A Mogo business owner, sick of waiting for the Eurobodalla Shire Council to approve a number of improvements to the bushfire-affected town, says she was gobsmacked when a young girl entered her shop while her mum was left stranded in the town’s only public toilet block.
The eight-year-old girl wandered into the Mogo Lolly Shop not to find her favourite sweet treat – she was asking for toilet paper for her mother.
“It really was the last straw for all the parts of the town that have been neglected since the fires,” said shop owner Theresa Matthews.
Ms Matthews’ said her long list of grievances was shared by other Mogo businesses and landowners, and included a weed-choked local creek, degraded pathways, and delays in building a second public toilet block which had been approved before the bushfires.
Ms Matthews also says requests to council to rebuild houses and businesses have been stonewalled and no reasons have been given as to why their requests and DAs have been ignored.
“Mogo Creek is full of weeds and burned plants which are choking the creek. Where is our missing community barbecue facility that the council removed and promised to return? Where’s the central toilet block in John Street Reserve that was approved in December 2019 which would give access to the elderly and disabled?” Ms Matthews asked.
“There are issues with the footpaths which don’t have proper access for disabled people.”
Eurobodalla Shire Council said it had received 246 bushfire development applications between 1 January 2020 and 12 February 2021 and approved 203, with an average turnaround of 36.5 days.
Mayor Liz Innes said recent criticism on social media of Mogo’s bushfire recovery taking too long was understandable but also unproductive.
“We’ve been helping landholders with the creek. Although it’s on private land, we’re assisting with weed management this week and have offered funding for creek rehabilitation,” she said.
“Beautiful new town signs, developed in consultation with the community, are on the way. We’ve taken the time to get them right, with Aboriginal art and language included, and they’re going to look wonderful once installed.
“The Mogo Village Place Activation Plan will be finished in the next six months, and having a comprehensive and strategic approach means Council can attract funding for things like an accessible public toilet in a well-sited location.”
Council’s development services manager Gary Bruce said council had received more DAs than ever and their staff were doing their best to absorb the increased workload.
“We’re also seeing some commercial properties rebuilding, such as the Mogo Painting and Pottery Gallery, Batemans Bay Homemaker Centre and the Malua Bay Bowling Club, which we understand will commence reconstruction soon,” he said.
“We are now, however, starting to see more complex development applications submitted – these have taken more time to prepare and may take longer to assess.”
However, Ms Matthews said she had “cut council some slack” after the bushfires, but the time for waiting had passed.
“It’s just been a running battle with council going back and forth,” Ms Matthews said.
“People across the road who had their properties burnt down had to wait for a streetscape plan and a survey to be done. That was done, and they are still waiting for approvals from council.
“I couldn’t be more annoyed, and that’s why I decided to make a noise.”
Ms Matthews also handed council a petition with 76 pages of signatures for a second toilet block at the Batemans Bay end of the town. The toilet block with disabled access was approved before the fires in December 2019 but still hasn’t been built. The petition wasn’t tabled for reasons she says haven’t been explained.
“[The councillor] knew how hard I was fighting to get these toilets built and it just hasn’t happened. Again, I left it because we had the bushfires, but now I want council to know I’m not going away,” she said.
“I’ve had people walk up my driveway to pee on my back fence. Mothers have been changing their babies in their cars. It’s just not good enough if we want people to stop here and stay a while.”