The breezeway they propose for the Batemans Bay Post Office site is nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky daydream plucked from God knows where because Council has no interest in paying for the site to make it a civic square". It is understood, though denied by Council, that during the recent forums held in relation to the Mackay Park the fact that Council did not have a CBD future plan in place. It is understood that Council are now working on that plan that will sit by their recent Wayfinding Strategy, their Tourism Strategy and the present draft Events Strategy however many in-the-know consider these strategies have achieved very little "other than employing consultants" and that they do not represent the views of key stakeholders who have, in the most, feel as though they have not been consulted.

With the region now in its third quarter of negative growth the bridge project, Link Road Intersection, Mackay Park centre, Moruya By-pass and Eurobodalla Regional Hospital are timely to stimulate our economy and the local member is to be commended for securing the funds. Behind each of these projects however is the role that the Council has to play and it was considered by all who attended Saturday's Public Meeting that Eurobodalla Council have done too little, too late to allay the concerns that have been raised around the issues that come as a consequence to these major projects. The biggest take-homes of the forum were the following comments by attendees : "We learned today that they ignored all the recommendations of Foreshore advisory committee. If they ignored them did they also ignore everything they were told by the community at the "drop in" sessions? Why do they even bother asking us?" "Batemans Bay Bridge is an icon and the only one the town has. It has become a clone of everywhere else with powder coated garbage bins, seats and bollards with its clone toilet block and its windy soulless streets. Take away the old bridge and what do we have? Just a mediocre four lane flyover and a four lane by-pass. Where is the vision?" "Welcome to Batemans Bay, the most mediocre town on the coast." "Good thing the Council wasn't in charge of bringing the 50m barge into town. They would have ordered a 25m one instead"

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