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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Editorial April 29th 2022

Welcome to this week’s editorial,

I first discovered the South Coast in 1977 and immediately fell in love with the area. I was on holiday, aged 21 and living at the time in Canberra. It took another eight years of hard work and saving before I have the funds to buy a home on the Coast and move here permanently.

For those who don’t recall 1985 it was an interesting period. The inflation rate was 6.52% which to the good folk of 2022 might seem a lot, however the interest rate at the time was $13.88%.

Before moving to the coast I built my first home in Canberra, down south in one of the new satellite suburbs. It cost $43,000. A nice, simple, three bedroom on a hill with a grand view of the mountains. At the time the mortgage rate was 12.4% and the median household income was $22,000 with a wage growth of around 5% per annum.

In moving permanently to the South Coast you had to weigh up the pros and cons. The pros were evident. A quiet life, surrounded by nature with less hustle and bustle giving you time to smell the roses.

The cons were there as well. It was understood that you were moving to a region that provided a lesser level of health due to limited resources but you were happy in the knowledge that if anything drastic happened you would be dispatched to Canberra or Sydney. Medicare had just come in delivering publicly-funded universal health care so no-one needed concern themselves too much with private health care cover.

In moving to the South Coast at the age of 29 I was also very aware that the education on offer was limited to public schools, and to a then thought bubble of a TAFE. It was common knowledge that kids left home to go to the city for jobs or to further their studies. Going to university back in the mid 1980’s was less of a burden on families as there were no tertiary or university fees.

When I first arrive in the Eurobodalla the service levels by the local Council were very basic. The roads were poor, the roadside verges left unmown, reserves were often left overgrown and building maintenance was a reactive after thought. Some newcomers dare to demand kerb and gutter, modern play equipment or an improved library. The Council of the day cried poor that they couldn’t afford to do any more and that if the community wanted a higher level of service then they would have to pay higher rates. In response the majority of people said they were happy to see the shire remain just as it was.

The region, because of its beauty, its temperate weather and its affordability became a mecca for retirees. Many were on fixed incomes living simple lives in affordable houses. The region was not a destiny if you wanted a professional career that would “take you places”. For those who did find employment it was often linked to tourism and had peaks and troughs that saw a high rate of under-employment. But back then rentals were abundant and rents were affordable, even though inflation was going through the roof.

Not long after though the South Coast was “discovered” and up went the real estate prices. We then had a dearth of negatively geared holiday houses remodelled to meet the increase demand. Rentals became harder to find and even harder to afford if you could find one as rents increased.

At one point, when the housing affordability issue was brought to Council’s attention, the response was “if they can’t afford to live by the coast they can move to Nerrigundah, and if they can’t afford that then go somewhere else”.

It is now 2022 and when you look at it not much has changed. We are driven by peaks and troughs of tourism, we are grossly underemployed serving the largest demographic of over 65 year olds in the state who are on fixed or limited incomes living simple and barely affordable lives watching their neighbour’s homes being sold for millions wondering where the money will come from to meet rising rates, electricity, mortgages and inflation. And all the while dreading getting sick as health services remain under resourced and pharmaceutical rebates and Medicare continually devalued.

Kids still have to leave home to find work or go to uni, locals still need to leave if they require more specialist treatments, tradespeople are as hard to find as they were back then and everything that arrives in the region is more expensive than the city, as transport and handling fees are added.

There are those of us who came here in the 1980’s with few expectations other than to enjoy the nature, the quite simple life, living within your means, and to enjoy the quality of life that comes from living in a vibrant, caring community. Cafes back then were rare, wine was elitist and expensive, menus were basic with meat and three veg so we cooked at home with Margaret Fulton cookbooks baking quiches.

With inflation now returning, mortgage rates increasing, more and more underemployment, rising costs, high electricity charges, under resourced health, public schools underfunded, and roads and reserves a mess all I can say to myself is “Welcome to Regional Australia where the more things change, the more things stay the same”. We are resilient. We need to be. We always have been, and we will be so again. We just need to keep an eye on each other and ask, from time to time, “Are you OK?” As for expectations… best not aim too high.

Until next lei


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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