Welcome to this week’s editorial, It was terrific to see all the visitors over Easter enjoying the best of weather conditions. Merged in with school holidays the influx of visitors to the coast was a little more seamless this year that meant we didn’t have the mass exodus on Easter Monday and are still enjoying the support that our visitors are bringing to our local businesses and economy. On the surface it appears that the Eurobodalla is making a slow but steady return to the “new normal” we are coming to accept. That new normal has brought with it a massive boom in house construction as a result of the loss of so many homes to bushfires. Added to this is the Covid Lockdown trend of home renovations, both big and small. While this might all sound terrific and resulting in over 200 new Development Applications to be processed by Council the “new normal” has resulted in a major shortage of tradesfolk and a mounting shortage of building materials with timber now in short supply. Of interest though is that there has been a major influx of newcomers to the region who have taken the Covid period to reconsider life choices and chosen to make the move to a quieter life on the coast away from the city. New families have arrived and with them comes their skills and their day to day demands. Cafes are enjoying the benefit of a more dynamic population mass, as are many of our local businesses from the Post Office to furniture and appliance sales. There is a general improvement in demand for ancillary services such as massage, yoga, Pilates and fitness with a marked increase in membership to sporting groups and local emergency services. Many years ago Mike Kelly, then member for Eden Monaro, was lobbied to support a doctors surgery in Tuross Head. His response at the time was that the project was sound however it needed a critical mass to trigger the funding. In time the population of Tuross grew to that figure and Mike was able to secure Federal funding to assist in the opening of a surgery for the Tuross community. Dr Michael Holland and the One Eurobodalla Regional Hospital group have been aware for some time that our population is increasing at such a rate that the current health facilities are stretched beyond that which best matches demand and they have for some time lobbied to ensure that the GAP between Now and Then is as least as possible. In time the GAP between resource, demand and provision will increase. Hopefully in the interim not too many will fall through the net. Already newcomers to the coast, looking for a new life, are realising that the medical services they hoped to find are not here and that it is near impossible to get in to see a doctor as many have closed their books to new clients. The reality is the fact that it takes several hundred thousand dollars to establish a medical practice. There is the lease of a building, the fit out, the communications and software and the staffing. Next comes the insurances, the fees and all of the sundry overheads required before you open your door to the first patient. It is easy enough to say there is a patient demand and all a doctor need do is arrive and open a clinic but the reality is so much more and for any doctor thinking of making the move to the coast the decision must be made on the financial viability of such an investment of time and money. By having a larger critical mass of population we might be approaching a point where we might well see more practices opening as well as the arrival of more specialists. One of the hopes is that the new Eurobodalla Regional Hospital will be a catalyst for this influx that might also bring with it a training aspect so that we can retain more of our locals to the region. But now we add to the mix by asking the question of where will everyone live. The catchcry of “If you build it they will come” might apply to fill the vision of things to come for those considering moving to region or investing. We now hear the new Batemans Bay Bridge referred to as a Gateway to the South East and a Game Changer. Council tells us that their proposed Mogo Mountain Bike track will attract 45,000 lycra wearing riders to the township every year and the proposed Coastal Walk will attract 26,000 walkers per year. Adding to the $300 million already invested in the area to build the Batemans Bay Bridge and Nelligen Bridge, $70 million for the Batemans Bay pool and theatre and a further $30 million for the Link Road bypass it is little wonder that house prices (and rents) have skyrocketed and investors see the potentials of an increased demand with short term supply interrupts. Not far off though are the proposed infill urban subdivisions that we are seeing right along the coast, east of the Princes Highway. Houses appearing on the market are being snapped up and the demand for vacant lots is steadily increasing as mor and more money drifts in via sea changers wanting to build a dream. To some this might be the crossroads that sees the sleepy backwater of the South East become the bustle and snarl we have with our northern cousins. Already plans are afoot to bypass Moruya and the new four lane bridge in the Bay married to the five lanes of Vesper Street already serve as a bypass to that town. Inter region travel times are reducing all the time and the idea of calling ourselves the Capital Coast already sits on the tongues of Councillors keen to market Eurobodalla to our “affluent Canberra neighbours”. The bushfires gave us a reminder of how vulnerable we are living along our coastal fringe with a backdrop of vast forests. They also reminded us of how remote we can be cut off from the outside world for days on end. Our more vulnerable have been aware of inadequate provision of specialist health services for some time and those who hadn’t already left decided to do so. But then came Covid and we rejoiced in how remote we were to the extent that outsiders were made to feel unwelcome. A survival reaction not intended to offend. So here we are at a cross roads. It is April 2021 and we now wait with bated breath at the unknowing of what tomorrow will bring. From what we have seen to date …. Anything, and everything, could happen. Until next—lei
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