Empty shops & high unemployment, will Saturday change that for Batemans Bay?

Elise Searson17 May 2019

Sylvie Siteaud outside her business north of the Batemans Bay CBD. Photos: Elise Searson.

Imagine taking the left turn off the bridge onto Orient Street in Batemans Bay for the first time, to one side there’s one of the most spectacular views of the water in town while the other is lined with a haunting amount of vacant shops. I stopped counting after eight.

Across the river, just north of the town’s commercial heart, the plight of the Maloneys Beach Cafe & Cellar perhaps points to some of the issues at play locally. Owners Sylvie and Pascal Siteaud dreamt of selling the business they moved from France to start eight years ago.

“The lessors (landlords) were great at the beginning because we did all the painting and renovations, they haven’t spent any money on this property in eight years,” Mrs Siteaud says.

Mrs and Mr Siteaud had a couple of eager buyers sign contracts to buy their business, they were retracted after the landlords increased the rent.

The Maloneys Beach shop is closing in June.

“They made it impossible for us to sell, every potential buyer pulled out because they were too greedy with rent,”Mrs Siteaud says.

“We pay $4,100 per month. This is more rent than most shops in Stocklands Mall in town.”

Sylvie Siteaud.

The rent has increased 6% every year which Mrs Siteaud says is much higher than the CPI of 1.5%.

After the owners refused an evaluation, the Siteaud’s booked their own through their solicitor leading to a decrease in rent and an even more fractured relationship with their Sydney landlords.

Region Media did approach the Siteaud’s landlord for comment, keen to share their perspective, we have not received a response.

The future of the Maloney’s Beach shop is unknown, however, Sylvie and Pascal Siteaud are counting down the weeks to their June closure.

Pascal Siteaud.

“We will be very relieved and can’t wait for the closing party, I have a new job as a function and event manager for a motel in town. The future is looking bright for me,” Mrs Siteaud says.

The Siteaud’s speak with sadness about the vacant shops that line the Batemans Bay CBD.

“It’s like a ghost town,” Mr Siteaud says.

Maloneys Beach Cafe & Cellar.

Aside from the number of empty businesses, the other number that looms large over Batemans Bay is the unemployment rate – 14.8%.

It doesn’t take much to connect the dots between the two.

One passer-by I spoke to asked where all the shops had gone? While another spoke of seeing the town gradually change over the last eight years.

Anne North and her family are feeling it too, the cost of living increasing beyond wages, her budget getting tighter and tighter, to the point of hardship.

Anne North of Batemans Bay is struggling to make ends meet.

“The empty shops are depressing, it doesn’t give people much hope for our economy,” Ms North says.

Her eyes well with tears as she speaks about who she is voting for, “I am voting Labor because we need them to fix this,” she says with huge hopes.

Vacant shops in Orient Street Batemans Bay.

“I was casual for three years down the road here, we worked 7-hour shifts with only one 15 minute break, we worked like slaves,” Ms North says.

“Our boss guilted us to work harder by saying she hocked her jewellery just to pay our wage.”

Ms North is 61 next week and on Newstart. “I don’t know where I’m going to get a job in this town at my age.”

She wants big companies to stop getting everything, “it’s absolute greed, greed, greed.”

Pre-poll voting on Orient Street Batemans Bay.

All the major parties talk of small business being the engine room of the Australian economy and point to different and competing ideas to support the sector and create jobs.

Let’s hope Saturday delivers the spark Batemans Bay needs to support people like Anne North, and Sylvie and Pascal Siteaud. In regional towns like mine, our futures are connected and dependent on each other, we succeed and fail together.

What's Your Opinion?

68 Responses to Empty shops & high unemployment, will Saturday change that for Batemans Bay?

Graeme Betts Graeme Betts 7:06 am 19 May 19

if the prices at this shown store were not so expensive then more people would go there and if the local owners of the shops in the bay were not so greedy with the rents then maybe more people would stay in business

Paul 2:48 pm 18 May 19

It seems to be that some landlords would prefer their properties remain empty, hoping for huge rent prices, rather than get a decent regular tenant at a lesser amount.

Sarah Cowan Sarah Cowan 9:56 am 18 May 19

It is not just the retail stores. Too many business owners cater mostly to tourists which only covers a few months of the year. Considering the population of Batemans Bay it would be worth diversifying for the permanent community. As a permanent resident, there is very little to do, to go to, to listen to, or to see once tourist season ends. I also don't believe that tourism is all it is cracked up to be. They come, they shop in franchise stores, they stay in chain motels and tourist parks, they use our water, they kill animals on the road, they choke us up with exhaust fumes and leave behind their rubbish, their tangled fishing line and roadkill. Tourism is doing nothing for us. xo

Dianne West 10:42 pm 17 May 19

Labor will not solve BATEMANS Bay’s problems. If anything, the switch in government will make the situation worse. If Ms North is struggling to live now, imagine what impact the Labor party policies will do to her situation, not to mention our town. Finally, the empty shop syndrome is happening in every town across the state, not just here.

Davo Stephens Davo Stephens 9:59 pm 17 May 19

Just wait if you think its bad now if labour and the greens take charge forget regional Australia ,the economy will tank why do you think its stalled now ? the looming freight train of communism and refugees and the hatred Shorten says he has for small business ,together with the unions they will break small and contractor trucking businesses ,they have publicly stated this next it'll be the small business sector ,they don't want them to succeed only large corporations so we will be all under the same taxation format ,don't believe me ,look what's happened to Batemans bay alone ,Since 2012 Alvanex has gone the timber mill has gone ,priors bus service from Narooma to Sydney 5 days a week GONE Wages for New or business name changed businesses base $23ph to $15ph THATS AFTER 2012 that's when Gillard and rudd took power ,there have been many more THIS IS JUST BATEMANS BAY ,so if you think its bad now and you want more vote labour and prepare for the worst you've ever seen ,Keatings "the recession you had to have quip ' will be nothing compared to shorten and his communists .

david campbell 8:14 pm 17 May 19

Employment in coastal areas is always up and down ,not enough visitors in winter so people get reduced hours, lot of greedy landlords that get tax benefits for having empty shops, and the area attracts certain work shy people .not sure if either party can fix the problem, and why do we always look to government to fix it for us,if I could not get work here I would move to where work is , but not all have same idea

Ben Marden Ben Marden 3:19 pm 17 May 19

Negative gearing plays a huge part in this...

Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 2:33 pm 17 May 19

Regional Australia has been totally let down by LNP ... imagine if all those $B of rorted and wasted dollars had been applied across the land to boost community health ... even reduce employment by 50% it would have saved lives and boosted these struggling economies ... but no lets fk up the Murray river system and let big Corps avoid paying any tax ... bizaree how people still believe the LNP is for them?

Maureen 2:27 pm 17 May 19

I have never seen so many empty shops around Batemans Bay. We are a wealthy country… how can we have an unemployment rate of 14.8%? Clearly the economy is not working for everyone.

Nina 12:05 pm 17 May 19

SO totally agree a sad plight for not only the small business owners, but those needing employment. Rent greed when does it stop. When is there going to be some sense. I hate the forlon look and feel to our township.

Elke Cavicchiolo 11:02 am 17 May 19

I try and avoid going left as it’s so depressing

Jodie Dunnage Jodie Dunnage 10:28 am 17 May 19

Same all down the coast. Exorbitant rents and costs running a small business. Gone are the days of three banks, a Medicare outlet, RTA, hardware, butcher baker and green grocer in every town. Nothing to replace that loss.

Alan D Morton Alan D Morton 10:26 am 17 May 19

Canberra rents Regional shops...always been the same...owners wanting high returns on their investments...sad really for young folk who would love to give small business a go, but just can't afford start up and ongoing costs...

Rachael Degning Rachael Degning 10:17 am 17 May 19

So sad, I loved working with Anne North but she is right worked like slaves. And also loved getting to know Pascal and Sylvie lovely people.

Dave Stewart Dave Stewart 9:50 am 17 May 19

NOT sure how the Labor Party is going to save our town's from vacant shop's, high rents and high unemployment , can someone direct me to Labors specific policy that will solve these problems, Mike Kelly ?

    Cass Daniels Cass Daniels 4:12 pm 17 May 19

    How will the libs help you?

    Dave Stewart Dave Stewart 6:06 pm 17 May 19

    Cass I've asked an honest ❓ I was hoping for an honest answer.

    Dave Stewart Dave Stewart 6:08 pm 17 May 19

    Reminds me of the old saying,

    Q: Are you the person who answers every question with a question ?

    A: Who told you that :-)

    Susan Longobardi Susan Longobardi 7:22 pm 17 May 19

    Dave, Mike Kelly is Labor's Eden-Monaro MP. Hopefully Fiona Phillips will be our Gilmore MP after tomorrow.

Vicki Jones Vicki Jones 9:43 am 17 May 19

Another small business owner gone to the wall. Good luck to these hard working proud locals.

Amanda Moss Amanda Moss 8:53 am 17 May 19

We need " Systemic change " neither party will fix this .

    Viki Hannah Viki Hannah 9:09 am 17 May 19

    Amanda , only sound , evidence based public policy changes the economy.

    Systemic change is bureaucratic speak.

    Sure change the procedures & standards in public service for efficiency but if you have a government ( and those who vote with them ) that keeps their boots on the necks of certain people in our community that’s tyranny not good governance.

    Cass Daniels Cass Daniels 4:12 pm 17 May 19

    Viki Hannah exactly.

Phillip Carter Phillip Carter 8:34 am 17 May 19

It’s not rocket science

If everyone buys on line this will impact local business. This is not a fault of government at any level it is market forces at work. If you don’t like it don’t buy on line.

You don’t have to go far for a more vibrant community. Moruya has a thriving Main Street with excellent markets on Tuesday and Saturday.

In addition the new bridge plaza was a disaster for Batemans bay I would rather drive past to Canberra than stop to shop in Batemans bay - it has no vibe

    Viki Hannah Viki Hannah 8:45 am 17 May 19

    Phillip, the items purchased online are either not available or a better price.

    Change the business model if you want/need to compete with changing consumer patterns.

    Aus Post franchises & local courier services are thriving from this new growth.

    Businesses can set up theirs own website.

    It’s lazy or incompetent to use online business as an excuse.

    Landlords could meet the market if they want to invest in their communities & drop their rent accordingly for shop fronts.

    They’re empty because it’s a tax write off & that suits them also.

    What BB is experiencing is duplicated across Australia- only a new & responsible and ethical government will change it.

    Phillip Carter Phillip Carter 8:51 am 17 May 19

    Viki Hannah your 100% correct

    Jenni Petrac Jory Jenni Petrac Jory 10:18 am 17 May 19

    Phillip Carter 👍

    Judith Wilkins Judith Wilkins 5:09 pm 17 May 19

    Phillip Carter its also because the Bay is trying to be something it's not. If it just realised that it's a country town, not tried to be a city, that may help.

    Viki Hannah Viki Hannah 11:46 pm 17 May 19

    Council have let the Bay down if they don’t properly consult with the local community planning.

Georgie Rowley Georgie Rowley 8:29 am 17 May 19

Rent overheads should be governed & controlled so small business can afford to set up shop

I counted 8 shops yes! I know what city centre charges business per month can only imagine what they want to charge shops with waterviews

Jenny Drenkhahn Jenny Drenkhahn 8:24 am 17 May 19

This trend is not new; Eden is enduring its second or third decade of emptying shops and unemployment. Tourism doesn't fill the gap :(