While it is easy to point the finger of blame for the downturn in local retail trade at online shopping there are other factors at play that should also be taken into consideration and not the least of these is the annual increase in Bega Valley Shire Council rates and charges.
The council has downplayed the increase in general rates saying the 3 per cent aligns with the rate cap and crowed that it would easily be assimilated into household budgets. It based this notion on the average land value in the shire which if I remember correctly was about $142,000.
That’s fine for residents who live inland but here on the coast we have to contend with another whopping $200 plus hike in the general rate.
This inequity is a result of the council’s failure again to address the disparity in rates between lower and higher valued properties in the ad valorem part of the rating system: it has the opportunity to correct this discrimination every year but continues to penalise coastal residents saying we are rich nobs and can afford it.
The sewerage charge is a real stinker - $1000 a year – the most costly in the state and probably the nation – water charges are among the state’s top 5.
Rich we ‘aint – and this is reflected in residents tightening their belts to the point they can hardly breathe.
I’d hazard a guess and say the majority of self-funded retirees choose to live on the coast. Their superannuation has been shredded by the barely alive stock market; no good putting money in the bank when interest rates are among the lowest ever experienced, and people wonder why retail is doing it tough?
Then add in the soaring electricity cost with households paying more than $1100 a year for the upkeep of state’s poles and wires, rises in gas, petrol and insurances and you will find that residents are struggling to keep their heads above water.
It is also worth bearing in mind how low the average household income is in this shire which was clearly illustrated in 2011 Census data - $848pw compared with $1237 for the state and $1234 for the nation.
If only retail woes were all down to online shopping - that is a myth we all need to shed!
E Lewis, Merimbula